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The Writer/Editor Dynamic

Chris Butler: Hello, and welcome to the Newfangled Agency Marketing Matters podcast. I’m Chris Butler.

Lauren Siler: I’m Lauren Siler.

Mark O’Brien: And I’m Mark O’Brien.

Chris Butler: We’re getting together again in this back corner of Newfangled headquarters to talk about digital marketing. We’d like to start off by just talking about what we’re into right now, what’s exciting, what’s been interesting. Lauren was actually just talking to us about that before I turned this on, so I’m going to let you start.

Lauren Siler: Okay, great. Yeah. One of the things that’s been really cool this week is there’s been a lot of space to think creatively about the content marketing department here at Newfangled this week, and I just really enjoyed that. We have, I’ve been working with our content marketing strategist, Julia Vanderput. This is a service that we’ve been offering for a little while now, but we’ve been evolving it and changing it over time and finding ways to grow it based on what we’re seeing the agency need is, as one does.

But we’ve found more creative ways to do that, more fun ways, just getting off site and getting out of the building and really brainstorming just different needs that we’re seeing based on the agency conversations that we’re having every single day. It’s just been a lot of fun just to break out of the norm, go get some food or go grab a drink and just sort of sit down and think about, just when you’re breaking out of the structure of the day to day daily grind kind of thing, just what can we do? What could we be doing? How can we shape this offering differently? And then just go do it. That’s been a lot of fun. That’s my thing this week.

Chris Butler: Yeah, just do it.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, just do it.

Chris Butler: Nobody’s going to give you the time. You have to make it work. You have to do that. How about you, Mark?

Mark O’Brien: Mine is a client of ours, Shikatani Lacroix design out of Toronto. They just launched their entire digital marketing arsenal, and that’s really, really exciting. We’ve worked with them for a year now. They launched the end of 2016 with everything, and they’ve been taking all of our advice very, very seriously. The website is live and it’s really strong. Their outbound marketing engine is incredibly strong, really rich contact list, and they’ve been following Lauren’s advice now for about seven months. Actually, prior to going live, they just built up this huge array of content. It’s very, very, very, very focused, really well written. When they launched the site, it launched at the level that a four-year-old site would be for a lot of agencies in terms of the level and depth and pure volume of expertise.

Lauren Siler: That’s true.

Mark O’Brien: It was really nice to see them make a big, big, big splash on launch. So I just wanted to congratulate them. We’re really proud of what they’ve done, and it’s been great working with them to see that through. It’s exciting to see all of the entire system fully come to fruition, and we look forward to seeing the impact it has on the firm.

Chris Butler: That’s pretty rad. Actually, I heard about them. They were mentioned on a podcast I listened to a bunch of months ago, and they were talking about how exciting some really interesting technology they’d done in a store they’d done for a major brand was, and it was really scientific and beyond me. Pretty cool. You know what I’m going to do right now, is this resume that I’m looking at. It’s just like the most minimal thing I’ve ever seen. There’s no lines, there’s no boxes, there’s no check boxes or clip art. It’s just text on a white page. It looks like it came out of a typewriter. Chris Creech and I, Chris Creech, our Director of Strategy, met with someone who’s interested in working at Newfangled. After the meeting, she handed me this resume, and it’s just a gorgeous thing and it makes me remember that sometimes all you need is text.

Mark O’Brien: Is there an inspirational message at the top?

Chris Butler: There is not. There is a very nicely worded objective, but no. Nothing like that. I look at that, and I’m like, “That’s good design,” because it’s undesigned in so many ways. I guess in some ways that could lead us in a segue to our main topic about words. But Lauren, this was your suggestion, this topic. You want to kick us off?

Lauren Siler: Yeah. Today we’re going to talk about the writer/editor dynamic on your content team. We think a lot about with content marketing how to amass the right internal resources to reliably create content to sustain an effective marketing strategy throughout every month and out every quarter. A lot of times, when people think about that, they’re thinking about the writers. That’s really important, but equally as important is making sure you’ve got good editors in place on your team.

Whenever you’ve got writers and editors, then you’ve got a relationship that you need to figure out how to cultivate and make really successful and productive. What we’re going to talk about today is, what does it mean to have a healthy relationship between your writer and your editor? What are the things that you need to think about? Because it’s not always intuitive, and often there can be a little bit of tension, a little bit of struggle between these different groups just because of the nature of the roles themselves, right?

