20-Factor Test Shows How Well You Fulfill B2B Editing's Key Mission

by Howard Rauch, President, Editorial Solutions, Inc.

What is the key mission of today’s B2B editors? Obviously, the current emphasis on digital editing expertise is overwhelming. We are caught up in the excitement of delivering content to our readership in a host of new formats. And the web has facilitated our ability to be timely, as evidenced by our reliance on social media potential and increased frequency of e-newsletter delivery.

But in the course of putting finishing touches on an ASBPE editorial performance webinar presentation, I became aware of a consistent cautionary note expressed by my sources. That is … we are doing a great job quantitatively; however, this achievement is dimmed by an accompanying qualitative shortfall.

In fact, several editors have expressed this concern during the past year. There’s not enough time to engage in thorough research. Squeezed travel budgets have put a damper on our ability to expand our industry knowledge via productive field trips. There’s no time to adequately train new recruits so that they become star performers quickly.

All this and much more has been complicated by a tendency in our hiring practices – when hiring is allowed – to place highest priority on digital skills as opposed to editorial reporting/story-gathering/field presence potential.

All this mulling reminded me of a workshop I conducted periodically for new editors who joined the B2B organization where I spent 13 of my 21 years as editorial VP. The session – “Becoming Someone in Your Industry” – used a 15-factor self-scoring profile to emphasize techniques designed to enhance one’s authoritative visibility within the industry served.

The original profile was totally focused on print. I’ve updated it slightly to reflect digital considerations and invite you to check out your current performance in terms of delivering top-quality content while simultaneously maintaining high personal visibility. I’ve increased the number of factors considered from 15 to 20. Rate yourself on a Yes/No basis. Award five points for every Yes, zero points for every No. If you have a “No” overload, consider how you might turn each negative into a positive.

‘BECOMING SOMEONE …’ SELF-SCORING EDITORIAL PROFILE

Field trips include reader visits rather than just show coverage. SCORE: _____

I write a feature article in every issue. SCORE: _____

I write at least one high-enterprise e-news article per week. SCORE: _____

I am conversant with every new industry trend. SCORE: _____

My blogs reflect insider commentary rather than just blurb thinking. SCORE: _____

Whenever possible, my blog is presented in video format. SCORE: _____

I respond regularly to important blogs posted by industry experts. SCORE: _____

I have no problem writing a statistically-oriented article. SCORE: _____

I generate a constant stream of personalized correspondence. SCORE: _____

It’s not all e-mail; I keep in touch with key players via phone. SCORE: _____

I have no problem making a speech and am in demand as a speaker. SCORE: _____

I get involved in association affairs and volunteer for committees. SCORE: _____

I constantly suggest publicity angles to our promotion department. SCORE: _____

I wield a mighty tennis racket, golf club for whatever else it takes. SCORE: _____

I know my reporting is 100% accurate. SCORE: _____

I regularly exchange business cards with important show attendees. SCORE: _____

I keep abreast of what other departments do. SCORE: _____

I read competitive magazines constantly. SCORE: _____

I always match strengths/weaknesses of our e-news vs. competitors. SCORE: _____

I look like “someone” when I go into the field. SCORE: _____

How did you make out? As a scoring yardstick, you need at least 80 points to be considered an effective mission-sensitive person.

As an aside, I am a big believer in the value of self-scoring profiles. During my VP/editorial stint, other profiles used involved complaint-handling, personnel management, feature writing, trade show coverage, and editorial marketing. I will be making references to these other useful training tools in upcoming Twitter posts. Keep in touch via www.twitter.com/editorialtype.

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Comments:
This post provides a helpful roadmap for self-improvement for writers and editors.
Unfortunately, some content organizations do not allow their writers and editors to do all the things suggested in Howard Rauch’s list of questions.
Some won’t allow writers to have a feature in every issue, nor will they allow editors to keep suggesting publicity angles to the promotion department. Some frown upon editorial staffers engaging in golf or other social activities with industry colleagues or experts in the field/s they cover. Some do not require, and will not post, video-casts. Some have cut editorial travel to the bone.
Firms have many reasons for such restrictions, ranging from silo-management to low bandwidth to economic constraints. In some cases, the restrictions are not spelled out; they just filter through the organization by word of mouth, incidence reports, and general culture. No wonder that writers and editors who want to grow in ways spotlighted in the list may sometimes feel like mice trapped in a maze.
It looks as if Rauch’s self-test does provide some leeway in this regard, by not requiring the editor to achieve a score of 100 (in order to be considered an "effective mission-sensitive person"). All the editor needs is a score of 80.
But chances are, many editors fall below 80, largely due to the constraints they face. Others, who do achieve a score of 80, probably would reach 100, if only those constraints weren’t in the way.
Why not use the points raised in the self-test as a basis for team/management discussion about the editorial direction in which the organization is heading? Is the focus on digital skills and economic restraint hampering quality, as Rauch discusses in his article? If so, will the organization commit to restoring balance via structural and cultural change along the lines suggested in the test or in other ways? What is the cost/benefit of such change, and what is the consequence of no change?
# posted by Anonymous Linda Koco : September 17, 2010 at 1:06 PM
 
Pretty close, and working on others. But once you've done all the rest of it, who has time for golf or tennis outings??

I don't necessarily agree with the video blog. As a media consumer, I don't want to take the time to watch an editor reading aloud to his webcam in a badly lit office when I can read it much more quickly. My time is valuable and I assume my readers' is, too.

