You lived through my value-sized “How to Create an Editorial Strategy for Your Blog: Part One” post and have come back for more – I like your determination. Or maybe you’re one of the readers I told to skip Part One – and you followed that advice? In either case, welcome to “How to Create an Editorial Strategy for Your Blog: Part Two.”
As promised, I’ve mapped out a step-by-step process you can follow to create your editorial strategy. I’ll warn you, I’ve pretty much shared everything I know on this topic – and as a result, have really written a small book on the topic for you. If you’re looking for a thorough, step-by-step process that ends with you having a written editorial strategy for your blog, you’ve come to the right place.
It wouldn’t be fair to ask you to follow the steps in a 5,000-word post without first being willing to follow the advice myself. As we work through each step of the process, I’ve decided to do the same for Journalistics – in part to finally have an editorial strategy for the blog, but also to help you move through the steps by providing context.
DISCLAIMER: Before I ask you to give up a big chunk of your time to work through the assignment below, I should mention there are many different approaches for creating an editorial calendar. In follow-up to this post, I’ll share a list of great posts other experts have shared (some much smarter than me) about creating a content strategy. I ultimately want you to select an approach and framework that works best for the way you think and work.
For now, I’ll assume my approach to be the best option for you – and will finally share my steps for “How to Create an Editorial Strategy for Your Blog: Part Two.”
Step Zero: Start With What and Why
Before we get to Step One, I don’t want to assume that you already know the what and why of creating an editorial strategy before I get into the how. Before you write a word of your editorial strategy, I want to make sure you know what your editorial strategy should be, and that we are on the same page for why you should have one.
Starting with the what, what is an editorial strategy as it relates to your blog? This is your definition for what the editorial strategy is – which should include a description of your blog, and explanation of your intent or plans for the blog. In other words, what can readers expect to get from your blog? What is your blog all about? Is your blog a professional blog for commercial purposes, or a personal blog to help build your brand or simply to share your thoughts with the world?
The why question requires a bit more thinking on your part. Why have you created – or did you create – your blog in the first place? What will motivate you – or has motivated you – to blog on a regular basis? If a reader wrote you a letter about what your blog has meant to them, what would you want them to say? Assuming you plan to provide value for your readers, what are you trying to accomplish for them?
While these what and why questions aren’t technically be components of your written editorial strategy, I think they are important questions to answer before moving forward with creating one. If you can’t answer what your editorial strategy is all about, or why you are doing this in the first place, you will have a much harder time writing responses for each step below.
As promised, here’s my attempt to answer these questions for Journalistics before moving forward:
What the Editorial Strategy for Journalistics?
The Journalistics editorial strategy defines what Journalistics is, and what value it delivers for readers. The editorial strategy exists first and foremost to clearly articulate the focus and intention of the blog for readers, but also serves as the framework to guide Journalistics’ content on a regular basis. Using the editorial strategy, Journalistics will consistently plan, develop and publish content that is more relevant, timely, educational and entertaining for its readers.
Since graduating from college with a degree in Journalism and PR in 1997, I have been fortunate to work full-time in various public relations, marketing communications, technology marketing and digital marketing roles. I consider myself lucky when reflecting on the professional opportunities I’ve had to date, but also realize I wouldn’t be where I am today without the lessons I’ve learned – directly and indirectly – from the professionals that came before me. I have always surrounded myself with people smarter than me, keeping my mouth shut and ears open as much as possible.
Journalistics is my opportunity to pay-it-forward, and to share the things I’ve learned – or am learning – to help other professionals learn and grow. Journalistics’ success will be a reflection of the success media, communications and marketing professionals obtain through the knowledge and experiences shared via the blog.
This is my first pass at answering the what and why questions as they related to Journalistics. I hope you can see how clarifying these answers provides some helpful context as we look ahead to defining the editorial strategy for our blogs.
As you think about answering your own what and why questions, the following questions may help you triangulate your responses better:
- What is the purpose of your blog?
