There are companies who rely exclusively on their subject matter experts (SMEs) to deliver content that their audiences will want to read and share. These SMEs often jealously guard this territory, telling you: ‘I know my market, I know my customers, it’s all in my head—I just need to sit down and write it’.
Well, that ‘sit down and write process’ is a tough one—even for people who write for a living. That’s why they invented editors.
A good editor-in-chief can bring so much value to enterprises.
Editors are advocates. Editors have an excellent feel for what others expect of the story—especially readers (or viewers). Since they’ve developed a keen understanding of brand guidelines and regulatory constraints, they can represent those viewpoints early on, facilitating the review process once the content has been written.
Editors are enforcers. Voice and tone, terminology, trademarks, editors not only provide guidelines on these writing basics but ensure they are used. If they’re not providing that oversight themselves (one editor, 500 hundred pieces of content), then they’ve developed a system that works for them and their enterprise.
Editors are arbitrators. They understand the company, the products and user expectations enough to make decisions about content. They know when to fight to impose a certain direction—and when to hold back. They can decide on next steps: is this good enough for publication? Does it need regulatory approval? Should we accept or reject this SME feedback? Without this ability—and more importantly, the authority—to arbitrate, what you have is an excellent copywriter, not an editor.
Editors are diplomats. Editors understand the overall context for projects, so are in a good position to evaluate the likelihood of success. They can say, ‘I know this is what you’d like, but given our budget and timelines, it’s going to be difficult to pull it together. Why don’t we do it this way instead?’ They’re also good at handling conflicting opinions and finding acceptable compromises.
Editors are guardians. Someone needs to be able to see the forest for the trees. Too much content is produced in silos, and then, when you want to put it all together on your website, you start seeing the holes, inconsistencies and disconnects. A good editor, with oversight of the full content portfolio, can spot the issues earlier on.
In the end, editors can help companies avoid costly project delays caused by SMEs who can’t deliver and reviewers who take forever to review because they apprehend the amount of time they’ll have to spend revising poorly written content.
So do yourself a favor. Hire a senior-level editor to work with your SMEs. They’ll thank you for it (eventually), your digital project managers will be immensely grateful, and your readers may stop bouncing away so much.