In the practitioner-marketing business, your product is only as good as the practitioners who create it. That’s true whether the product takes the form of events, videos, social media engagement, or (as is the case at Fixate) expert blog posts and articles.
To get good, timely content from your practitioners, you need to motivate them. Unfortunately, motivation can be difficult to produce because most practitioners are more interested in doing the things that make them practitioners and subject-matter experts than in producing content for others.
Fortunately, there are effective ways to motivate practitioners. And they don’t amount simply to paying them a lot of money.
Here’s an overview of what we have learned at Fixate about managing and motivating the network of practitioner experts who collaborate with us in producing content.
A Word about Fixate’s Practitioners
Before discussing how we motivate practitioners, let’s explain what the practitioners are like.
At Fixate, we currently specialize in content marketing for DevOps and related technology markets. As a result, our network of practitioners comprises people who, in their day jobs, are IT practitioners. They spend most of their time on things like coding in Java, optimizing software testing on mobile devices, or tuning Infrastructure-as-Code tools.
Our practitioners are really passionate about technology. They work with us because they enjoy writing about technology and participating in discussions within their communities.
However, Fixate’s practitioners can sometimes be curmudgeonly folks. They’re not always great about meeting deadlines. They sometimes want to write about things that are just not relevant for our business. They don’t generally hesitate to complain when they don’t like something.
Yet our business depends on practitioners who produce high-quality content that is on-message, and delivered on time. For that reason, it’s essential for us to keep the practitioners motivated.
Keeping Practitioners Motivated
How do we keep practitioners motivated to write great content for us? Here are our main tips:
Money (Yes, It Matters—But Only to an Extent)
Sure, money is part of the equation. Paying practitioners a fair rate that reflects our respect for their time and expertise is essential for keeping our collaborators happy and productive.
But there’s much more to it than that. If we wanted to pay practitioners ungodly sums to get them to say nice things about Fixate’s clients on the Internet, Fixate would be a very different type of practitioner-marketing business. We’re not middlemen who profit by connecting advertisers with high-profile people.
We are committed to producing content that becomes influential within the markets we target because it is technically meaningful and compelling to people within technology communities.
Adhering to that principle is in itself another way that we motivate our practitioners. When they know that the content they are producing actually matters in a technical way (that it’s not just naked advertising), they are motivated.
This is part of the reason why we seek out clients who understand that good content marketing means avoiding obvious product pitches or simplistic “calls to action.” These not only turn off potential customers, but also the people producing the content.
Although Fixate is, by design, not a media distribution company, we work hard to make sure that the content our practitioners write is circulated by clients and promoted on our social channels. This is important not only because it helps our clients, but also because it keeps our practitioners happy and productive.
No one wants to write an article about a software tool or DevOps concept that never gets published, or is only used internally. Public recognition is a significant part of the motivation for many of our writers, and it’s crucial for us to recognize and reinforce that.
For related reasons, Fixate only produces ghostwritten content under special circumstances. With rare exceptions (which involve special cases where writers know from the start that their content will not be published under their names), our technical articles and blog posts are published under the bylines of the subject-matter experts who produce them.
From a business perspective, this is not always an easy policy for Fixate to swallow. We have lost deals in the past with prospective clients who were only interested in ghostwritten content.
But sticking to our guns on the byline issue is crucial. If all Fixate did was produce ghostwritten articles and blog posts, we wouldn’t truly be an practitioner-marketing company. We’d just be another content mill, selling articles for someone else to publish under assumed names.
Conclusion: Practitioner Marketing Is About More than Cash
By now, it should be clear that paying practitioners is not the main way that we motivate them.
Although getting practitioners to write for free would not work in most cases, we believe that in order to build an effective practitioner-marketing business, practitioners should almost be willing to work without pay.
The other types of incentives you provide (like the opportunity to contribute to meaningful discussions and gain recognition from peers) should be the main reasons your practitioner work with you.
After all, if they’re practitioners, they already love the things they do, and they make money doing them. Your job as an practitioner marketer is to give them an opportunity to do the things they love even more, with a broader reach.