best practices content edits

Studies show that some of the top content marketing challenges  are not enough time or bandwidth to produce content, producing enough content and producing truly engaging material prospects will care about.

In my work with clients, spinning our wheels in editing is a major cause of all three problems. Here’s how confusing, incomplete or inconclusive feedback slows things down and trashes quality, with suggestions for how to produce more and better content faster.

You Might Need This…or Not

What not to do: Send the writer an email with a link saying “I saw this story/white paper/Web site and thought you’d be interested.”  Without explaining what you want the writer to get out of the article, and how you want those ideas reflected in their writing, you’re practically guaranteeing confusion and unnecessary rework.

What to do:

  • “I saw this story in today’s Journal. It seems interesting, but I’m not sure if or how it fits in the piece we’re working on. Could you read it and let me know your thoughts on how or if it fits with our message?”
  • “I saw this this story in the Economist. It’s great proof of points A, B. and C we’re trying to make. I suggest you summarize the main points from this piece as we discuss them and footnote the source.”
  • “Saw this on CNN today — it’s typical of the wrong-headed hype we’re seeing in the mainstream press. Here’s how we should debunk it and what we want to say instead…”
  • “I saw this white paper on a competitor’s Web site and it strikes the exact tone and `voice’ I’d like us to replicate. See what you can do to match this style.”

I Wonder What I Think About This

What not to do: Include a comment saying “This is interesting. I see the same problem all the time with our customers.” Such open-ended musing raises a question without telling the writer what to say about it. All progress stops until the writer gets more details.

What to do: Whenever you include a comment, describe what specific changes you want the writer to make. For example:

  • “This is a common problem but nothing we address with our solution. Leave it out.”
  • “This is an important point but I’m not sure how to handle it. Frank and Jill, can you get with the product manager and decide what, if anything, we want to say about this by Tuesday so Bob can complete his first draft by Thursday?”
  • “This is an interesting problem many customers face, but we won’t address it until our next release. For now, just give it just a passing mention as a technical challenge we’re confident will be solved soon.”

Should We Ask Jill?

What not to do: Post a comment along the lines of “Is this something we should get the folks in our consulting process to comment on?” This raises a question the writer can’t possibly answer, or even respond to, because it requires coordination on your part – not the writer’s.

What to do:

  • “Our process industries group in Germany did something on this last spring. Have my admin contact Kirsten in Munich and ask if they want to provide any input on this point. If we don’t hear by next Wednesday, proceed without it.”
  • This is an area our consulting folks are starting a big push in. Check with Laurie in marketing support to see if they have any best practices or frameworks we can tout. Tell them Wednesday is their last chance to weigh in.”
  • “In our last sales meeting I thought I heard our consulting folks had some case studies showing our work in this area. Check out the PowerPoint from the retail session and see if there’s anything we can use. If we don’t find anything by end of the week let’s skip it.”

The common thread, as I’m sure you’ve picked up on, is not to provide any feedback that doesn’t tell the writer specifically what to say or how to say it. This is good general management practice, but is even more important when dealing with slippery things like ideas (rather than tasks) and free-lance or part-time writers who aren’t part of your everyday business discussions.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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