“We learn best—and change—from hearing stories that strike a chord within us…Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves,” says John Kotter, Harvard Business School professor and author of Leading Change.
Your editors are the leaders of your brand, and thus, they tell stories.
As editors of a content marketing blog, it’d be easy for us at Mequoda to shout numbers and research quotes all day long. Thankfully, we “do all our own stunts” as they say, so every bit of content marketing advice we give out comes with a story of how we discovered it (or at least who told us about it). Personally, I get pretty pumped about my research and I hope most of my posts reflect that. After all, when you spend days, weeks and months coming up with the strategy—why would I short-change on the story? Shouldn’t I be excited to share it, and not water it down in bullet points?
The tune of your publication is defined by the voices of your editors, because without them your brand identity risks looking shallow. Not valley girl shallow, but the small, empty and without depth kind of shallow. That’s knowledge that you have over the new media competition who haven’t all figured out that storytelling often trumps everything else when building a loyal readership. It’s actually this editorial storytelling, even when brief or to-the-point, that makes your editors likeable.
Do your editors incorporate a story?
Straight and to the point is great when you’re on a fact-finding mission, but even white-collar posts about things like analytics are digested more easily, and are taken with more than a grain of salt when provided with a backstory. Just ask Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google, famous because he writes and talks like a human, not like a machine. Between 20 and 30 thousand unique visitors per month for a blog that only posts about once a month is decent proof of that.
And you can do the same, whether you’re talking about analytics or about cooking.
- So your spice of the month is paprika?
- Do you love paprika?
- Why do you love paprika?
- When did you first taste it? Was it on a deviled egg one summer when you were seven? What was that like?
- Tell them something more than just about the paprika, because if they only wanted to know about the topic at hand, they could go to Wikipedia and get that information.
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Managing editors with control issues may consider this frivolous, but stories make for likable editors, more comments and more loyal readers. People don’t connect with numbers and jargon, they connect with other people. That’s why social media turned traditional marketing on its head. Speaking of which…
Are your editors active in social media?
Even if you don’t feel comfortable putting their shining faces as your Twitter avatar, are your editors active enough to represent you, and are those efforts well-received?
- Do your editors promote their own blog posts in their personal feeds?
- Do they act as a brand ambassador for you, or do they separate their work/life balance so much that their Twitter feed makes you uncomfortable?
- Do they befriend others in your market to build partnerships?
To be likable, your editors need to be genuinely interested in the people who are reading your blog. Keeping the goals of your business and blog in mind, your blog posts should be written directly to the reader and not through a thick veil of marketing. The more likable your editors, the better your products will sell. That’s a promise.
Do your editors respond to their readers?
The mark of a likable editor (especially when blessed with a high volume of traffic) is a steady stream of comments, and especially when they’re addressed directly to the writer. Blogs who mask their editor’s identities behind a brand are doing their readers a disservice by removing the ability to the address the author, and vice versa. Chris Brogan, who’s actually a consultant, gets hundreds of comments on his blog posts. Almost all of the posts are brief (500 words-ish), incorporate a short story, and Chris would answer “yes” to all of the below:
- Do your editors respond to blog comments?
- Do they leave comments on other blogs in your market?
- Do they thank other blogs for linking to their blog posts?
- Do they conduct surveys of their readers to ask what type of content they want?
Active listening is a skill that all likable editors (and likable people in general) have mastered. Basically, “tell me what you like, what you don’t like, and how I can improve, and I’ll do that for you because I’m writing for you, not me.” Being genuine, humble, and curious are wonderful traits of likable editors.
On the other side of the coin, all of these tips, when used in conjunction with the wrong editor, could make them extremely un-likeable. Is that such a bad thing though? If Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch and possibly the most “hated” tech blogger in the industry, had stopped blogging based on the (many) rude comments he gets, AOL never would have bought his company for something like thirty-million dollars.
Likable or not, the best editors create loyal readers who want to connect with them more intimately, and sometimes that wonderful gateway involves selling a product.