- Who do you write for?
- What topics are you most-passionate about?
- What topics are your readers most-passionate about?
- What do similar blogs write about and how will your blog be similar or different?
- What drives you to write each post?
- What do you hope a reader will do after reading a post?
- Why should somebody read your blog over the alternatives?
- What is the most-important thing you can teach or share with readers?
If you’re satisfied with your answers to the what and why above, it’s time to start putting this stuff in writing. I suggest jotting down your thoughts for each step in a notebook or your preferred thinking space. If other people will be working on the editorial strategy with you, consider using Google Docs, Evernote or Dropbox to collaborate (I use Evernote).
Let’s get to work…
Step One: State Your Vision
In simple terms, your Vision is where you see your blog going. It’s a destination you want to get to – it’s the end of your journey we’ll explore further in the following steps (or the first stage of a long-term journey).
For inspiration, consider the Visions some popular global brands have clarified. While not specific to blogging, I think the examples illustrate how a well-written Vision can serve in aligning or guiding the organization to a destination. Here are a few examples:
- Nike: To be the number one athletic company in the world.
- Disney: To make people happy.
- Facebook: To celebrate how our friends inspire us, support us, and help us discover the world when we connect.
The statements above are most-likely internal statements that guide and ground employees around a common purpose. If you are familiar with these brands, it’s pretty obvious that they are living in pursuit of their Vision.
As additional food for thought, consider the Vision for some popular charitable organizations. These organizations typically have excellent Vision statements, because they were created with this vision in mind.
Here are the vision statements for a few charitable organizations I respect:
- Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a decent place to live.
- charity: water: Believes that we can end the water crisis in our lifetime by ensuring that every person on the planet has access to life’s most basic need – clean drinking water.
- Alzheimer’s Association: A world without Alzheimer’s.
Habitat for Humanity wants everyone to have a place to live, charity:water wants everyone to have clean drinking water, and the Alzheimer’s Association wants to rid the world of this terrible disease. These statements are vivid and profound – and serve to guide all aspects of the organizations’ operations. So too should your Vision inspire and ground everyone involved to work in pursuit of the same end game.
Where do you want to go with your blog? What is your vision for what your blog can become? Here is my first pass at defining Journalistics’ Vision:
Journalistics is a top source of information to help media, communications and marketing professionals advance learn and grow.
This Vision is already the result of several rounds of revision. Note that Journalistics is not a top source of information today – but that’s the point of the Vision – it’s not a description of where I am, but where I want to go with the blog. Similarly, I’ve clarified my desire to help professionals learn and grow through the posts I write and share. This too is aspirational, though I hope some of you are learning something from this post right now.
Step Two: Define Your Mission
Your Vision is where you want to go, and your Mission is how you plan to get there. Nobody starts out with “Realize Vision” on their to-do list for the day. Your Mission defines the things you’ll do over time to get there.
Back to the charity:water Vision above – everything this organization does is dedicated to providing clean drinking water for those who live without it today. This Vision isn’t something that can be done overnight. According to the charity’s website, more than 663 million people in the world don’t have clean water today. charity:water’s Mission is to reduce that number every year, and they are making progress – they’ve funded more than 17,000 projects to date, which will give 5.6M people access to clean water. They have a long way to go to realize their Vision, but they are making progress and getting closer one literal drop at a time.
What will your Mission be today and in the near future to put you one step closer to realizing your Vision? As I think about the Vision for Journalistics above, I think the Mission should be something like this:
Journalistics will frequently publish blog posts across a wide-range of relevant topics of interest to media, communications and marketing professionals – with an emphasis on topics that serve the blog’s vision for helping professionals to learn and grow.
Depending on how you read this, Journalistics’ Mission may seem too vague or too broad. I believe your Mission comes to life through execution of the strategy. For now, the Mission serves as a guidepost for the things Journalistics must do to realize its Vision. As I outline our execution plans for the blog, I believe the Mission will have more meaning for Journalistics.
