Rethinking Your Editorial Process

Jun 06, 2017

Ask any top content marketing team what it wishes it had. The answer may be more leads, sales, clicks, likes, links, or reach, but it always comes back to content. Today’s organizations and the marketing teams that support them are being forced to produce more content than ever. But when do we reach the tipping point?

The average online reader consumes nearly 54,000 words a day. So much is discussed about the cognitive burden it puts on us as humans who are just trying to keep up with the pace of the world’s newsfeed. However, little attention is ever given to those who are creating content. 

For years, we have fetishized the concept of deadlines, clacking typewriters, and the faint smell of cigarette smoke wafting through a dimly lit newsroom in the middle of the night. Even Superman was a content producer. While journalists of yesteryear and bloggers of today often feed off the frenetic pace of content production, many organizations are not equipped or staffed to handle this mentality. It’s one thing to commit the business to producing five blog posts, three white papers, and one video a week—but do you have the right people on board to carry that out?

Many organizations are not in the business of writing and maintaining content, but in an attempt to keep up, they scramble to produce content, often with a staff that is not equipped to do so. One of the primary tenets of First Chair Partners (my content and design consultancy) is to simplify or reduce the amount of content within an organization. There is often an unbalanced organizational burden placed on content producers. I have consulted with dozens of organizations over the years, and I’ve yet to meet a staff of writers who are not overworked, overwhelmed, and mostly disheartened by either the pace of production or the politics involved in managing content. 

Content producers in organizations that are not totally focused on producing content face a constant uphill battle to keep up with demand. While turnover can often be a good thing—especially for a large organization—it can cost smaller ones time and money they don’t have.   

For many of the larger organizations that we serve, there are frequently multiple writing teams scattered throughout numerous lines of business, often with varying levels of editorial maturity. Many organizations attempt a hierarchal approach to producing content. It often fails. As consultants, we’ve learned that mature content teams are heavily resistant to this type of centralized model, because it can disrupt the proven writing practices within the nuclear team. However, a hub-and-spoke approach still enables those mature teams to work autonomously, while providing the structure needed to help less-mature content-producing teams within a business. 

Start with a centralized editorial and governance team—that’s your hub. This scales according to organizational size, but at the very least establishes an enterprise-level of content production consistency.

Next, identify all the content-producing areas of your business. Maybe you are a financial services organization that has writers servicing institutional investors and others serving individual investors. Those independent writing teams are your spokes. However, let’s say for the sake of argument that your institutional investing writing team has 20 authors and a refined editorial process, but your individual investor team only has four writers and is constantly searching for a process that works. The answer is not to shoehorn the institutional team’s editorial process on to the individual team’s process. Your best option is to use the centralized editorial team (hub) to establish a process that works for the individual team. Therefore, your hub is only there when you need it. What’s the hub doing when not helping less-refined content teams? Enacting governance models that clean up your dated content and establishing enterprise-level writing initiatives that can be instituted over time and, most importantly, when the organization is ready. 

Nothing about meeting the demand of today’s content-hungry digital consumers is easy. However, a hub-and-spoke editorial model can ease some of the burden for your writers, keep other writers happy, and scale as your organization grows and shifts.