September 24, 2020 admin

How to be a content editor: learn to wear many hats!

Editors are generally meant to, well, edit. As editors, we are wordsmiths. We clean-up language, check facts and ensure that the written words all flow together in a typo-free, grammatically correct, coherent narrative.  

But in my current role as content editor for IMMedia, there’s that and so much more! Beyond copy editing, my role focuses primarily on project management, and in particular nurturing long-term relationships with clients and contributors. My list of tasks is diverse: crafting editorial briefs, creating budgets and timelines, setting up and tracking budgets, content ideation, commissioning specialists, reviewing copy, analysing results and more.

See, an editor wears many hats. Please allow me to explain in more detail by way of a case study.

Say we have a client, Moonwalk Ltd., that is offering a commercial flight to the moon and wants to create content to promote this adventure. You, the client, have come up with an energy-efficient space shuttle design that will offer a trip to the moon at a lower cost than Elon Musk’s Space X.   

You have the budget to create content to promote your venture and you’re ready to go! 

Step 1: Create buyer personas in order to have an audience-first mindset
Before you start shooting out content from a cannon, I would ask you to pause, and first nail the editorial brief.

What does success look like? As part of that process, I would help you think through your buyer personas. Who is your target audience here? Good buyer personas go beyond just the demographics. So yes, factors such as income level matter — your target audience has to be able to afford the trip after all — but affordability is not the only consideration on the table.

Say your market research identifies two profile groups: billionaires in their 30s and 40s, with cash to spare and retired folks looking for their last dance. Here are some other pointers to think about when creating a content persona.

  • Do they have children? Grandchildren?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • Are they thrill seekers, sky divers, bungee jumpers in their personal life?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • What’s the motivation for taking this trip?

And so on.

A good way to create such a persona, and a tool I use frequently, is to create a fake bio and description, like I would for a Facebook or Wikipedia page. This forces me to think of the target audience as a ‘real’ person rather than an abstract notion.  

Step 2: Decide the best messaging and format for your content needs and budget

Firming up content personas as a first step will allow you to create content that caters to your audience’s needs and motivations rather than your product and solution, which is essentially a product brochure.  

The young, spunky billionaire’s primary motivation might be testing their limits. For the older generation, the primary motivation might be a scientific curiosity about colonising other planets.

The next step is to decide the content formats. This is a combination of a number of factors — such as budget, messaging needs and how your audience consumes content.

Is this product’s USP best explained through a blog, an animated video, a social media post? All three maybe? Then we need to look at your timeline and your budget.

Step 3: Find the right subject matter expert for the job

In any given week, I find myself researching topics so I can ideate for clients in diverse verticals; such as, banking, AI, e-commerce, monetary policy, and FX risk management — and in this case space travel.

I’m not an expert on all of these topics — but I do know how to find the right people to get the job done. My usual process for any client brief would be as follows:

  • Summarise the project objectives, create a timeline and hold a kickoff meeting. This ensures that everyone is aligned from the outset. We can discuss what success looks like, as well as key milestones you need to hit. For example, the Moonwalk flight is scheduled next month and you want content created for pre-launch, launch and post-launch that can be repurposed for multiple channels and formats.
  • Find the right topic expert and get the content created. If it’s a blog, or a whitepaper you will need someone who understands the space and is capable of writing about it. Even a design project needs different kinds of skills. For example, let’s say you, as a client, need an infographic explaining why a Moonwalk flight is cheaper than Elon Musk’s Space X. What kind of graphic designer is best suited for the project? An icon-based infographic is easier to execute than one that needs conceptual thinking. Or does the designer need to have animation skills? 
  • Once the content (or design) is created, I check if the content meets the client’s brief, brand and style guidelines. This requirement could vary from ensuring that British or American English is used. Or more detailed requirements regarding tone of voice and style of writing, and in the case of design projects check aspects such as fonts, icons and brand colour palate. At this stage, I look at copy in detail. Does the prose flow well? Should I add subheadings? Can a concept be better explained through data storytelling, such as an accompanying chart or a table?
  • As part of this process, I need to also check facts. I have no idea what ‘leverages ablative heat shield materials’ means — but it sounds like something that needs explaining to a person getting into a spacecraft to orbit the moon. My first call? To the experienced sub-editor I pre-booked to fact-check and proofread the copy. Editing and subbing are two different skill sets and both are equally important to the quality of the content deliverable. When creating content it’s imperative to ensure factual accuracy. Are the sources robust? Have statistics been interpreted correctly? Is there enough context for the audience?
  • Manage the review process. As part of any project, there are typically multiple stakeholders on the client side who need to review content before it goes live. This process can take time, but it’s my job to make this as painless as possible by always striving for the first version to be as on brand and on brief as possible. By really nailing the briefing process and nurturing the content as it goes through production, the review process should really just be minor tweaks rather than major surgery.

All of these myriad roles and tasks make my work exciting and fulfilling. Not a day in the office leaves me feeling pigeon-holed!

Contact us to talk through your current content marketing needs to see how IMMedia can assist