Editor, content gatekeeper; whatever you call yourself, being in charge of a company blog can be a tough job. You’re the one who chases deadlines, the one who has calendar reminders popping up all the time, and the one who spends a great deal of time acting at the apostrophe police.
It’s obviously not all bad. There’s the buzz of getting a post scheduled, and then later seeing it pop up on social media feeds when it gets shared by its intended audience. There’s the reward of increased website traffic, and maybe even some enquiries or conversions. In an ideal scenario, of course.
Remembering all the positive elements of running a company blog can help, but it won’t save you when you’re wondering whether it’s all worth it. For that, you need to reassess the basics and make sure you’re setting yourself up for success.
Let 2019 be the year you get your company blog into shape for once and for all. Make good habits, be receptive to new ideas, and give yourself the flexibility to do things differently when they’re not working as you’d like.
And remember, you’re not alone. There are plenty of other people who have the same responsibilities, whether it’s for a digital marketing agency or in-house. Don’t be afraid to seek out your fellow editors and ask them for their own tips and struggles.
In the meantime, I hope that some of my own advice helps you to alleviate some of the common stressors that crop up whenever you’re on editor duty.
Not all contributors are equal
First off, let me clarify: I’m not suggesting that one contributor is better than another, just that they’re different.
As you want your blog to embrace multiple voices with a wide range of opinions and passions, it’s important to remember that you wouldn’t want your contributors to all come from the same cookie cutter anyway.
You can certainly establish a set of best practices and guidelines for your company blog, but don’t be fooled into thinking that everyone will observe them just because they exist.
When you dig a little deeper, you’ll often discover reasons why your 6-page document is politely ignored. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, or your guidelines aren’t up to standard.
It’s often to do with individual contributors and how they tend to work. Some contributors may thrive with a set of guidelines and follow them like a rulebook. Others will feel constrained, and pressured by the expectation to conform.
Embrace your nonconformists
OK, so it might feel like they’re giving you an intentional headache at first as they appear to be messing with your carefully structured systems, but your nonconformist contributors aren’t actually your enemy (unless they miss deadline day!).
It requires a bit of time and effort to get on the right track. I know, time is hard to come by, but it might be worth the initial investment to have an easier life as an editor.
You’ll have to be prepared to relinquish some of your own pride in order to find out how you can do your job that little bit better, because at some point, someone will probably label you as their problem.
It’s not personal. Hopefully. Again, it just comes down to that pressure to conform. Instead, if you’re able to work with every contributor in the way that feels most comfortable to them, you’re on to something much more powerful.
Accept content in multiple formats
In a perfect world, all blog posts would come to us as editors as tidy, complete masterpieces. They’d have alt text, sensible headings, and wouldn’t be full of dodgy looking stock imagery.
In the real world, we have to expect a much different reality. But that’s OK, because we’re embracing those nonconformists, remember?
A common issue I’ve experienced with contributors is a lack of confidence when it comes to blogging. For some people, blogging is completely new concept, and for others it could be in stark contrast to what they do as a day job.
For example, a zoo keeper might spend most of their time caring for animals, but then be expected to write a piece for the zoo’s website on the birth of a baby rhino. Or in the digital marketing agency world, it could be that someone has just landed their first industry role and are very much still learning the ropes.
We want the zoo keepers and industry newbies to have a voice, right? Well it means we have to do what we talked about above: work with contributors in the way that feels most comfortable to them.
Ultimately, that means accepting content that doesn’t look like the perfect world example at the beginning of this section.
Take a video, take a recording, or take 30 minutes to sit down and interview your contributor, writing notes as you go. Accept bullet points, accept unstructured long-form, and accept unfinished sentences that the contributor didn’t know how to end.
Avoid those deadline frown-lines
I promise you, it’s not a totally outrageous plan. But you’re obviously going to need to do a bit more work yourself to get posts into the way you’d like them to be, especially if you end up transcribing a recording, or writing the bulk of a post from a set of bullet points.
I’m going to make an assumption here, and it’s that you’re the editor of your company blog because you’re a competent writer and you’re trying to champion the work that you and your colleagues are doing, as well as sharing relevant news, offers and updates.
As editor, it’s up to you to step in to fill that skill gap, but also to maintain the richness of having those multiple voices on your blog. You don’t want all blog posts to sound like you’ve written them, so you’ll have to teach yourself to write and edit slightly differently for each contribution that you receive.
Based on what I’ve covered here, some content will come to you more polished than others, but you should always plan for receiving content in its most crude form. That will help you to manage deadlines much more effectively.
Basically, accept you’ll have work to do, but be happy that you’re at least getting your contributors on side and wanting to supply you with content. You’ll be focusing on more exciting things than apostrophes, anyway.
Create a new blogging calendar
That’s why it’s a sensible option to make yourself a new blogging calendar, or two. I like making one that I can access on a daily basis, and one for the rest of the team. Google Sheets is always a good shout so you don’t have a bunch of conflicting document versions.
The reason I have two blogging calendars is simply to do with deadlines, and the perception of them. In your team-facing document, you can show each contributor their deadline, but in your own document, you can add additional time for editing and content additions, before you actually need to have a blog post ready to be published.
Remember to factor in the right amount of time for receiving content in a rough form, and you’ll feel like you’re winning some time back when you get posts in a more finished format. This might sound like a minor accomplishment, but it’s a healthier state of mind for you as a busy blog editor.
You’ll still want to publish your blog posts according to your schedule, which is why the team-facing calendar is a good idea. You’re already being flexible by being open to getting content in various forms, but that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your final output.
If you have an established schedule already, your audience may be used to you posting content on a certain day of the week, or at a specific time. Missed deadlines can cause knock on problems for social media scheduling and email newsletters too!
Finally, ask for help
Even the most passionate blog editors amongst us need help now and then. As you develop your relationship with your contributors, you will learn more about the skills in your blogging team. You might discover that you have a writer who would like to do more, whether a spot of proofreading or even just finding some decent images to use within posts.
It’s never a bad thing to start delegating and training your trusted contributors. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you have someone on hand for when you go on holiday, and for when you decide to move on from your company? It would be a shame for all of your hard work to go waste as soon as you leave the building.
Reach out to your fellow content gatekeepers online too, and continue developing your own skills so you can make this year your best one as an editor yet. Keep trying and testing. And remember to thank your contributors for their efforts, especially when writing doesn’t come as naturally to them.