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Writing Is Writing, Right? Not If You Want To Keep Your Content Creation Team



Writing Is Writing, Right? Not If You Want To Keep Your Content Creation Team

“It’s time to make the donuts.”

This phrase from a 1981 Dunkin’ Donuts ad campaign has become part of our workplace culture. People use it to talk about preparing to do something repetitive, grueling, or meaningless.

But that’s a misreading of the original message.

The ad featured Fred the Baker, who woke up very early every morning, struggled out of bed, and repeated his mantra, “Time to make the donuts.” By the end of the ads, Fred greeted his customers with a big smile, proud of his work.

“It’s time to make the donuts” wasn’t a lament about doing the same menial task day after day.

It conveyed Fred’s commitment to creating something special day after day.

The tension between creating content that feels special and constructing useful (but menial) content resonates with so many content practitioners. Without an adequate balance between the two, content creators may lose interest in their roles.


Many #content practitioners experience the tension of wanting to create something special but needing to construct menial content, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Writing is writing, isn’t it?

I talked with an extraordinary young writer at a B2B technology company the other day who told me about her career path. She’d landed a job at an agency where she wrote brilliant articles and blog posts for B2B clients. A couple of years later, she took a job in content marketing at this large tech company.

Initially, she loved her role, which involved writing short-form news articles about the company’s industry trends. She got to dig into the industry and the products, interview people, and go deep into the topic.

After a couple of reorganizations, though, she found herself serving as the website editor. Her daily job involved editing – not creating – content describing technical specifications and product how-to help.

Three months into her new role, she asked her manager about the possibility of expanding her assignments for more variety. The manager replied, “Writers are writers. And writing is writing.”

The first statement is true. The second is not.

Some say writers are writers, and writing is #writing. The first statement is true. The second is not, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Heading down a wrong path

I often meet people who’ve found great joy in their careers as content practitioners. They feel free to create valuable content that delights and informs an audience. They enjoy creating innovative, fun experiences that stretch imaginations.


This is the marketing task people mean when they say, “Everybody has two jobs – theirs and marketing.” The flame of creating cool, thoughtful content burns so brightly it attracts everyone – from the front desk to the C-suite.

On the other hand, I also run into talented content creators – like my acquaintance at the tech company – who spend their days constructing the most mundane but necessary content for the business.

These content creators often struggle with the pressure of constructing pieces that meet business needs while still trying for creativity. They often feel frustrated that their hoped-for creative role turned out to be more akin to laboring away in a content factory.

To be clear, the tech writer-turned-website editor recognized the importance of the technical documentation and the expertise or skill needed to transform those pieces into engaging materials. She just didn’t feel she offered much value in that role.

She didn’t feel she could really dig into the material because she lacked technical expertise. Her role was simply to ensure that the data and information were well constructed.

She recently left the company. That’s a real loss for the business.

I worked with another company to advise on their plan for assembling new content teams. The leaders seemed convinced that each group – product, brand, marketing, comms – should work only on their content. Product content creators should focus on the ingredients, specifications, and instructional how-tos of using the product. Brand content creators should work on taglines and thought leadership. Marketing content creators would work on sales enablement materials.

I disagreed and argued that product content could also be thought leadership. Brand content can be high-level promises and a simple list of ingredients. Marketing content can be ad copy for search engines and the cool videos that make us all laugh.


The difference is whether the content is created or constructed.

Creating vs. constructing content

One of my favorite quotes comes from G.K. Chesterton’s analysis of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens:

The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.

Talent acquisition and retention might be a content marketer leader’s most critical job today. And fostering and retaining content talent comes down to balancing how much someone constructs vs. how much they create.

It’s easy to assume “constructed content” is the boring stuff like navigation, tech-spec sheets, documentation, contracts, and compliance documents and that “created content” is the fun stuff like storytelling or viral videos.

That thinking isn’t correct. Almost anything can be constructed content, and almost anything can be created content.

The difference lies not in the thing created but in the why and how it’s made, to echo Chesterton’s quote. As he said, the essence of a piece “exists before the book or before even the details or main features of the book; the Robert Rose enjoys it and lives in it with a kind of prophetic rapture.”

Of course, not all content deserves or requires that level of enthusiasm.

Constructed content is important, but it’s usually something that needs to be created as efficiently as possible. Its value only exists after it’s completed.


While some people might love creating the 50th SEO-focused article for a product or the 10th compliance document for a service, the intrinsic value of the creation process would be quite small. Very few people love the essence of that compliance article before it’s constructed. That document’s value lies solely in its usefulness after it’s created.

Created content gives the creator (and even those around them) joy before it’s finished. It’s that bright flame attracting people from around the business. It has intrinsic value before it even exists.

