The Worth of Content

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This blog at Huffington Post about the perils of free labor poses interesting questions in a humorous way about how the workforce uses interns and the purposed lawsuits and regulations that are currently being discussed. It turns out that interns are an economically friendly way to get work done for free with little or no risk. Uhm, yeah, we who have been through the “but it’ll look good on you resume” wringer have known about this little trick for quite sometime. Apparently, the situation has gotten much worse, and several big publications have picked up stories about abused and unpaid interns. The time has probably come to properly define what exactly an intern can and cannot be allowed to do.  After all, there are certain services and tasks we can all agree on that are worthy of a paycheck.

The trend of turning an intern loose on copywriting duties for creative industries has long been the subject of woe for budding writers. The exploding craigslist.com postings promising “ no pay but amazing exposure” has really got me thinking. How much is content worth anyway? Are the written words we see online really valuable, seeing as everyone can write a blog in their bathrobes? And why pay someone to write your blog or manage your social networking accounts when you can get a sweet young thing from a communications program at your local university to do it for free?

The answer is simple; you get what you pay for. Not that there aren’t plenty of brilliant bloggers out there who do it just for the satisfaction of seeing their words online, but hiring real writers (or at least having actually writing students as interns) is a simple decision. After all, we don’t let interior design students intern at Cedars-Sinai now do we? Freelance writers and content creators can loosen the load in the workplace too. Especially if our staffs are littered with folks who aren’t exactly blooming with original thoughts or creative ideas. For companies and small businesses alike, it makes sense to hire professional writers so no one in the office is stuck performing a task that could be torturous. Why take on something that somebody else could do better and faster? Secondly, with major publications moving strictly to a digital format, better quality writing is popping up faster than messages on an Iron-man 2 message board. The overall quotability and importance of the written word is more important than ever before, even if it is only in articles that we skim and promptly re-tweet.

So how do we find a content writer who can beef up our blogs, website, and social networking? Links, links and more links. The days of the lengthy writers resume are nearly over. By receiving a concise and hopefully witty or brilliant email containing links to potential writers’ works, we eliminate the hunt and peck that often goes along with hiring freelancers. Look for writing styles and sensibilities that fit your image. There’s no room for “I guess they’ll work” thinking when it comes to content. Find somebody (or somebodies) who can quickly learn your language and meet your deadlines. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for specific qualifications from content providers. Need an SEO whiz or a well-versed online PR maven? Then your ad should say exactly that.  Again, it’s all about ruling out the types who don’t fit.

Lastly, content is your calling card online. Is it fair that we are judged simply by what is written on our websites? No, it is isn’t fair, but we humans are judgmental critters who like sparkly, appealing, or at least controversial writing that catches our eye in a second.  Whomever we trust with our content, be it intern or content provider or random guy in bathrobe, they should love your company’s message and be able to provide content to keep readers linking and coming back.

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