What I’ve observed, and what I’ve started advising clients on from this perspective is that there are three main things that make for a really healthy writer/editor dynamic. I would say the first one is to communicate well and communicate often. The idea here is that, whenever you bring in an editor at the very end stage of a piece of content, it can be really, really difficult for that editor to get their bearings. There can be miscommunication between the writer and the editor about what the initial piece was about, which can result in more revisions and really more frustration than is necessary. But if the editor is involved at the outset, sort of in the topic ideation phase of the content creation process, that editor and writer can work together to shape the vision so that there’s more alignment as that piece of content evolves over time.

Chris Butler: Yeah. Something I was thinking about when I was looking at the notes that you’d put together for this was back when I wrote a column for Print Magazine I had an editor there named Michael Silverberg. I enjoyed working and doing that column very much, but the most enjoyable piece of that relationship was where we started each time. What he and I would do is we’d have a meeting over the phone to talk about the idea. His job as the editor was to help me shape that idea. I would bring the idea, but he would shape it too. It would almost be like we both had this piece of clay in the middle of the table and we were both shaping it, and doing that in somewhat of an improvisational way. His job was to understand my idea, to perceive it, and to help me make it better expressed.

Lauren Siler: Sure, sure. What that does is it builds trust, and that’s really important. If your writer is skeptical of your editor, then you’re just asking for tension. Building that trust at the beginning where the editor is really seen as on the same side as the writer, which they are. You’re on the same team. Bringing that editor in early really builds a lot of trust and I think sort of simplifies the process throughout the rest of the time.

Mark O’Brien: One thing that I’ve seen that’s quite interesting, but I wouldn’t have guessed at the outset, as we’ve been working with all these agencies and consulting them on their content on an ongoing basis, we’re never going to know the agency’s business very well, right? Nowhere near as well as they do internally. Just not going to do that. Just yesterday, Lauren and I were in a room with an extraordinary agency, a lot of really, really smart, passionate, driven people. Just prime, like 100% A-grade agency people, which is wonderful. But even there, in that room, they were confused about a lot of things.

Just that outside voice can help a vision, I think. Even though you’re not going to understand the brilliance they have and we’re never going to be able to write an article for them, you do have a more objective understanding of where they said they wanted to be. That’s something that I heard you say a lot yesterday, “You said this. You forgot you said this, but here it is. We’re just telling you what you’ve said.” It’s like a good therapist. All they do is tell you what you say, but you forget what you say.

Lauren Siler: It infuses accountability into the process because your editor is going to be really in tune with what the strategy of your content marketing’s going to be and what the strategy of that particular article is. But when you’re a writer, you understand this, you get really close to what you’re doing and it can be really hard to take a step back and see how what it is that you intended to develop fits within the overall strategic schematic that you were pursuing. Having the editor is a really critical role because they are aligned with the strategy, but they’re objective enough, they’re removed enough, to make sure that what you came out with once you’ve completed the article is actually what you intended to produce.

Chris Butler: Right. You wrote in your notes that they’re the protector of the brand voice, which I think is spot on. Then you say, number three, that your editor’s job is to find ways to improve your writing, to see things that the writer cannot. What I’ve noticed is that people who take pride in their writing think of editors as the person who’s going to change my words. Right? So talk a little bit about that. How do you build that trust?

Lauren Siler: Yeah. Well, I think if you’re the writer I think it comes down to you expecting your draft to evolve and change and grow and to really value the fact that you’ve got an editor role to help you do that. To accept and expect that revisions are going to happen, they’re a reality of good writing. If you’re not revising your content at all from the moment that you write it for the very first time, it’s probably not as good as it could be. We’re not going to be producing the very perfect piece of content at the outset.

I think to understand that the editor is there to reinforce the creative vision that you have but also to make sure that you are absolutely aligned with the strategic plan that you’ve put in place and that you’re speaking in the right type of voice that’s the same as the brand that you’re trying to support through your content marketing. All of that’s really important. You could say just don’t get too married to your content, I think is a good way to sum it up.

Chris Butler: Yeah, or not too precious. When I was in art school that’s what so many teachers would always say to us like in a critique. Because critiques were essential to that. You had to put your work in front of your peers as well as the instructors, and you could always tell when someone was getting precious about their work because they’d get defensive, they’d explain something. The whole purpose of that critique was to allow people to strip away the BS in your work and the things that you thought were beautiful that other people just didn’t understand. It doesn’t matter how good you think your words are or maybe a drawing you made is. If someone doesn’t understand it, then what’s the purpose?

