Being an editor is demanding work. Ensuring that content is ready for publication, that SEO and social media strategies are up to scratch and managing several projects at once means that many editors are pushed for time. So when something isn’t working or needs improving they may not have the time to research, design and test a new marketing tool or social media campaign. That’s when editorial consultants come in.
Usually freelancers, editorial consultants (or consulting editors) work with a team to develop well researched, achievable solutions to problems ranging from driving subscriptions to increasing social media engagement. These projects often span over a couple of months and involve a lot of market research as they require a strong understanding of the publications audience.
I recently had the chance to work with Modern Gardens Magazine on such a project and thought I’d share with you what I learnt along the way.
- Read the brief.
Make sure you read through what is being asked of you. Make notes. Highlight. Ask questions. It’s no use getting to the end of the project, having done all the work, only to find out you misunderstood what was wanted. Do the leg work now to save yourself any embarassment later on.
- Read it again.It’s important. You need to be conscious of your aims throughout the whole project so make sure you know what they are!
- Identify the opportunities and the challenges.
Now that you’ve read through the brief a few times get to grips with what opportunities and challenges it presents. The challenge is the task set, be that to drive newsletter sign ups or online engagement. The opportunity is a broad sense of how you can do this. For online engagement is there an opportunity to improve social media strategy? Once you understand this you can come up with ideas on how to achieve this.
- Understand the readership.
Always, always, make sure you understand the readership. There is no point in pitching a new social media strategy, no matter how good it might seem, if your readers aren’t going to be on that particular platform. It doesn’t matter how flashy the posts are or how well thought out the posting schedule is, if the readers aren’t there, you won’t reach them. Likewise, if your aim is to find out how to improve content, don’t pick topics your readers aren’t interested in. Listen to the readers. Talk to them, see what they like and dislike, which issues sell best, which projects get the most take up. Check website analytics. Follow forum threads. Pay attention.
- Come up with a basic plan
Now that you know your challenges, opportunities and readers, come up with a basic plan. Keep track of everything using a planner or project management system like Trello and remember to communicate with your team. For more tips and tricks on how to stay organised when working with a group check out this post on collaboration and workflow.
Use everything you have learned so far to fine tune and tweak until you have a coherent, practical idea and then…
- Test, test, test.
Try out your idea and see how well it does. Doesn’t work? make sure you understood your opportunities. Is there another way to do it? What feedback do you get from readers? Go back to the drawing board if necessary and keep tweaking until you hit on something. When something works you’ll know about it. Look at other publications and what works well for them, you’ll probably learn something useful.
Chances are this project has taken several weeks or even months. Give yourself a pat on the back but don’t think the work is over yet. You still have to pitch your ideas. Prepare a presentation, work out exactly what you want to say and be prepared for questions. This publication is the editors baby, they will want to know that your suggestions will help, not hinder so be ready to explain in depth just how your ideas are going to help and provide evidence.
If you struggle with presentation nerves check out my post on How to present when you hate presenting.
- Projects like this can be highly enjoyable despite all the hard work and nail biting. You’re probably here because you love this sort of work, so remember to enjoy the process and take pride in it.