Way back in elementary school, long before I became head of editorial at IOD, my classmates would line up in the school hallway so I could check their writing assignments before they handed them in. This tradition continued well into my university years, and I loved it. It was always rewarding to help someone take their work to the next level and to make their writing shine.
Soon after I graduated, I became managing editor of an online academic journal, when digital publications in that world were still far and few. I then served for many years as chief editor at a think tank. I eventually made what was a surprisingly natural transition from academia—writing, editing, and research—into the tech marketing world.
There was and is a real need for these skills in hi-tech. Nonetheless, editorial is perhaps one of the most undervalued skills in the field.
Marketing teams work hard to pump out content and nail their brand messaging. But editorial is often completely overlooked, or at best an afterthought.
If a schoolkid can recognize the value in this skill, how is it that marketing teams across the globe—even at some of the largest enterprises—fail to take advantage of all editorial has to offer? In this article, I’ll explain why this is the case and take a look at how to bridge the gap between marketing and editorial.
The Disconnect Between Marketing & Editorial
Editorial is essentially your marketing QA. But marketing sees editorial as a bottleneck that slows down the process and thus often pushes editing off to the post-distribution phase or worse, skips this step altogether.
I can’t tell you the number of tech companies who have come to us in need of a major edit to their web copy after their site had already gone live. Oftentimes, it was their investors who pushed them to do so, recognizing the importance of high-quality, well-written content.
When developing your product, would you ever skip the testing phase? No; that would be way too big a risk. Similarly, editorial must be closely involved in all of your marketing efforts from the get go. It should be seen as an integral part of your marketing team and quality assurance.
Why Editorial Should Be an Integral Part of Your Marketing Efforts
You want your brand to stand out, but not in the wrong way. You want to be remembered for your product; not earn five minutes of notoriety as part of a social media meme mocking your poor editorial skills.
And I’ve seen it all—from a code “repository” being referred to as a “suppository” to a company “spec shit” instead of “spec sheet.” Even something as “minor” as a missed hyphen can make a headline go from wholesome to sexually explicit.
But why does it matter so much?
1. Brand Reputation & Building Trust
In a survey conducted by Tidio, 97.2% of respondents reported that grammatical errors influence what they think of a company. People were more forgiving of individuals who made spelling errors, but 52% recognized how such mistakes could destroy an organization’s professional image.
Meaning, people may be more forgiving of the individual tech blogger, but they are far more judgemental when it comes to brands.
And we’re talking tech here; these are industries where details matter. Building trust is critical. Getting one tiny detail wrong can lead to major financial loss, even cost lives.
The same meticulousness you apply to your products should be reflected in your marketing and editorial.
Would you trust a manufacturer producing life-saving medical devices who couldn’t even spell the medical terminology right? Seen it. And who would you prefer handle your sensitive data? A company that couldn’t even spell its own name right? Seen it too. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot; make sure to have editorial/a designated editor review your content before going live.
2. Improving User Experience
Marketing departments—from the director of marketing to the SEO manager—are hyperfocused on meeting their monthly quotas and pumping up their blogs with content to support their marketing campaigns, but they often neglect their web copy.
Your website is the face of your company, the first piece of content you actually put out. But failing to have a professional edit your web copy—whether a designated in-house editorial team or an outsourced editor—could harm user experience, not to mention lose you prospects.
I see this a lot with startups in particular, as they rush to get their new sites up in order to establish an online presence, but often lack the resources for an editorial team—the entire marketing “team” may in fact be a single VP marketing or marketing director.
Among a global audience surveyed, 84% noted they pay attention to the grammar and spelling of online content, compared to 94% of U.S. and native-English speaking prospects.
But it’s not only about the English. People don’t want to read long blocks of text. A tech editor with a good professional eye can help you trim down your web copy, make sure it’s on point, and can ensure consistency across the site, thus improving user experience. They can work together with the marketing, design team, and your SMEs to ensure a streamlined, user-friendly, and technically accurate website.
“MarEd”: Streamlining Your Content Marketing Efforts
Just as DevOps revolutionized the tech world by breaking down silos between development and operations, the same concept can be applied to your content marketing efforts. “MarEd,” as I like to call it, brings marketing and editorial together, fostering cooperation between the two throughout the content marketing pipeline.
