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How to play a more effective editing role for your corporate blog

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The writer is always the hero in the blog, the source of the idea, the clever turn of phrase, the talent of the show, likely to be more influential in the future as media publishers are anticipating. In social media they have started to talk about “creators” and the economy growing around them powered by advertising dollars.

At Verb we are more on the side of Ann Handley’s book, “Everybody Writes.” Our clients have a lot of information which could be beneficial for their organizations if they were able to publish it, and often the shortest path to get it out is to let their own people write it, or at least talk about it in a recorded interview that we can then turn into a blog post, or even a video interview if we have the chance.

Journalists know about writing, and after a big story break you can always see journalists thank their editorial teams for their help. As Verb’s editor Ivan Rothkegel says, journalism is a team sport. That’s why we call our team a newsroom, to remind us that our motto is “We are writers” and we are more than the sum of our parts.

A question we often come across is what role the customer team will play in the editorial process, especially when starting work on a new project. In our experience, having a formal sit-down about the editorial roles from the start can make the project more efficient and even contribute a lot to its success.

Customers sometimes think about this editorial process conversation as discussing “approvals,” as if material more or less ready to publish were going to flow from the newsroom to the customer, ready to sign off on. This limited view of the customer role owes much to the advertising process and will probably result in less effective outcomes when applied to an organizational blog, newsletter, or social media, all formats which reward authenticity.

You really don’t want your blog to sound like advertising. In the tech industry, home to most of our customers, engineers will flat-out use the word “marketing” to talk about things they hate, as in “that announcement was just marketing.” If you need to explain that the announcement was in fact a marketing initiative, you already lost. What you need is to be more involved in your project in a formal role that is much more than just “approvals.”

A customer with whom we’re collaborating on an email marketing campaign put it best: their messages need to read “like a conversation.” In any case, “just make sure we don’t sound like marketing” (they are in tech). A key input we get from this customer is access to their latest sales pitches, shared periodically, so we can see not just the content but what words and expressions they use in actual customer conversations.

Putting those conversations in the 200 words or so of one email message is no easy task, but at least it takes the customer seconds flat to know if we got it right. The question is, how does a customer become more involved in editing a longer format of a thousand words or more? If we are publishing weekly, a fairly popular rhythm, the customer would have to potentially spend several hours every week “getting involved,” and we all know that time is the most precious commodity in any communications team nowadays.

Well, folks at the HubSpot blog have put out an excellent post on how to speed up your editorial process (HubSpot’s blog is one of our top marketing sources). Their first editing tip? Find a quiet space to do your editing without distractions, especially if you have several hours of editing ahead. Editing is one of those tasks where investing time first saves you time later. Their other tips are also excellent, so you might be tempted to save time by, say, creating a style guide instead. The bad news is that the style guide will not edit your blog posts for you.

Every one of our customers wishes they could speed up their approvals, so you’re not alone. One solution that is working wonders for our most involved customers is appointing someone in the team to follow up on their end. It’s like a project manager just for the editorial process. In a regular newsroom they would call this role a coordinator or producer. It’s a smart move because individual editorial pieces can get stuck at different stages of the editing and approval process.

For example, in one piece the source might not be forthcoming with the information the story needs, and in other piece the source might be so flattering that it belies credulity. Left alone, the problem can stop the process indefinitely while somebody figures out what’s going on. A project manager is that somebody, pushing all involved to meet the deadline (a coordinator at an agency we interned at years back had this sign on his door: “Just Do It.”)

If you let writers alone, we would all want our top decision makers to play the role of the tough but fair editor who patiently listens to our whining, makes the risky sign-off decision, and then takes all the heat when the published piece makes a ruckus, like in the movie “Spotlight.” You might not be a star editor, but your organization’s blog can still gain a lot if you appoint somebody in your team to push everyone forward.