6 Ways to Create An Awesome Thought-Leadership Editing Process
Editing is an essential part of the thought-leadership creation process. But all too often financial services firms approach this stage haphazardly.
Once the first draft of a piece is written, there are many different stakeholders who need to review and approve it. And you know what happens when there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen.
The subject matter experts (SMEs) need to ensure their ideas were communicated clearly and accurately; the designers need to lay out the copy within the confines of the space and create compelling graphics; the firm’s compliance department needs to scrub the content of any promissory language and ensure the necessary disclosures are included; and, of course, you and the rest of the marketing team need to ensure the end product achieves the firm’s big-picture goals.
Finally, there should be another set of eyes to give it a final proofread to ensure that no typos or inadvertent errors didn’t creep their way in during the process. (Or, my edited version of this sentence: Finally, have a proofreader look at it before it’s published.)
With all of these different players involved, it’s no wonder that the editing and review process often ends up being the slowest—and most frustrating—part of creating thought leadership.
But it doesn’t have to be. Here are six tips we recommend you incorporate to ensure your editing process is productive and organized.
Designate a Project Manager
Every thought-leadership project needs to have a project manager, a specific person whose job is to ensure “the trains run on time.” From the creative brief stage all the way to the publishing and distribution stage of the process, this person is monitoring and tracking every movement within a project.
A project manager’s role is especially critical during the editing stage, as this is where multiple versions of drafts are being circulated among various groups—usually with a publication deadline looming.
It’s the project manager’s job to ensure all of the different parties understand what’s being asked of them in the context of the project’s larger goals and where things stand in the production timeline. It’s not sufficient to just email an SME and say, “Here’s the draft of the white paper. Please review and provide your comments.” At a minimum, you need to tell all of the reviewers:
- What kind of feedback you’re seeking
- How you want them to provide the edits or comments
- When you need their edits by
As part of this, the project manager needs to be monitoring “version control” to ensure edits and comments from multiple stakeholders are consolidated in a way that makes it easy to track the document through the process.
Speaking of which …
Have a ‘Version Control’ System/Naming Convention
Because an initial draft is going to be making its way to multiple stakeholders for editing—before ultimately returning to the original writer to make revisions—it’s important to have a system in place to manage “version control.”
An important part of this is having a naming convention for your files in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Adobe, or whatever programs you use. You want to have a system for naming files that helps make clear 1) which “round” of edits the document is in and 2) whose edits have been added to the most recent round.
For instance, we recommend naming George Washington’s first draft as “1GW.” Then, when John Adams weighs in using “Track Changes” with his edits, comments, and revisions, his version becomes “2JA.”
Finally, Thomas Jefferson reviews, weighs in, and labels the document “3TJ” before returning to George Washington so he can incorporate the revisions. (Editor’s note: To our knowledge, the Founding Fathers didn’t actually use this naming convention. But if they had, we think the Constitutional Convention would have gone much quicker.)
Follow an ‘Editing Roadmap’
Now that you have the naming convention, you need to have an editing roadmap, or workflow, to ensure the review process is clean and orderly. After all, having the naming convention will be meaningless if there are multiple “3TJ” documents going around, and you’re not sure which one is the most up-to-date version.
Therefore, the project manager needs to create a clearly communicated workflow that shows who is supposed to review and edit each version when, where it goes next, and how those different edits are ultimately consolidated into the final product.
For example, once George Washington submits his first draft, the project manager then sends it to John Adams with instructions to edit, save as “2JA,” and to pass along to Thomas Jefferson. He then instructs Thomas Jefferson to do the same and return to George Washington.
At a project’s outset in the creative brief, stipulate how many rounds of edits there will be for a project—and try and stick to it. Short, simple projects may only have one round of edits; longer pieces or more-complex projects might have as many as nine or 10.
Consolidate as Much as Possible
There are instances when teams, not individuals, will be tasked with reviewing and editing as part of an editing process.
In these cases, don’t have every individual on the team create their own version of the document. Instead, consolidate the team’s edits into a single version before sending that one document back to the writer, or the person incorporating the edits. This cuts down on confusion and allows for any potential disagreements among the reviewers to be settled before the document advances to the next stage of the process.
Determining who on each team is responsible for consolidating the team’s edits is part of the project manager’s job.
Enlist a Proofreader at Multiple Stages of the Process
Every thought-leadership project needs a proofreader. In some cases, this can also be the project manager—but it needs to be someone that isn’t too intimately close to the writing or editing, because oftentimes those stakeholders are too close to the content to see things an independent set of eyes would catch.
There are three stages of the editing and review process when the proofreader should be involved. This is because as more versions of the document are shared, the more likely inadvertent typos or errors can occur.
- After the writer creates the initial draft, a proofreader should review it before it gets sent to the SMEs, compliance, and other reviewers in the official editing workflow
- Once the draft of the copy is finalized, proofread it again before sending it to the designers for layout
- Finally, after the piece has gone through design and final approvals, the near-final product should be proofread again before it’s published and distributed; this may seem like overkill, but we often see errors get introduced during the design phase
Of course, any supplemental copy written to distribute and promote the final piece of thought-leadership content—like a website landing page or social media post—should be proofread as well before publishing. Ideally, these pieces would run through the editing workflow with the primary thought-leadership piece, but sometimes they can have a separate workflow.
It takes a village to create a piece of truly compelling thought leadership. If you have an efficient editing process, you’ll notice that the finished product is more compelling and precise than the initial draft.
Once you get the content across the finish line, send an email to all of the team members with a link to the final product and an overview of how it’s going to be distributed. And, of course, thank them for their help. This will help them see how valuable their contributions were—and motivate them to pitch in on the next project you send their way.
Click below to download our entire thought-leadership creation process infographic.
About the Author Frank Kalman is the chief operations officer at Wentworth Financial Communications. Frank and the team of writers and editors at WFC help professionals across the financial services industry build their brands by creating investment-grade white papers, bylined articles, newsletters, blogs, social media posts, and other forms of content marketing.