Step Three: Know Your Purpose
Your Vision and Mission are essential ingredients in the editorial strategy for your blog. These components set the course for your organization – whether you’re a team of one, or an actual team. Each individual who works in support of the Vision and Mission must find their purpose – or their individual goal to help the organization move forward.
While each person’s job may vary within your team, each in their own way have a unique set of skills or tools at their disposal to help you in your journey – and it’s worth defining this purpose for the group, with an emphasis on individual contribution.
What Purpose should your team be dedicated to in support of your Vision and Mission? I won’t lie, this is the most-difficult component of the strategy – and most people give up on this part. I challenge you to think through this one some more, as it also serves as the description of the type of people you’ll want on your team if an when you grow beyond a team of one.
Journalistics’ Purpose is to provide its readers – primarily media, communications and marketing professionals – with timely, relevant and useful information to help them learn more, work smarter and advance further in their profession. As an individual contributor, I am responsible for supporting this purpose and regularly look for new ways to add value for our readers.
The Purpose has to be something people can rally behind and believe in. It’s best to create the Purpose with your team. In my case, it’s just me – but if I had a team, I’d want them to share in defining what our Purpose should be – our reason for existing and doing the work we do each day.
Step Four: Set Your Goal
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there.” – The Cheshire Cat, from Lewis Carroll’s, Alice In Wonderland
All of this warm and fuzzy strategy stuff is great, but you’ll ultimately need a goal if you’re going to be successful. There are many ways to develop goals, but I’m a fan of S.M.A.R.T. goals. Most of you are probably familiar with S.M.A.R.T. goals, but in case this is new to you – this is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound.
Basically, S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific goals that eliminate all guessing. You either hit the goal, or you don’t – because you’ve clearly defined what you plan to achieve (with numbers), you know how to measure it, it’s something you can achieve, and you’ve set a deadline for getting there.
I’ll caution you from trying to set too many goals for your blog. Pick one goal that best aligns to the strategy you’ve put in place. There may be additional goals you’ll want to set and track against, but those are typically goals that support the broader, over-arching goal you’ll create in this step.
The purpose of your goal is to know if your strategy is working. You’ll want to use data around your progress working toward this goal to make adjustments along the way.
What are some of the most-popular goals when it comes to blogging? Review the following list to home in on the goal that’s most relevant to your strategy:
Notice NONE of these goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals? I’m simply providing these as examples for what some popular goals look like – if you were to use one of the goals above, you would elaborate with the S.M.A.R.T. criteria I shared above.
This is a hard one. What should Journalistics’ Goal be based on the Vision, Mission and Purpose I outlined above? How do you measure the value readers get from your blog posts? An increase in traffic might suggest increased relevancy or interest in our content. An uptick in social-sharing or comments on each post might also suggest relevancy – particularly if the comments are positive and indicate readers found value in the post.
In review of all the possible metrics I could use to set a single goal for the blog, the “New vs. Returning” visitors metric stands out. Historically, Journalistics’ audience growth has come primarily from New Visitors. This suggests readers aren’t coming back frequently to read new posts – partially due to low post volume. But hey, my whole strategy is about posting more and serving the audience better, right? Exactly.
2016: Journalistics will increase Returning Visitors by 20% per month.
Why does this goal work? If a larger number of Returning Visitors are consuming Journalistics’ content monthly, this suggests both new and existing readers are finding value beyond a single post. As I execute on the strategy to provide more frequent and relevant content for readers, our audience should grow, engagement should increase, and ultimately more professionals will consume information they find helpful (core to the Vision and Mission).
What do you think? Is there a better Goal to support the strategy I’ve outlined so far?
Success Story: Mashable
If you’re not losing interest in mapping out your strategy by now, you probably will soon. This seems like the perfect opportunity to share a quick success story – in part to remind you of why this is important, and also to provide you with some inspiration to help you push forward to completion.
