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It’s 2017!

So the time of year where we get to snaffle everything in sight is over. Shame. Highlights included a trip to the Cotswolds and a telling off for eating all of the apple sauce before Christmas day (I have a problem with condiments). I blamed it on the dog, which would have been a super plan except we don’t have a dog.

Things you can expect to see here soon:

  • Content Marketing how to’s
  • Content strategy: the difference between print and digital
  • How to describe fictional creatures
  • Best practice copy templates
  • Content governance and QA models
  • UX copy optimisation

Back soon!

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Strategy clouds

When people say strategy, what do they really mean? Some take it as plan of action, others a list of goals or achievements or a new objective for the business. In reality it should incorporate all of these things and much more.

A strategy:

  • Sets goals
  • Analyses processes
  • Identifies problems
  • Proposes solutions
  • Sets out actions for change
  • Is supported by evidence and data

Your strategy shouldn’t just be a fancy worded new mantra for the company, packed with business jargon and 0% competency or coherence.

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When creating content strategies there are a lot of things to consider, such as:

  • What is our editorial mission statement, do we need to make one?
  • What do I want to achieve?
  • What’s my contents angle?
  • Who are my target market? what are its current, past and potential future dynamics?
  • Who are the key stakeholders?
  • Whats the budget and where is it coming from? How does this fit with the companies financial plan, forecast and other current strategies?
  • How will this affect my list, division and the business as a whole?
  • What can analytics and sales data tell me?
  • Is there enough evidence to a) support my strategy and b) achieve it?
  • What is a realistic timeline and frequency?
  • How can I break it down into steps and mile stones?

This is just a catalyst to get your editorial brain kicking.  Content strategy goes hand in hand with content marketing. Like any business model there are countless content marketing models, so when formulating a content strategy these should also be taken into consideration.

Joe Pulizzi from the Content Marketing Institute does a great keynote, watchable here.

How to give good feedback

As an editor I spend a lot of time going over content with a critical eye, making edits and suggestions and then rounding it all into a nice ball of feedback. Here are some useful feedback tips:

  • Be comfortable
  • Be specific
  • Be firm, not mean
  • Be positive
  • Be reasonable

Most of the time people dread feedback, as soon as you say the word it makes people think they’re going to be torn down. Tailor your feedback according to the relationship level you have with that person. Create a safe zone so the person you’re feeding back to knows what to expect and will be comfortable receiving your comments.  Be clear and concise, bullet points in an email and comments where you want to make suggestions in a doc.

Track changes, authors like to see what you’re doing. If it isn’t grammar related, then a reason why you’ve made the change won’t go amiss.  Your rationale is an important part of any edit.

When feeding back your overall review keep in mind to be respectful of peoples work and their ‘creative babies’. Targeting just the bad stuff won’t go down well so talk about the good points too. It’ll encourage people to tackle the edits and will provide a platform for further exchanges where you can simply feedback changes to them, safe in the knowledge that they are aware of your support.

The ability to negotiate and collaborate on ideas and edits will lead to better rapport and better work. When giving feedback steer clear of setting forth your ideas as concrete blocks, but rather living forms that take shape to meet the needs of the project and that can be worked with by others.

If you have a huge list you can lay out what needs to be tackled first in order of importance, this could help an author prioritize if they are feeling lost on where to start. Colour coding or differentiating between types of edits is sometimes helpful for authors too i.e grammar change green, sentence structure blue, content revision red. This can help an author to see where their weaknesses lie.

Set deadlines or milestones for edits to give them momentum. If you have any examples of work that would be useful, such as layouts, then communicate this. Make your aims as clear as possible.

Project management for editors

Whether you’re an editor, an author or illustrator if your’re working on a collaborative project then you will need to communicate things like schedules, deadlines, tasks and docs. The role of the editor is generally quite autonomous but that of the digital editor is quite the opposite. Creating and designing digital products requires input from a number of stakeholders. Here are three simple tools for project management that editors can use across the board.

Trello

Summary: Quick, easy and so user friendly it will appeal to even the biggest technophobes.

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Sign up here and it’ll take you through to a blank ‘board’, much like Pintrest. Your first task is to make a ‘list’ and choose the number of items you want to manage. I’ve done the basics below:

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When you click on a list you can ‘add a card’ this will fall under the board you’ve placed it on.  Then you can add a ‘card’ which will enable these options:

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The ‘edit labels’ feature allows you to colour code things on your board, so tasks for marketing, sales and editorial can all be different colours. You can add or remove members to cards or boards, set deadlines and add attachments. Team members can add their comments on individual cards too.

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On the home screen at the far right you will find your settings side bar, which looks like this:

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From here you have options to add team members and to customize, including adding ‘power ups’. You can only add 1 power up in the free version but the full program offers a wide range. The full list consists of:

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Each power up’s functionality is easy to set up and use. That’s all there is to it!

Base Camp

Summary: This is my personal go-to as I find the layout suits my needs better.

Once you’ve signed up you’ll be taken through to this landing page:

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This is the sample page they show you to get the ball rolling. Unlike Trello there are set project boards, but with added functionality. To get started click ‘base camp’ at the top and start a new project. You can add clients to the project so they can see it’s progress but won’t show them internal discussions or any unfinished work. The other tabs at the top allow you to talk one on one, see your notifications and switch to other projects. The reports tab is particularly useful:

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It gives you an overview of what everyone else working on the project is up to. Like Trello you can upload docs, set deadlines and keep tracking all of the ongoing tasks building your project.

Jira

Summary: A lot more complex than the previous two, ideal for Agile workflows and digital  projects. Jira is great if you’re working in sprints, with much of the functionality of Base Camp it allows you to share and analyze data easily. It also provides a series of add on’s, similar to Trello but aimed at software development. You can do portfolio planning, scrum boards, other features include:

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For the sake of space I won’t go into too much detail on this one, Jira only post will follow up!

Editing: the basics

Before I embark on any editing specifics I thought a little summary of the basics for editors and copy editors alike might be useful. Editing isn’t just about cutting out text or re-writing content is also involves a lot of communication and relationship management.

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For the editor effective listening is critical to any relationship with an author or business partner. Whether you are aware of it or not there are endless cultural differences that come into play, not to mention business etiquette. Your author’s first language may not be English, they may have never worked with a publisher before and they may, for all intents and purposes, not be listening to you. Follow-up any meetings or calls with summaries so you are both on the same page and pay close attention to detail.

Silent expectations, what you, as an editor, are going to do and deliver could be very different from what an author expects. Email is two dimensional but is visually interpreted as three dimensional, a phone call or face to face meeting is never time wasted. Relationship management plays a key part in nearly all editorial roles, having the ability to build rapport and lay out a strategy, summary or mile stones will ensure a project and its author rolls along smoothly.

A sub editor provides:

  • Clear, understandable edits with tracked changes.
  • Specific solutions, i.e if you are cutting length let them know that you are doing so for x reason.
  • Collaboration, if a change is suggested that doesn’t sit right suggest an alternative option rather than just shooting it down cold.
  • Market sense, to provide a good commercial awareness of what the market is looking for and when according to global trends and different demographics of readers, including foreign markets, cross culture developments, industry standards, regulations and policies.

To conclude, the editor is there to create the outline that an author will colour in.

I’ll go over the specifics like extent, permissions and the types of editing in posts to come.

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