A managing editor can help if your publishing process up until now has been filled with anxiety. This is true whether you suffer from not knowing what to write about, time crunches, or bloopers discovered only after you finally go public. A managing editor will shepherd your publishing project and edit your publication, save your sanity and free you up for what you do best.
WHAT A MANAGING EDITOR DOES
With print publications, a managing editor makes all the difference. Here are some of my responsibilities as the managing editor of several publications. These will help you develop your own job description for a managing editor.
Early in the publishing cycle, the managing editor will:
- Collaborate with stakeholders to identify the goals and target audience for the publication.
- Identify robust themes that will help generate lots of article and design ideas.
- Coordinate with the advertising representative(s).
- With the team, brainstorm a list of potential articles or features.
- Develop the Story Budget. Each article gets a paragraph on who could write it, a guiding description, word count, notes about photos, and a due date.
- Recruit writers & photographers, and assign stories.
- Set up the schedule. All of the story due dates, editing and production dates, the person responsible for each task, and the release date go on a schedule.
Later in the publishing cycle, the managing editor will:
- Give kind but firm reminders. Of course, these get more frequent as deadlines approach.
- Write stories. Whether sharing the joy or taking up the slack for someone else, this goes with the territory.
- Manage the writers. People vary in their approaches to writing (early bird, procrastinator, “too busy”). Over time, the system can be adapted to minimize the impact on the final product.
- Catalog and process incoming articles and accompanying photos.
- Edit stories. As each article comes in, the managing editor reads and edits the content, making sure the key idea is clear and the story well-delivered. When it isn’t and mild editing won’t fix the problem, the managing editor provides feedback to the writer and requests edits or re-writes. With a mission-oriented organization, though, this doesn’t happen very often.
- Uphold editorial and style standards, and (in a small organization) copyedit.
- Paginate content. With the designer, figure out which stories will go where on the page. Envision this as creating a symphony of features that, together, tell one big story.
- Participate in production. Release content to the designer, edit the results “on the page,” ensure proper bylines and photo credits, and coordinate reviews and final changes. Ensure the print files get to their destination.
- Review the finished product, noting any improvements needed for next time.
- Schedule the session to plan the next issue. And so it begins again.
A MANAGING EDITOR CAN HELP WITH ONLINE PUBLICATIONS, TOO
A managing editor has a similar role for online media. So you also need a managing editor when:
1) The final products include blogs, vlogs, broadcast emails, website content, testimonials, or campaign emails.
2) Content is rationed out daily, weekly, or monthly, often with a single image.
In any case, it makes sense to maintain an archive or index for use in repurposing content. That’s when blog content is used in an email, or vice versa. Another way a managing editor can help is to collaborate in identifying key content and designing communications and publications to support the organizational mission.
MORE WAYS A MANAGING EDITOR CAN HELP
As you can see, it’s easy to transition between the hard copy and online content managing editor roles. One organization can have the same person managing both types of content.
After six months or so as a managing editor for one newsletter, the management team contacted me with a podcast, saying:
‘We want you to do this for us.’
When I listened to that podcast, I heard a very organized individual speaking about her system to keep a creative team on track. ‘Yes,’ I said to my client, ‘a managing editor can help and I can do this for you.’ We implemented our own version of that in just a few weeks. As a result, we had more satisfactory content. It offered the same great stories as before, but now it was more professional looking and error-free. Best of all, the staff could get on with implementing all of their plans, to the delight of customers.
Turn the org chart on its ear once in a while
‘She even gives assignments to me,’ said the owner of the company featured in the podcast. And that’s what it takes: Everyone on the team cooperates in a shared purpose, made easy by the managing editor.
HEART & SOUL: WHY YOU NEED A MANAGING EDITOR
With a good managing editor, you can say good-bye to all the nail-biting, gut-wrenching moments in your publishing process.
That’s because the heart of the managing editor’s operations is a spreadsheet that brings together all of the plans, tasks, and due dates into a smooth workflow to generate and publish content.
But a managing editor has to have soul, too. That is best expressed as:
Bringing people together as a smooth-operating team
With a managing editor, your team is more equipped to produce content that makes a positive impact on the audience and, we can hope, the world. If you are publishing content, a good managing editor can help you.
For other ideas connected with sharing your story, click here.