Mashable has become one of the most-popular blogs in the world related to digital and social media. When Pete Cashmore launched Mashable in 2005, he was only 19-years-old and living with his parents in a small town in Scotland at the time. He was fascinated about blogs and the potential world-changing power they had.
While this isn’t authorized story of Mashable, it’s safe to assume Cashmore started Mashable with a Vision to become the top blog covering social media news. His Mission (based on early reports) was to publish frequent up-to-the-minute updates on the latest social media news – well ahead of competing blogs and mainstream media.
The blog quickly became the top source of social media content, growing to more than an astonishing 1 million readers in less than 18 months, as Cashmore (and eventually his growing team of bloggers) performed their work around a shared Purpose to publish great stories faster than the competition.
I don’t know what the initial Goal was for Mashable, but I guarantee you they blew past it and ultimately realized their Vision. Today Mashable reaches 42 million readers and more than 24 million social media followers around the world. I’m sure a well-executed editorial strategy had something to do with that success.
Step Five: Know Your Audience
Back to work. As we move away from the foundational elements of the editorial strategy, it’s time to start thinking through the execution of the strategy (which should be part of any strategic plan).
And when it comes to execution, you can’t ignore your audience – since everything you do is ultimately for them, right?
This step is about defining the audiences you are serving with your blog, which may or may not be who ends up reading and enjoying your posts the most.
To effectively execute on your strategy, you need to commit to the audiences you most want to reach and serve – and this can be as broad or specific as you like. At this point, this step should be obvious based on the work you’ve done above. As I’ll illustrate in my example for Journalistics:
Journalistics serves media, communications and marketing professionals around the world – professionals who want to read, learn, discuss and share information related to the work they do – so they can improve and excel.
This is who I’m writing for. These are the audiences who have read Journalistics historically, and also the group of professionals I plan to reach through my future posts.
Step Six: Create Your Content Strategy
If you’ve made it to Step Six, you’ve done an incredible amount of work on your editorial strategy to this point. You know what your blog is and why you are blogging. You’ve mapped out the core of your strategy, and now know where you want to go, how you’re going to get there, the role individuals will play, and how you’re going to measure the results.
You’ve now started to define your execution plan, starting with defining your intended audience. Now comes the hard work – pulling all of this together to define your content strategy, the nitty-gritty details behind how you will write and what you will write about.
While your entire editorial strategy is technically a content strategy, for the purposes of this assignment, your editorial strategy defines how you will write and what you will write about. We won’t get into specific blog post topics in the content strategy, but rather develop the categories those posts will be written to satisfy.
To provide an example more-familiar to most, consider your content strategy to be like an editorial calendar for a magazine – where there are consistent columns or sections in each issue, along with special features and unique content.
Before you define your content categories, you should take some time to clarify your style – in other words, the DNA and personality consistent across your posts. Here are some style elements you’ll want to think through:
- Tone, Voice and Diction – what shape will your blog take in terms of personality? Most blogs have a consistent personality, which is the collective voice of its bloggers. Tone is your blog’s attitude. Will your tone be humorous, emotional, serious, approachable, conversational or logical? Will you maintain a consistent Tone across all bloggers, or will each blogger’s voice be unique and diverse? Your Voice – or the voice of each individual blogger – should be unique and authentic, but also in alignment with the Tone of the blog. Finally diction, or the word choices you will make in writing. Will your blog include industry terms and jargon that will be difficult for outsiders to understand, or will you make an effort to use basic vocabulary that any reader would comprehend?
- Writing Style – Tone, Voice, and Diction are technically elements of your writing style, but in this case we’ll refer to those elements as your brand personality. When it comes to style, will you make your own rules, or abide by the journalist’s handbook, “The AP Stylebook“? Or do you prefer “The Elements of Style“? I don’t think it’s necessary to declare a style, but if you are looking for consistency, these are two good options to consider.