Here are five MarEd best practices to boost your marketing efforts.
1. Build Editorial into the Content Management Pipeline
Build editorial reviews into your content creation pipeline, from the very first draft and following any revisions to the content.
And of course, don’t neglect editorial at the distribution phase.
Small fixes when uploading to Word Press can often introduce errors and style inconsistencies, lowering the quality of your content if you don’t run them by editorial. I see this often when the person uploading the content makes “small” changes to the title or headings, or when marketing decides to add in another sentence without having someone check the English and review for style consistency. So make sure your editors perform a final proofread prior to publication.
You should also have your editors review your social media messages.
Project management tools such as Monday.com, Teamwork, and Asana make this easy. Each editorial review stage can be added in as a subtask, and all project collaborators should follow this workflow.
2. Ensure Style Consistency
I frequently see style inconsistencies in the content put out by tech companies. If you don’t have a company style guide, have your editorial team create one to ensure consistency across all collateral. This can include not only spelling and grammar preferences (UK or U.S. spellings; AP or Chicago style), but also messaging, voice, and tone. The style guide can also be shared with your writers in advance in order to save time fixing things later.
While some companies lack a style guide, others may have one but employees are either unaware it exists or ignore it. This is common with large companies and enterprises with many different departments and divisions—I see it all the time.
Heck, even giants like AWS or Microsoft Azure are guilty of style inconsistencies. Take, for example, this Amazon Athena user guide. Some headings are in sentence case, some in title case; compound verbs aren’t always capitalized when using title case, and so on. It is quite possible this was written by different authors/departments, without a final edit at the end.
Make sure your marketing departments are aware of the style guide, and designate one person within the company to oversee and ensure the content follows the company style guide—whether a chief editor overseeing a team of editors, a single content marketing manager, or an outsourced editor.
3. Involve Editorial in Your Content Audits
Your content audits shouldn’t just be about updating and repurposing content. Involve editorial in your content audits too both to identify content that needs editing and to see how the content your marketing department has decided to update could be improved. This might include the need for a language edit, revisions to align with new messaging, or adjustments to meet SEO requirements. These are all things your editorial team or designated editor can help with.
4. Edit All Marketing Collateral
Any content that will be seen by customers, whether readily available on your website or gated, needs to go through editorial. In addition to blog posts and long-form content like white papers or ebooks, this may include:
- Requests for proposal
- Any contracts or forms your customers will be signing or filling out
- All webcopy
- Social media messages (as noted above)
- SLAs (in collaboration with legal, if necessary)
5. Implement SEO Best Practices at the Editorial Stage
Your editors can help you to ensure your SEO requirements have been met and address anything that is missing. Editorial best practices were in fact a precursor to many of today’s SEO best practices. This step can be built into the content pipeline. Again, adding this as a task in your content workflow is easy using a project management tool.
Your editors can thus help your SEO efforts by:
- Checking that SEO keywords and keyword phrases have been incorporated
- Breaking down text and making it more reader friendly by ensuring sufficient white space and adding bulleted lists and headings/subheadings
- Checking anchor text to ensure it incorporates the SEO keywords and is engaging
- Running plagiarism checks and addressing any issues that arise so you won’t be penalized by the search engines for duplicate content
Making this the responsibility of the editorial team/your designated editor frees up more of the marketing/SEO team’s time to focus on the keyword research and analytics instead.
Conclusion: Shifting Editorial Left
Just as DevOps requires a shift in mindset, MarEd requires a change in company culture, to one of shared responsibility between marketing and editorial. It’s important for all parties to understand how each can contribute to improve the workflow and ultimately improve your content marketing efforts all around.
Whether you have an editorial team at your disposal or a single dedicated editor, take advantage of what they can offer. Let them take some of the burden off of your overworked marketing team.
If you don’t have an editorial team in place, consider designating someone from your marketing team to take on this role (Your content marketing manager would be a natural fit.) or hire an outsourced editor.
Editorial needs to be involved from the get go and across the content pipeline; it can’t be an afterthought.
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