Mark O’Brien: Yeah. Having passion is one thing. Taking things personally is really  the enemy of the product of the passion.

Chris Butler: Exactly.

Lauren Siler: It’s true. I think this speaks to the second, we’re kind of going a little bit out of order here, but the second. We’ve got the three things that make a great relationship between a writer and editor. We’ve got that you need to communicate well and often, understanding that revisions are part of the process and that the editor’s really there to shape your strategic vision and help you. That really speaks to the third thing, which is choosing an editor who really gets it, to be very conscientious with your choice of your editor and make sure that they really understand what the brand really is all about, that they understand the target market very well, that they’re intimately familiar with those things so that they can, in fact, help you be as objective as possible and when they make those recommendations you buy it because you know they get it. I think that summarizes that pretty well.

Chris Butler: It’s kind of exciting, because if you think about it, if you take a huge step back, words are really the lifeblood of our society. An editor or anyone participating in this process, they need to care about communication. Then they have to care about what’s being said. But if you don’t care about communication, then you’re always going to obstruct the editorial process.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, it’s true.

Chris Butler: This is really cool. You have probably a ton of content written by you on the site about this stuff, but we always like to recommend something to read at the end. I’m guessing you want to recommend something else?

Lauren Siler: Yeah. One thing that is on the site that’s related, not necessarily to the writer/editor dynamic specifically, but is related to your content marketing, is an article that we’ve got that I wrote a little while back now that’s called It’s Time to Stop Considering Your Marketing Spam. The point here is to not shy away from developing really great education and thought leadership and then promoting it regularly to your prospect list, to really see yourself as an educator in your space because you are an expert, and to not be shy about putting that education in front of the people who need it.

Chris Butler: Right. That’s the whole purpose of what we’re doing. I’m going to drag something from way out of the archive from four years ago. Our first content strategist, Tema Flanagan, wrote something called Learning From the Dinosaurs: Content Lessons From the World of Print.

Mark O’Brien: Dinosaurs? It was four years ago.

Chris Butler: Her whole premise in this article was basically what you’ve been arguing for, which is the value of an editor. She has had some experience, or had some experience at the time, and I think has gone on to do more since then, writing for print, writing books and things like that. That’s a really interesting article, and I think it tees up well everything that’s been created since. Because back then, we didn’t have a content program. We were doing some ad hoc stuff, but there was nothing like that. Lauren, since you’ve come here you’ve built this program and it’s kind of amazing to connect those two dots. So dig that up if you’re interested.

Mark O’Brien: That’s great. That’s a good pick from the archive. Mine has not a whole lot to do with this specifically, but of course everything’s related peripherally. Mine’s a webinar we did from last April, April 2016, called Beyond the Website: How Three Agencies Successfully Embraced the New rules of Digital Marketing. I think this is one of those webinars that it’s worth resurfacing every once in a while because, again, it’s the agencies speaking in their own words about how they have gone through the marketing struggle and just talking about their journey. It’s true that we were involved in their journey at a certain stage for each of them and we’re really proud of that, and they do have things to say about that, but big picture they’re just talking about what they had to deal with over the course of marketing their agency and what worked, what didn’t work. It’s just a really interesting webinar, and we say very little. It’s pretty much the agencies talking pretty much the entire webinar, so it’s great.

Chris Butler: And that was one of our most popular, as I can recall.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, very popular. I think we had over 300 subscribed, and yeah. Usually almost half attend, so probably 160 or so attended.

Chris Butler: That’s cool.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah. For us, those are good numbers. You know, once again, this is what we do. We work with agencies to create these lead development systems that consist of content strategy, which is what Lauren’s talking about today, the contact strategy, which is so closely aligned with that, looking at the website very closely to make sure it’s the right supporting tool, and then making sure that the right CRM and automation tools are not just set up but are actually created for the agency in a way that they can use them and they can show they’re empowered to use them. That’s our world, and we really enjoy living in that world.

Chris Butler: Definitely. Well, thanks for hanging out with us. My phone is ringing.

Mark O’Brien: It’s time to go.

Chris Butler: It’s kind of appropriate. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with more of this. In the meantime, check out our site, You can subscribe to this podcast there. Find us on iTunes, and please give us a good rating and share with your friends.

Lauren Siler: Yes.

Chris Butler: Until next time, take care.

Lauren Siler: Thanks for listening.

Mark O’Brien: Thanks.

Chris Butler: Bye.