Creating #content is the bright flame that attracts people from around the business to participate in its creation, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

My argument to the company planning to segregate their teams’ content creation was that the method wouldn’t ensure they attracted and fostered the best content talent. That requires ensuring a balance between constructed content vs. created content.

All writers write. But not all writing is writing. I’ve never met any content creator happy with constructing content as their sole activity.

Created content drives most of us to get out of bed and make the donuts day after day. Understand the difference between creating and constructing. Then, balance those tasks across the team. That way, every content creator gets to wake up feeling excited to keep making the donuts.


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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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6 martech contract gotchas you need to be aware of



6 martech contract gotchas you need to be aware of

Having worked at several organizations and dealt with many more vendors, I’ve seen my share of client-vendor relationships and their associated “gotchas.” 

Contracts are complex for a reason. That’s why martech practitioners are wise to lean on lawyers and buyers during the procurement process. They typically notice terms that could undoubtedly catch business stakeholders off guard.

Remember, all relationships end. It is important to look for thorny issues that can wreak havoc on future plans.

I’ve seen and heard of my share of contract gotchas. Here are some generalizations to look out for.

1. Data

So, you have a great data vendor. You use them to buy contacts and information as well as to enrich what data you’ve already got. 

When you decide to churn from the vendor, does your contract allow you to keep and use the data you’ve pulled into your CRM or other systems after the relationship ends? 

You had better check.


2. Funds

There are many reasons why you would want to give funds in advance to a vendor. Perhaps it pays for search ads or allows your representatives to send gifts to prospective and current customers. 

When you change vendors, will they return unused funds? That may not be a big deal for small sums of money. 

Further, while annoying, processing fees aren’t unheard of. But what happens when a lot of cash is left in the system? 

You had better make sure that you can get that back.

3. Service-level agreements (SLAs)

Your business is important, and your projects are a big deal. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get a prompt response to a question or action when something wrong happens. 

That’s where SLAs come in. 

It’s how your vendor tells you they will respond to questions and issues. A higher price point typically will get a client a better SLA that requires the vendor to respond and act more quickly — and more of the time to boot (i.e., 24/7 service vs. standard business hours). 

Make sure that an SLA meets your expectations. 


Further, remember that most of the time, you get what you pay for. So, if you want a better SLA, you may have to pay for it.

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4. Poaching

Clients and vendors alike are always looking for quality people to employ. Sometimes they find them on the other side of the client-vendor relationship. 

Are you OK with them poaching one of your team members? 


If not, this should be discussed and put into writing during the contract negotiation phase, a renewal, or at any time if it is that important.

 I have dealt with organizations that are against anti-poaching clauses to the point that a requirement to have one is a dealbreaker. Sometimes senior leadership or board members are adamant about an individual’s freedom to work where they please — even if one of their organization’s employees departs to work for a customer or vendor. 

5. Freebies

It is not unheard of for vendors to offer their customers freebies. Perhaps they offer a smaller line item to help justify a price increase during a renewal. 

Maybe the company is developing a new product and offers it in its nascent/immature/young stage to customers as a deal sweetener or a way to collect feedback and develop champions for it. 

Will that freemium offer carry over during the next renewal? Your account executive or customer success manager may say it will and even spell that out in an email. 

Then, time goes by. People on both sides of the relationship change or forget details. Company policies change. That said, the wording in a contract or master service agreement won’t change. 

Make sure the terms of freebies or other good deals are put into legally sound writing.

Read next: 24 questions to ask ABM vendors before signing the contract


6. Pricing factors

There are many ways vendors can price out their offerings. For instance, a data broker could charge by the contact engaged by a customer. But what exactly does that mean? 

If a customer buys a contact’s information, that makes sense as counting as one contact. 

What happens if the customer, later on, wants to enrich that contact with updated information? Does that count as a second contact credit used? 

Reasonable minds could justify the affirmative and negative to this question. So, evaluating a pricing factor or how it is measured upfront is vital to determine if that makes sense to your organization. 

Don’t let contract gotchas catch you off-guard 

The above are just a few examples of martech contract gotchas martech practitioners encounter. There is no universal way to address them. Each organization will want to address them differently. The key is to watch for them and work with your colleagues to determine what’s best in that specific situation. Just don’t get caught off-guard.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Steve Petersen is a marketing technology manager at Zuora. He spent nearly 8.5 years at Western Governors University, holding many martech related roles with the last being marketing technology manager. Prior to WGU, he worked as a strategist at the Washington, DC digital shop The Brick Factory, where he worked closely with trade associations, non-profits, major brands, and advocacy campaigns. Petersen holds a Master of Information Management from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brigham Young University. He’s also a Certified ScrumMaster. Petersen lives in the Salt Lake City, UT area.

Petersen represents his own views, not those of his current or former employers.

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