TechSoup Canada’s “set it and forget it” approach to outsourcing story writing [case study]

Mar 19, 2019

What does it take to get the greatest possible value when you’re outsourcing content creation? With years of experience on both the client and supplier side, I believe that it comes down to two things: being organized and providing clear direction. It’s about knowing what you need your content to achieve and setting up a few simple conditions for success: this describes my experience working with TechSoup Canada.

TechSoup Canada connects nonprofit organizations and libraries with donated and discounted technologies. They also provide learning opportunities and resources to equip their members with technology tips and best practices. When I first started chatting with Joyce Hsu, Communications Manager at TechSoup about the external support she needed, Joyce was looking for a way to keep on top of writing their member case studies. So, before departing on parental leave, Joyce brought me in to provide storytelling support, which she eventually handed over to Ben Losman as he stepped into her role.

“One of our ongoing communications priorities is to spotlight our members — not only to highlight the impact TechSoup Canada has on them, but also to share their good work with a broader audience,” explains Ben. “We were strapped for capacity last year, and we got in touch with Marlene to make sure that we could tell these very important stories. It freed up the capacity to work on other pressing things in-house.”

Outsourcing story writing? Getting organized and knowing what you need your content to achieve will set you up for success. Click To Tweet

Getting started by getting organized

While I do make a story tracking template available to help clients (and others) organize story production, the TechSoup Canada team beat me to the punch. They outsourced story creation to me because they had a clear need, but they also had a system for collecting and organizing story leads and ideas (see team member Yasmine Abu-Ayyash’s tips for finding story ideas in the post 14 tips to help you unearth your nonprofit’s stories). They were able to provide me with a spreadsheet that included:

  • Member organizations to feature
  • A potential focus for each story
  • Top-level information about how each organization has benefitted from working with TechSoup Canada
  • Other useful background information
  • Contact information at each organization, including:
    • My contact’s name, email address and position title
    • Their availability or best timeframe to contact them for story development

With all of this information organized and confirmed, I was able to jump right in and start reaching out, arranging interviews, writing the stories and coordinating revisions. The TechSoup Canada team had done the work up front to create a perfect “set it and forget it” system for outsourcing stories.

Though the TechSoup Canada team was clear and structured in their approach, they were also prepared to be flexible. From time to time in such a project, a story lead will fall through, be difficult to reach or drop out altogether. Ben and Yasmine were willing to jump in and nudge their contacts if necessary, and in one instance, they were ready with a backup plan so we could promptly change course when a story lead simply became unresponsive.

Lesson learned: sharpen storytelling strategy even further

I asked Ben if he would change anything about how we worked together: “I might get more specific in the prompt — rather than telling the generic story about how TechSoup Canada membership has helped a particular member, I might ask you to explore a certain theme that we are grappling with in terms of our organizational strategy,” Ben said. “For example, the shift away from perpetual software licensing toward cloud-based services has many potential benefits for nonprofits, but there are also potential risks. I might ask you to explore how organizations are dealing with that balance as the cloud becomes more prevalent.”

What does value mean when it comes to outsourcing content creation?

As a client, getting value when outsourcing content creation does not mean extracting the maximum possible number of hours; a make-work approach I’ve seen from less experienced clients. Getting true value means getting the best possible result – in this case, a great set of stories. And arriving at this result is a two-way street, even though your supplier will be doing the bulk of the work.

Clients like TechSoup Canada bring organization, clear communication, attention to detail, responsiveness and professionalism to the project, which set me up to serve them well. Being set up for success in this way helps to ensure a positive result. But still, I asked Ben to comment on his experience working with me. “Marlene’s approach and philosophy around storytelling have elevated the way we tell the stories of our members in-house. She is easy to work with, accessible, and professional. She asks the right questions up front, which helps ensure that she can unearth the most compelling information in her interviews,” says Ben.

“Marlene helped keep us on track and tactfully dealt with lapses in communications from our end. She was assertive and friendly and it was clear that her goal was always to produce the best case study series in the smoothest and most enjoyable way possible. She took feedback well and the revisions process was a dream.”

Are you ready to boost the impact of your communications with stories? Do you need my help with writing them? Check out my Storybank Simplified Service and get in touch with me.


Do you want to read a sampling of the stories I wrote for TechSoup Canada?

TechSoup Canada’s 'set it and forget it' approach to outsourcing story writing (case study) Click To Tweet

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