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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.

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Journalistic styles

There are a number of journalistic forms and styles, here are a few:

  • Investigative: a primary source of information, which unearths unethical and illegal behavior by individuals, companies and government agencies. These pieces usually take a long time to construct and are orchestrated by a large team who conduct interviews, analyze data and travel great distances to gather evidence to support their claims.
  • Ambush: Journalist’s who approach individuals in the spotlight off guard in public places, they use aggressive questioning tactics in the hope of a news worthy response. This is often associated with ‘Gotcha’ journalism, a term that describes journalistic methods that are designed to entrap people into making damaging statements.
  • Convergence: or ‘new journalism’ is the use of multiple media forms together, such as print, graphics and video.
  • Gonzo: characterized by its punchy witty style and arduous language. It’s known for throwing off the restraints of conventional journalistic writing forms. Its unique style gives up objectivity in favor of immersion, usually first hand perspective, which is drawn from popular culture, fiction and philosophical literary styles. It was popularized by the American writer Hunter S. Thompson, author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 and the Rolling Stone magazine.
  • News: Facts are relayed in a straight forward style without any jazz. These stories usually lack the depth a feature story offers or the questioning approach of an investigative piece.
  • Reviews: Are mainly opinion based, from a critic or authoritative voice from within that field.
  • Columns: Stem from the personality of the writer, who takes their own style, opinion to a topic of their choice and are recognized by their individual voice.
  • Feature writing: Explores a subject from all angles, with a dense nut graph*. They offer the biggest work count of all types of journalism, features are lengthy pieces and often incorporate interviews.
  • Blogging: This is what I do, as you can see. It’s a combination of many forms but without the restraint of most print T&C’s. It is an outlet for writers to write casually about whatever crosses their mind.  Blogs can inspire social trends as well as provide a platform for book writers, journalists and presenters.

*The Nut Graph
‘In American English journalism terminology, a nut graph is a paragraph, particularly in a feature story, that explains the news value of the story’, Wikipedia.

If you’d like some historical background on journalistic styles an interesting read can be found 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.

How to link up your blog?

Quick blog post!

How do you link your blog to your facebook/ twitter/ instagram?

Three ways:

1. Widgets, accessible through the appearance tab on the left sidebar.

2. Through the ‘mysites’ button at the top go to ‘sharing’ and choose the apps you would like to have access.

3. Via RSS, Twitterfeed here and more detail RSS instructions here. I’d recommend this method as it allows you more control and the ability to sync across devices.

Paper planes: the importance of graphic design

We all know how important aesthetics are, I for one always find myself drawn to pretty packaging regardless of what’s inside… Harrod’s Bon Bons got me in Heathrow airport last week.

That said, how do you choose the wrapping that goes around your site? How do you decide on the layout? These are big questions that cover a very broad topic, so I’ll break it down in further posts entitled discoverability and navigation and heck one on semantic enrichment too while we’re at it.  For now though lets talk about the initial inception of design, who is your target market? Who are your competitors? One of your first business decisions is to decide whether you want to keep it in line with what they’re doing and simply try to do it better or do you go off the grid in an attempt to be a digital zeitgeist? Each has its merits and challenges. Your next decision is your budget, which usually takes form depending on your goals and sales targets. Generating traffic isn’t cheap these days.

Your choice of design represents the character of your product, so choose wisely. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by website templates, plugins and programming when you’re designing yourself. Equally so when you’re sizing up a company to do it for you. Some reputable names include Squarespace, Deeson, Druple and Semantico. If you’re shelling out for one of these consider what the identity of your product is, for instance Deeson specializes in community driven platforms, where the design is a hub that generates user discussions and content. When employing a website designer think about how their set up is going to work within your organization and its processes, with eproduction, CS, marketing, sales and any other stakeholder. The last thing you want to do is spend budget on a vendor to implement a CMS tool like SAMS* and then after speaking to CS discover they don’t require it.

If you’re an individual building a blog it may be easier to go with a template that enables a theme to begin with.  Starting with the basics will give you an idea of where you might want to go in the future and beginning with free software will spare you the expensive of indecisiveness if you haven’t yet bought a domain.

Initial things to consider:

  • Colour scheme
  • Layout
  • Key functionalities
  • Target market
  • Brand identity

Useful designing sources:

Wix bloggers here
WordPress bloggers here and here and a bit of programming here

For blogroll you’re on your own.

*SAMS (Software Asset Management) ‘is a business practice that involves managing and optimizing the purchase, deployment, maintenance, utilization, and disposal of software applications within an organization’.

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!

Google Analytics: Accessing data

So you’ve set up your GA account, what now? If you’ve already got to grips with the tools and interface then you’re good to go- if not then head over to my other post on them and have a read.

When you log in you’ll see the Audience Overview report, it’ll look like this:

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If you have more than one site you will have to select the report you want to view. There are over 50 different reports available, these can be selected through the reporting tab at the top. Report selected, you can change the dates via the top right drop down to change the date range of data you are viewing. You can also check the Compare box to compare your data from one date against another.

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When in Audience Overview you can hoover over a line to get the data for that particular day, hoovering on the metrics beneath the graph will give you more info.

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It’s here that you can switch between reports to see the top ten languages, countries, cities, browsers, operating systems, services providers, and screen resolutions of your visitors. You can drill down a number of levels here, for instance in locations you can choose United States and see the breakdown of visitors according to states with more info there for each metric. Some easy access reports are:

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Audience reports
Outline specifications about your traffic, such as age, gender, demographics, frequency they visit the site, where they go on the site. It is possible then to map out their interests and behavior, location and so on.

Acquisition reports
The reports produce data on what drives traffic to the site and specific sources.

Behaviour reports
Will provide date on your content, what your pages are, landing pages, top exit pages etc. If you set up site search you will be able to see what terms were searched for and the pages that were search on. You can also see here how fast your website loads with suggestions from Google on how to make it faster.

Conversions
If you’ve set up Goals then you can see how many conversions you’ve has and URL paths your traffic took to reach them.  Conversions can also be seen in other reports such as location through-> Audience Overview.

For a full list of reports see here
For building in custom reports 
Some recommended custom reports

Your Google Analytics is as comprehensive as you want to make it, read through what is available first before setting off so you can get the most out of your account.

More on GA data soon!

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