There’s some interesting stuff going on at WePresent, the new content site from file-transfer company WeTransfer. It’s a nice form factor and content presentation and I like that the focus on spotlighting users of the service and what they create, not just the standard corporate blog. The story on The Drum that lead me to check it out starts off a little rough, though, using the phrase “bespoke editorial platform” with a straight face, something you should never do.
But one detail in the story did jump out at me: “Rob Alderson, WeTransfer’s editor-in-chief,…”
That’s right, it’s the job title that got my attention.
There are endless lists and guides telling you how to set up a content marketing program and many of them have great advice, even if few dive as deep as they need to. Over the years, though, I can’t say I’ve encountered more than a few that include how necessary it is to have an editor-in-chief, or at least someone acting in that role.
An editor-in-chief is more than just the program manager, they’re someone who’s responsible for balancing the program’s coverage. They are the keepers of guardians of the program’s voice and tone. Yes, they handle logistical operations but they’re also the ones at the end of the production and accoutability cycle, responsible for marshalling the rest of the team as well as the person with whom the buck finally stops.
This may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but I’m not. For years I referred to myself as the “editor-in-chief” of the client and agency publishing programs I managed because I was coming at the job not from a marketing perspective but from an editorial one. I wanted to make those programs enjoyable and valuable sources of information for the audience, not just ones that achieved X corporate goals.
The latter follows the form, I believe. If you want to motivate the audience you need to prove your commitment to serving them. That doesn’t mean you abandon all notions of what’s good for the publisher and simply give the people exactly what they want. That way lies madness and an editorial direction that winds up doing much more harm than good.
Instead it means working to achieve corporate goals in a way that is best for the audience. It means sitting in a room and saying “I don’t think our readers/viewers are interested in that, but how about…” The goal isn’t to scuttle every idea, it’s to reshape it in a way that’s best for the image and perception of the publisher.
Examples of this mindset being applied are few and far between to say the least. I’ve rarely seen media stories or case studies from other programs that emphasize the “editorial” aspect and mention the importance of having someone overseeing it with that perspective. The industry immediately embraced “content” and didn’t mention how important it was that said content “be any good.”
If you’re considering how to take a corporate publishing program to the next level, find someone who sees the world through an editorial lens. That’s going to give you much different insights and direction for the program but, I’m willing to wager, will result in greater and more sustainable success on all fronts.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.