How to Properly Manage an Editorial Team
There's no doubt that managing an editorial team is a challenging job. To execute on your content strategy, you have to have the right people on your team to generate relevant content, but also keep them motivated and productive. It can be easy to fall into patterns of author management that either doesn't work or do more harm than good. Here are some tips for how you can manage your editorial team better.
- Get a handle on each team member's skills
- Identify high and low performers
- Set up a code of conduct
- Demand accountability
- Require regular weekly check-ins
- Be clear about your goals, and the objectives that need to be met in order for those goals to be reached
- Tracking output and performance
- Weigh reporting speed and accuracy equally
- Create a system for the most frequent errors you see editors make - be relentless in addressing these errors with your staff as soon as you see them
- The most effective way to manage an editorial team is to make sure everyone knows how their work benefits their team, your business, and the readers you serve
Get a handle on each team member's skills
If you're a manager, one of the most important things you can do is get a handle on each team member's skills. Not only does this help you understand how best to utilize the talent within your department, but it also helps with delegating tasks and streamlining workflow.
For example, if someone has an incredible ability to organize information but isn't very skilled at writing or designing graphics, don't put them in charge of projects that require those skills. Instead, try assigning them research-based tasks that require their organizational strengths while also allowing them opportunities to contribute creatively through other means (such as by helping with brainstorming sessions).
In addition to learning about each person's strengths and weaknesses—including any potential blind spots—you should also consider how these assets can be used by others on the team. For example: What kind of project would benefit from having someone who excels at time management? Or what kind of project would benefit from having someone who has strong research skills? You'll likely find that there are several ways in which every employee can contribute value even if they don't have a background in editorial work per se; all it takes is some creative thinking!
Identify high and low performers
When managing editorial teams, it's important to know where your employees stand. Your goal is to identify high and low performers, so you can encourage the former to push for more and the latter to improve. To do this, consider how many stories an employee has published in the last quarter:
- Were they published on time?
- How many errors were in them?
- How long did it take for those errors to be corrected (if they were)?
Set up a code of conduct
While you're developing your editorial team's workflow, it's important to set up guidelines for behaviour. The following questions can help:
- How will we communicate? Email is often the best way to keep in touch, but there are other options as well (like Slack and Skype).
- How will we handle editorial disputes? In cases where two people disagree on something, what process should they follow to come to an agreement or determine who gets the final say?
- What sort of language should be used when talking about clients and their brands? This is especially critical if you're working with sensitive topics like politics or religion—you don't want anyone feeling uncomfortable or offended by how things are said at work!
Now that you have a team in place, it's time to make sure they're on the same page.
As the editor-in-chief of your publication, it is your job to demand accountability from everyone on your team. You want them all to be responsible for their work and deadlines. You may also want to consider implementing some sort of bonus or commission structure so that employees are incentivised to do better work (and therefore deliver faster). At the end of each month, review performance metrics with each member of your staff so that all parties understand exactly where everyone stands and where improvements need to be made moving forward.
Require regular weekly check-ins
Your editorial team will only meet regularly if you make it mandatory. You don't want to give editors the option of skipping a meeting once in a while, and neither do you want to force them to attend every time. Set up a recurring weekly check-in schedule (e.g., every Thursday at 9 am), then stick to it.
Your weekly check-ins should be short and sweet—even if they are weekly! If an editor has an issue, they can bring it up during this week's meeting, but most issues can wait until next week's meeting (and some issues aren't worth addressing at all). For example: A senior editor might have a problem with one of the articles from last month's issue; instead of bringing this problem up during the five-minute weekly meeting, he might want to send an email about the issue first so that his junior colleague has enough time and space to respond thoughtfully before their next meeting together.
Be clear about your goals, and the objectives that need to be met in order for those goals to be reached
Your objective should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. This will help ensure that everyone on the team understands what success looks like and how much work needs to be done for that success to happen.
Tracking output and performance
As you manage your team, the first thing to do is track their productivity. You can use Spiny's editorial tracking feature to make sure that your editors are keeping up with deadlines and producing a consistent quality of work. The sheet should include the following information:
- The name of the editor
- The number of articles they wrote
- The number of articles they edited
- The number of articles they published
- The revenue they brought in (if applicable)
You will also want to keep track of any errors in their work so that you can improve on this going forward.
Weigh reporting speed and accuracy equally
As you prepare to manage an editorial team, you must weigh reporting speed and accuracy equally. While speed is certainly important, it’s also imperative that any content you publish is accurate.
As editor-in-chief, you must make sure your writers are aware of this balance, so they can prioritize each other's needs accordingly:
- Accuracy should come first when reporting on breaking news or developing stories. Speed comes second—you want to get the facts right before publishing them. You also want to be as transparent as possible with readers about how long it takes for updates in these situations. It could be hours (or days) until you know what happened; you're working around the clock to gather information from your sources so that you can share what you know at that moment with everyone else who wants answers too!
- Accuracy should come first when providing commentary or analysis on a current situation where there isn't many hard data yet—or when writing about something that has been well-covered by other outlets but where new information has come out since then.
- Speed should come first for lighter articles like opinion pieces and entertainment/lifestyle coverage because there's less risk of getting things wrong here; if someone disagrees with something said in one of those pieces then chances are they won't mind waiting another day or two while you get another perspective from someone else who does agree with you instead!
Create a system for the most frequent errors you see editors make - be relentless in addressing these errors with your staff as soon as you see them
You know what you need to do, but how can you get your staff to follow the rules?
Your editors must understand what is expected of them and how it will benefit them. A clear process isn't just a good idea—it's necessary. Your team needs to know who is responsible for what, and when they're supposed to be doing it. You should also clearly communicate when things aren't being done correctly or on time. If an editor doesn't meet their deadlines for one assignment, lay out in detail exactly why this is unacceptable and let them know that future assignments will be affected if they continue making the same mistakes.
The most effective way to manage an editorial team is to make sure everyone knows how their work benefits their team, your business, and the readers you serve
The most effective way to manage an editorial team is to make sure everyone knows how their work benefits their team, your business, and the readers you serve. By communicating this information as clearly and often as possible, you can help keep your editorial staff motivated and productive.
Here are some ways you can accomplish this:
- Showcase the impact of great content with tools like Spiny.ai. Spiny will provide data that shows how many people visit certain pages on your website each day, how long they spend reading them, which search phrases they used to find those particular pages, whether they took action after visiting (such as signing up for a newsletter), etc., all in real-time. This information can help reinforce the value of high-quality content by showing its direct impact on traffic increases or conversions (e.g., sales).
- Weekly meeting with all employees to ensure everyone is on the same page and up to date on what’s being worked on
- Use surveys to gather feedback from readers about what they like about your site's articles/posts/etc., what works well but could be improved upon—and why!
Editorial teams are an integral part of the publishing process. If you're thinking about starting one, or if you already have one in place, these tips can help you manage it effectively so that you can work more efficiently and effectively.