You want your content to bring your business all the benefits it can, right? This includes securing new customers, happier existing customers, a reputation as an influential brand or as a thought leader, and plenty more advantages specific to your particular industry.
For that to happen, you need great content, and great content comes from using a great team of writers and editors. If you’re a major business, you’ll have a significant marketing team with several editors checking the output of your writers, while if you’re a very small business, you might have just one writer/editor, and that person might be you. Whatever the size of your editing team, you need to train them to provide the best quality content to your website, your social media, your blog posts, your marketing copy, your corporate reports, your press releases…; the list is virtually endless since these days, you can communicate your business’s story with the world in many ways.
Consistency gives a professional appearance to your documents and communications and shows the world that you take quality seriously. That approach reflects well on your whole business.
It’s important to have a consistent style across all your output, including your training and learning materials, your email signatures, your organization’s advertising, and your corporate reporting. And it’s equally important that your internal communications, your organization’s culture, and your team’s approach to their work is consistent among all departments. If everyone is goal-congruent, you stand a far greater chance of team success, however that’s defined in your team.
So, what do we mean by “best editorial practice”?
Best editorial practice can depend on your organization’s position or sector. Some sectors, such as law and finance, can be heavily regulated, so if you’re operating in one of these, best practice will often be defined by external regulatory authorities. Nonetheless, the points below will still be useful.
In nonregulated areas, an important aspect of editorial best practice is the production of an editorial plan that will work across the entire organization. Consider including the following in your plan.
Scalability: Your plan might originate at the board or senior management level as part of the marketing strategy, but the plan needs to be scalable to different levels, across geographic boundaries, and across different cultures.
Content calendar: Pulling together your content publication goals into a calendar will keep you on track with allocating resources, assessing and setting priorities, and noting each target audience.
Topics: Identify and prioritize the topics each team or team member should cover to meet their content goals. Consider whether these topics should be broad or very specific.
Format: Think about the best format for each piece, for example, blog post, video, interview, magazine article, a page on your website, a press release.
An in-house style guide is crucial if you want to achieve consistent output. One editor might favor one font; someone else another. And let’s not get started on the Oxford comma! Check out our post on how to create a style guide.
For your style guide, you may consider the following.
Brand voice: This encompasses your organization’s personality and values.
Localization and dialect: Which version of English will be most accessible for your audience? Spellings, slang, and tone can be quite different depending on which part of the world you’re aiming at.
Formatting: Font, headings, page numbering, line spacing, and indents all need consideration.
Punctuation: Do you want your team to use the Oxford comma? How about punctuating lists? And will you use semicolons?
Blacklist: Are there terms that you never want your teams to use? How do you feel about jargon and industry-specific terminology?
Grammar: Consider how your team uses pronouns, verb tenses, first or second person, the active or passive voice, and double negatives. Again, consistency is key.
Providing an example of a great piece of content that looks and sounds exactly as you want is one of the most useful tools you can give your editors. It will show how to structure your content and set its context. It will also show what approach to take, will emphasize your organization’s tone and personality, and will align with your organization’s narrative.
It’s good practice to have a benchmark example for each type of content your editors will produce.
This is one of the best training resources you can give your editors. A checklist helps ensure that nothing is overlooked, and it’s a major aid in producing consistent content. Here’s that link again to our own checklist, where we explain how to use each point in the list.
SEO is key if you want your content to reach its intended audience. The following are critical to SEO success.
Up-to-date content: There’s another use for your content calendar. Put update reminders in your calendar for every piece of content so your communications are always fresh and contemporary. Stale content is a killer!
Expertise: List the credentials of the author and your organization. Ensure your content is top quality, reliable, fact-checked, and unique.
If you’re considering using AI to help with your SEO success, take a look at our comprehensive guide to AI content and SEO.
This might tie in with and expand on your style guide. Since it will offer your editors plain English alternatives, a jargon buster can be especially useful if you’ve decided your content won’t include jargon.
When you’re up close with your business and its sector all the time, realizing just how much jargon your content contains can be quite tricky. Get your editors to read one another’s work so they can pick out any jargon.
The same goes for acronyms. Draw up a list of industry-specific acronyms and what they stand for and make sure that each one is defined the first time it’s used in each content piece.
Know your audience!
A content piece aimed at retail customers to advertise turkeys before Thanksgiving or Christmas will differ hugely in style, tone, and content from a piece explaining turkey-rearing regulations to farmers.
A piece telling the story of your small craft business will look, sound, and feel very different from a corporate narrative about historic growth from mergers and acquisitions.
But it’s not just subject matter that needs consideration here. Some audiences might only engage with your business via one or two means, so your editors need to understand the communication preferences of various target audiences. Typically, your content will reach younger people through your social media and blogs, but an audience of C-suite executives may look for more formal communications.
Copywriting, editing, and proofreading require a high level of concentration and a great deal of thought. They are tiring processes affecting the brain, the eyes, posture, and more, so if you invest time and resources in your editors, you’ll get better content, and they’ll be more content. Don’t you just love the English language?!
Here are the key words from our top tips for training your editorial team:
Here at Proofed, we’re all about editing and editor training. To understand how we can help you train your team of editors, get in touch with our business team!
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