- Format & Communication Style – will you use consistent graphical elements to help communicate your messages? Will you publish text and multimedia content? If the latter, what style and format will you use for videos? Will you use large, high-resolution images or would you rather share animated GIFs on your blog?
- Audience Information Needs & Interests – there is a difference between content your audience needs, and content your audience wants. Some content may address both areas for your audiences, but you want to make sure you are addressing both sides of this equation.
- Alignment to Audience Journey – your audiences are not stuck in a single place in time. Like you, they are advancing in their careers and life, and their information needs and interests are in constant flux. As your audiences move through the stages of the audience journey, from discovery and awareness, to interest and decision, and ultimately to action and loyalty, you’ll want to think about how your content strategy serves their information needs and interests across these stages.
- Desired Reaction or CTA for Posts – what do you want to happen after somebody reads your posts (in general across all posts), versus specific goals or calls-to-action for individual posts. This should be a factor you consider when framing up the types of content you’ll write about.
These are the basic components that will inform the way you write on your blog. Some prefer to be loose with their writing style – there’s no right or wrong answer here. Don’t let style get in the way of writing – but finding a consistent style that works for you can help to make you a better writer.
Journalistics has a unique writing style that is a mix of professional wisdom, witty sarcasm and conversational dialogue with readers – though there are nods to “The AP Stylebook” or “The Elements of Style” on a relatively consistent basis.
Journalistics doesn’t take itself too seriously, but also remains passionate about all topics related to media, communications and marketing. Journalistics’ voice is that of a trusted advisor – the one you’ll learn a lot from, but who will also tell it like it is – even if it’s not what you want to hear.
In many cases, Journalistics tends to also be the person that talks too much and takes a little longer to get to the point – but knows its an area with room for improvement.
Step Seven: Do The Work
Seven steps and more than 4,000 words should be enough to help you create an editorial strategy for your blog. This final step is about pulling this all together to get back to the actual work of blogging.
For starters, you’ll want to start mapping out your posts – at least a list of topics to write about for the categories you mapped out above. Better yet, use an editorial calendar template to help you manage the process. I’ll provide a list of resources for creating an editorial calendar in a follow-up post (if you don’t have one, there are hundreds of examples a quick Google Search away).
At this point, putting together your editorial calendar should be a breeze – so I’m not going to write 15 paragraphs about how to create an editorial calendar. I’m also not going to share the editorial calendar for Journalistics moving forward – because I know how much you all like surprises.
There is one point in all of this that I should make here – your editorial calendar is your plan to write about things that roll up to your strategy. That’s called planned content. This doesn’t mean you can’t pull off the highway and hit a local coffee shop to bang out a post when you’re just in the mood to write – your content categories support real-time content as well.
The only other point I will make in this step – beyond knowing how you’re going to plan and manage the post creation process (your writing) – is to know how you’re going to measure the results. You’ll obviously want to review your main goal on a regular basis, along with any sub-goals you identified through the process. And as a final point, it’s less about reviewing the numbers, and more about analyzing the results – and figuring out new things you can do to improve.
Finally, The End of This Post
“Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin
It’s safe to say that Benjamin Franklin did both – and left a bunch of quotes behind to remind us of that. I think it’s a good quote to end with, as no matter how good your editorial strategy is, you’ll ultimately be evaluated by the stuff you write.
As a blogger, you have the ability to both write something worth reading and do something worth writing with each and every post. The original inspiration for this post was to define what I want to write about on Journalistics, to help me post more often, while maintaining consistency. I’m giving that work meaning by clarifying my goals and thinking through what I want to accomplish through all this work.
I hope this post helps all of us to write more stuff worth reading.
What do you think? Did this post help you think through the editorial strategy for your blog? Did you create a written editorial strategy as a result? What advice or suggestions would you like to add for bloggers going through this process? Please share your thoughts below.
(Image Credit: “Cracked Ball” by Earls37a / Flickr Creative Commons)