A solid editing process is worth its weight in gold. While hiring talented writers is the foundation to a functional content marketing team, understanding the value of the editing process can transform good content into great content.
Our content marketing team considers the editing process to be half the battle on the way to great content. Before we ever begin creating content, we spend a thorough amount of time creating a content strategy for each client. These strategies lay out the content idea, outreach opportunities, and marketing plans for every piece.
Then, once the piece is executed, our editing team is able to check not only for spelling and grammatical errors, but also evaluate the voice, tone, and the overall strategy of the piece–and whether or not it meets those goals.
Our editing process
Curious about our editing process? Every piece of content (from blogs to infographics and everything in-between) goes through two rounds of editing. We’ve created checklists for each round, and if an editor finds a piece that can’t pass their checklist, it gets sent through the editing process again.
Round one checks for basic errors and context, and includes:
- Basic grammar & punctuation
- Sentence structure & readability
- Strategic value & alignment with client goals
- Image sourcing & treatment
- Proper quotations & attributions
- Social media messaging
- Consistency of thought & overall message of the piece
Round two checks for the optimization of the content for a digital platform:
- Properly formatted headers
- Hyperlinks on anchor text
- Compressed and embedded images
- Treated images with alt text
- Internal & external linking
- Meta descriptions & excerpts included
- A call to action aligned with client goals and KPIs
Creating style guides for streamlined editing
With a variety of clients in various industries, every specialist switches between different types of tones and voices in their writing daily. For our editing team, it was important to establish style guides for each client to reference while editing pieces.
These style guides include our clients’ preferences for grammar and punctuation (we see you, Oxford comma haters), preferences for tone and voice, their customer personas, as well as any formatting or visual style notes that should be kept in mind.
Insight from a different kind of editor
Our agency is unique in that we share a building–and a partial clientele–with a major newspaper. This means we get to work with and learn from experts in a more traditional, but still evolving, field. A few months ago, as we were refining our editing process, our team of editors met with Darnell Mayberry, senior assistant sports editor at The Oklahoman, to see what insight he could share into the paper’s editing process that we could apply to ours.
It turns out, our content creation process and the paper’s process are not all that different. Darnell explained how the production timeline for a sports editorial starts weeks, if not months before a story ever runs. His team of editors will meet to brainstorm ideas for future editorials and refine those ideas over several weeks. They consider both what will interest readers and what will work well in conjunction with other scheduled stories to help bring the most readership.
Similarly to how we plan our content strategy, Darnell’s team plans content far in advance but is also able to pivot and take advantage of opportunities when a timely story emerges. As the editor, Darnell must decide which stories will run on which days and on which part of the page. He must take length requirements into consideration and make sure his team of writers is aware of external constraints.
Being OK with being edited
Darnell touched on a point that’s important for anyone who writes in a professional setting: being OK with being edited. He admits it’s something he’s learned over the years to be more comfortable with, and even as editors who look at others’ writing all day long, we also have to be open to constructive criticism on our own work.
Pushing back on content that’s not up to par is an editor’s job, but there’s a tactful way to do it. Darnell believes an editor’s approach should depend on the writer they’re editing. Some respond better to more direct and explicit feedback, while others prefer more open-ended suggestions. Some writers will respond best to in-person feedback, while others can take changes and run with them.
A peek into our grammar tips email & common mistakes we see
Once we started noticing patterns in mistakes we were frequently editing, both within our department and from other BigWing departments, we created a cheeky internal email newsletter to shed light on these common blunders and educate our colleagues (and ourselves) on how to correct them.
We sent out The Early Bird on Monday mornings to help start our weeks out on a good foot, grammatically speaking. We’d tailor the plain-text emails seasonally, sharing tips about common school-related mistakes near graduation time, common holiday-related tips in December, and so forth.
We used outlandish and funny sentences as examples of how to, and how not to, use a certain term or tool, and we poked fun at colleagues when appropriate (because hey, if you can’t have a little fun with the people you work with, are you working at the right place?).
Helpful resources we’ve used to improve our writing
When our editing team combs through content daily, we keep a few of our favorite resources bookmarked:
We also ask that the entire Content Marketing team keeps the Grammarly plug-in installed to catch errors as they write. This tool is so handy, it’d be silly not to use it.
And finally, one of the best ways to cut down on editing time is to create content purposefully. One way to do that? Fix “toxic” writing–the takeaway from Josh Bernoff’s book. After completing a workshop of Bernoff’s, one of our editors relayed his methods for cutting out the fluff to our team of content marketers, and thanks to his tips, our content has become even stronger.
Creating quality content is imperative for a content marketing team worth its salt, but any organization can benefit from implementing a solid editing process as part of a strong content strategy.