To my mind, video is best used to show action, or to demonstrate concepts that are not easily explained in words on a page. While we've barely dipped our toe into online video at our company, I know from talking to some major business publication editors that when they track which videos actually get watched, that's what they've found.
# posted by Anonymous Deborah Lockridge : September 19, 2010 at 9:54 PM
 
Here's another thought. Where does social media fit into all this? I try to spend some time every day with our magazine's Facebook page and Twitter feed, as well as on LinkedIn groups, to promote our content and to keep up with what readers and others in the industry are saying, get news leads, etc.
# posted by Anonymous Deborah Lockridge : September 19, 2010 at 9:59 PM
 
Question for Linda: How should editors/journos deal with these constraints?

They exist for sure. The trick is to find out which "constraints" are real and which are purely are purely imaginary.

But sometimes I wonder if many front line editorial personnel really make the effort to push the envelope on this front.

At a time when the results of trying new things like social media are far from clear, there's never been a better time to take risks.

It feels safe to simply do (no more) than what you're told.

But in some cases it seems like editorial staff needs to adopt a apologize rather than ask for permission approach. Sure, this can backfire.

Of course, the riskiest course of all is never to take risks.
# posted by Anonymous Steven Roll : September 20, 2010 at 8:33 AM
 
September 20, 2010

Just wanted to follow-up to the comments received so far concerning my "Key Mission" blog.

When my original 15-factor test was developed, it pertained solely to print. At the time, I was at Gralla Publications, a B2B publisher, where I spent 13 of my 21 years as VP editorial. In those days, all 15 test questions could be answered with an enthusiastic "yes." And since then,as a consultant, I've had the chance to work with several clients where that important "Yes" environment exists!

Years back,however,we were not contending with the current economic slump, so one could argue there was more leeway for editorial development. But that was not necessarily true. When I compared what we were doing vs. the opposition, I found that the enthusiastic top management support our editorial group enjoyed was missing at many organizations where the necessary investment in resources could have been made.

So if we fast forward to today, can we expect top managements that did not back their editors in the past would be more inclined to do now when it counts even more?

The Gralla owners -- two exceptional brothers both journalists by background -- put editorial quality/integrity at the top of their priority list. Among other things, we were one of the best -- if not the leader of the pack -- in offering in-house training -- 44 workshops per year geared to various editorial levels. When it came to travel, editors were encouraged to go out and meet the people. If I wanted to, I could have field tripped 100 days or more . . .and in some years I actually came close. There is no substitute for face-to-face contact with readers at their places of business.

I realize that many of the 20 accomplishments my blog listed are beyond reach because of tight-fisted management, but top brass options are truly limited. Even so,in many cases the current marketing position with its digital emphasis is bothersome. Today, when industry execs talk about best ways to sell ads to digital clients, it seems that the least important reason to buy is editorial quality.

Last week, a top exec speaking at the Publishing Business digital conference (a terrific event, by the way), said that his company "managed print for profit." On the other hand, digital "was managed for growth." If that is a policy others endorse, where is the additional necessary investment in dedicated digital editorial staff?

I look forward to the day when competitors begin taking serious pot shots at digital editorial strengths and weaknesses. Only then will those on the short end of the stick due to chaining editors to a dual performance print/digital regimen receive a serious wake-up call.

Finally, for now, on the matter of video, those regularly-posted editorials are a terrific thing! It personalizes our interaction with readers! Isn't that something Web 2.0 is all about? In other ways, our digital emphasis on communicating via email and through social media has diminished our visibility to almost "recluse" status. Think about it! Perhaps some of the new face-to-face options will change that.

Hopefully, we will keep this dialog going. Meanwhile, despite the economic circumstances, editors do have opportunities to improve their performance management skills. You can hear more about that during my presentation at the September 23 ASBPE-sponsored webinar. Don't miss it!

Howard Rauch, President
Editorial Solutions, Inc.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : September 20, 2010 at 9:32 AM
 
In response to Steve's question:

Good points, Steve, especially the last one, that "the riskiest course of all is never to take risks."

Most editors and writers whom I know from around the country do push, and want to keep pushing. This includes those who want to jump into social media as well as those who want to shore up editorial areas where quality has begun to fray.

But while some change-minded editors and writers do get a welcome reception to their individual pushes, others hear "no," "not now," "it's not our policy," "we are handling all we can right now" or "don't bring this up again." What is the second group supposed to do?

Your suggestion, to make the change and "apologize later," does have merit. But a good many changes require company resources, budget, and scheduling, so the editor cannot implement without prior approval--and that invites a head-to-head clash with the constraints.

This is why the digital/quality issue should be put out in the open. Make it part of the team meeting. That's a great venue for the reality-check you suggest too—i.e., identifying which constraints are real and which are imaginary.

Final thoughts for the team approach: If possible, include the higher-ups in some of the discussions. Develop an action plan that is suited to the organization's mission and business model. Send it on. Follow up. Generate activity. Show concern. Move the needle.

If the team is persistent and realistic, maybe the constraints will collapse.
# posted by Anonymous Linda Koco : September 21, 2010 at 6:04 PM
 
Linda,
I think you've tapped into an important issue here. It would be really great if you would write a post about this for the blog. If you're up for it please e-mail me at b2beditor AT gmail.com.

thanks,

steve
# posted by Anonymous Steven Roll : September 22, 2010 at 8:18 AM
 
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