Content marketing is driven by a quest for the best possible ROI. What you get in return for your investment determines which strategies stick. After all, no one wants to throw good money after bad, and funneling your financial commitment toward the channels that work best is the smartest play you can make.
What does all that have to do with editing? Everything.
Businesses tend to pony up for copywriting services without too much hesitation, but when it comes to the other two tiers in the content marketing system (editing and quality assurance), the ROI isn’t always so easy to identify. A good writer should be able to forge a cohesive message, work in the right keywords, and arrange words in an entertaining and accessible manner, but even the best scribes benefit from a keen eye and the digital version of a big fat red pen.
Investing in copy editing services is like supercharging your copywriter; their talents are suddenly magnified and, at the same time, given extra focus until your vision is expertly tailored for maximum connection, conversion, and engagement.
Crossing I’s and Dotting Your T’s
See what I did there…? Seriously though, as potent as great content can be, web copy or blogs marred by typos and grammatical oopsies can be just as potent — albeit in a decidedly negative fashion.
Editors are the gatekeepers who swoop in and clean up any literary detritus accidentally left behind by the creative types. Some writers are technically brilliant; others are stellar at generating compelling concepts but wouldn’t know an infinitive from a gerund.
A talented editor ensures that you’re never called out on social media for an oh-so-egregious your vs. you’re error (and we all know how forgiving those eagle-eyed commenters can be) or surprised by awkward copy that makes your new site launch less than perfect.
I can practically hear the “but what about Grammarly?” protests already, and it’s true that there are tons of online editing tools that will catch basic errors and keep you from inserting commas willy-nilly, but AI editors are deeply flawed too.
Grammarly flags every instance of passive voice with admirable enthusiasm but eliminating those completely will likely cause your content to read aggressive or robotic. Other times you’ll intentionally use colloquialisms or grammatically incorrect language to make a point or reinforce a specific voice; Grammarly can’t recognize tone and giggle at cheeky reference the way a real editor can.
When you’re commissioning content for a live audience, you should hire a live editor to review it.
A Quick Review: Two Types of Editors
The confusion over why you need an editor when spellcheck is so darned effective (not) is probably at least partially connected to the misconception that an editor is an editor is an editor.
A copyeditor is the hawk-eyed specialist who pores over things like parallelism and punctuation. They can typically rattle off the finer points of Chicago style or AP guidelines with the greatest of ease, and their ability to spot even the tiniest typo is legendary.
A strategic content editor, on the other hand, is your audience’s representative during content creation. Your customers have wants, needs, concerns, and questions. They have pain points that must be addressed and preferences in terms of visual components. Your editor looks not so much at how a piece is written, but at how it reads. Does it tick all the boxes attached to your brand persona? Does it slot into your overall content marketing strategy? Is it useful? Will your audience care?
A copyeditor is valuable; a strategic content editor is priceless.
Ann Gynn, editorial consultant for the Content Marketing Institute, defines these two types of editors this way: “Strategic editors (or someone who has that role) are critical to ensuring first that the content meets the needs of the audience and the company. Second, this editor can review and edit the piece to ensure the content is written appropriately — it puts the topic in the relevant context, includes pertinent details (and excludes unrelated ones), is accurate, and explains the topic in a way that the audience can understand and wants to read/consume.”
She goes on to say, “Then, this editor can smooth the rough edges, refine its structure, and make it audience ready. A line editor or proofreader who is fresh to the copy will be able to catch grammatical and style errors more easily.” As the strategic editor for CMI, she focuses on making sure that the content published speaks to the brand’s audience and meets the company’s business goals and needs.
With the rapid evolution of technology, we’re now also seeing what you might call a third type — AI-based editors. Cynthia Spiers, who heads up content and digital at Acrolinx, relies on human content creators, but then everything is put through the company’s content optimization platform. “Powered by artificial intelligence, it ensures the content we produce is aligned to our content strategy. That means that the platform understands our standards for brand, style, tone, and terminology, and it evaluates our content against those standards,” she reports.
Here’s the Sad Part
We heard from more than 50 companies on the subject of how critical an editor is to the content creation process, and more than half of them don’t understand that there are different types of editors. In fact, they view editors as little more than human spell-checkers. These are brands that are missing out.
Shelby Rogers, content marketing manager for Solodev and DigitalUS, sums things up quite nicely on this front: “I’ve seen on a handful of reputable marketing resources that editing should be an afterthought, and I cringe each time. Clearly, no one thought to edit that piece of ridiculous advice. Editing — both prescriptively and conceptually — plays a massive role in our content creation.”
Highlighting Your Differentiator
Brands get ahead by showcasing whatever makes them different from their competitors. That much you probably already know, but the how of this whole scenario is harder to pinpoint. Some C-level suits turn to a strategist, but marketing mastermind Seth Godin backs a different approach.
According to Godin, the key to building a better brand media property is to avoid playing it safe and instead figure out how to make your content more interesting. “You need editors, not brand managers,” says Godin, “who will push the envelope to make the thing go forward.”
Good editors are strategic and largely responsible for driving results. Have a specific business goal in mind? Editors shape drafts to better conform to the task at hand. When your messaging threatens to meander away from the point, an editor can step in and tweak the content until it better adheres to the directive. Concerned that your core values aren’t reflected in your home page? Editors also look over content to see whether you’ve had a chance to shine.
There is such a thing as flawless content that is also lifeless. Cold copy never drives traffic. Bring on an editor who has a feel for your brand’s heart and soul and you have another person on your team who’s dedicated to capturing the spirit of your message rather than just joylessly adhering to the style guide.
The Importance of Consistency
The modern editor isn’t just a proofreader with an attitude but a smart and savvy brand tactician that knows how to wield content on a way that fuels max ROI. When you’re churning out content on the regular – and by all accounts you should be – it can be tempting to try and be all things to all people. Don’t.
Random acts of marketing are disorienting, and a disoriented audience isn’t inspired to take action. It’s fine to have blog posts, newsletters, emails, eBooks, white papers, case studies, and social posts all in various stages of development and publication, but each type of content needs to relate to each to each other and back to a central strategy for any of it to make sense. Editors are big-picture people who monitor flow, delivery, and cohesion, asking for rewrites or revisions and rallying the troops so that everything that arrives in your inbox commands the right kind of attention not just separately but also as a whole.
As Lisa Barone, Chief Marketing Office for New York-based creative agency Overit, puts it, “It’s great for content to be well-written and grammatically correct, but if it doesn’t connect to the larger marketing strategy than it isn’t truly serving its purpose.” Her content editors are tasked with upholding strategy and brand standards and ensuring a high level of quality control.
Barone goes on to say, “A good editor is someone well-versed in the industry and larger business goals who can help guide a writer to make sure he or she is touching on the important aspects of a topic, that they are finding the right way to engage, that they are using terms with correct context (not just grammatically correct), and that they are seeding content for reader shares from the very onset. There is a lot more to content than simply words on a page and a good editor can help guide this process.”
At Crowd Content, we utilize a three-tier editorial system that funnels content from the writing stage through editing and QA, so our clients get the best of copyediting and that strategic eye. You get exponentially more attention, and those extra steps often translate into content that sells faster and reaches farther. In other words, it fuses the talents of our visionary writers, editors and reviewers into a dynamic, multitasking Transformer-like entity that could very well save the world. Or at least give your brand the market share it deserves.