Ernest Hemingway once said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
Perfection in editorial management is a fallacy. There will always be deadlines that are broken because a source responded at the last minute, and there will be typos that happen even with three sets of eyes on a document; even if your boss is Anna Wintour.
Online editors have their work cut out for them. They are writing daily posts, creating free products, content marketing with social media, managing email campaigns and sometimes writing conversion copy for the website to increase their website’s email capture rate. How is one editor supposed to do all this?
While it’s not simple or easy, all you need is a checklist. My checklist may vary from your checklist, but the point is to have one. So that’s the first goal.
1. Start with a checklist.
Every morning, or every evening before you leave work, create a checklist. At Mequoda, we use BaseCamp, which is an excellent system for digitally prioritizing tasks and projects across the company. Hand-written checklists work too, starting out with anything you didn’t finish the day before, and then following up with deadlines and the tasks for the day at hand.
It’s perfectly OK to put simple tasks like “Answer email from XXX” on the list. Crossing things out makes you feel good, and all too often we go days without answering an email simply because we got distracted with our other to-do’s.
2. Get ahead.
There’s no “editorial management” when you can’t manage to get work scheduled ahead of time. When you’re publishing posts at the last minute, you’re not being effective, editing is rushed, and bad things happen.
If possible, schedule your posts ahead. At Mequoda, we have a quarterly editorial calendar. Every week, the posts being published to weeks ahead are submitted to an editor by end of business on Friday, and they go through a week-long review process before they publish the following week.
That’s our system and yours may be very different, but if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that better content comes from having the time to properly re-read it a few times before it goes out.
3. Create or review your email newsletter.
As mentioned, once all of your portal posts are ready and edited, they can be prepared into email newsletters. In a Mequoda System, all editorial emails are aligned with at least one paid product on a similar topic. In the past, a “featured product” would be placed often at the top right-hand side of the email. Now that many publishers are seeing a spike in mobile email readership, we’re designing these promotions responsively. Therefore, we have single column emails, and we separate editorial stories with promotional snippets. Promotional emails are also aligned with the topics you’re writing about editorially.
4. Content marketing.
Every time we publish a post at Mequoda, we post it on social media. On Twitter, we use the 12x12x12 formula to write 12 different Tweets that publish for the first 12 days and then again for the next 12 months. Social media shouldn’t be a “check it and forget it” type of deal, but it can be simplified in this way.
Scheduling your social media allows you to save time in the long run, so that you don’t spend your whole day being interrupted by it, but can make time to check in on the conversation instead. Learn more about developing your SMO strategy which will make your SEO and web traffic reports very happy.
5. Create and assemble content.
Aside from portal posts and newsletters, the main tasks of a Mequoda System editor include creating free products (freemiums). Freemiums that can be downloaded from the site are made to enroll new email subscribers in return for the complimentary download. The same free special reports are also often disaggregated to create individual portal posts.
6. Work on marketing materials.
For each special report, you’ll create a unique online sales letter that we call a rapid conversion landing page (also known as a name squeeze page). You should always distribute a press release announcing its availability and write text copy for online ads and promotions that offer the free download. Often you can reuse content borrowed from online sales letters to create the online text ads.
7. Organize upcoming content.
Although we create editorial calendars quarterly, most Mequoda System Editors work seven to thirty days in advance to allow time for planning, emergencies, approvals, vacations and other things. Here’s what a typical Monday might look like:
- Decide what products to promote for the next weekly cycle and plan a strategy to associate them with related editorial content.
- Start by identifying which of your products align best with the editorial topics you will write about most frequently.
- Check your email performance report to see which products and types of products have performed the best in the past.
- Create or update your editorial calendar — four or five regular email newsletters, plus the Week in Review.
- Include text ads and / or display ads for a related sponsoring product. The embedded text ads work best when set off within the email promotional message — the first about half way down the editorial content, the second at the end of the copy.
- Write your social posts and schedule them today and in the future.
But who am I kidding? Your daily tasks are much greater than this list. However, planning will always be your best friend when you’re an online editor. It takes a simple misspelling in an article to set you behind, or a backup in “emergency items” to get you a week off track. Simply going on vacation can set you back tremendously if you haven’t planned far enough in advance.
Editorial management success requires that you execute an organized strategy that has specific goals and uses proven tactics. That’s why we call it the Mequoda System. By mastering its objectives, strategies, tactics and tools, you’ll embrace the best practices for organizing, writing, editing, marketing, promoting and publishing your online content and premium information products.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2009 and has been updated.