My first job was at a magazine, where I was an assistant editor. Only recently, when I read an older blog that Doug wrote, did I really connect the dots between my first job and my current job, even though the world has seen major changes during those *cough* decades *cough*.
Regardless of the medium, targeted content is always important in terms of engaging readers. While print magazines that need a three-month lead time may be slowly (and sadly!) going the way of the dodo bird, digital content requires just as much strategy to stand out in the sea of content on someone’s laptop or phone.
That’s why something called an editorial philosophy still resonates.
When I worked at a magazine, we’d meet at least once a month to plan the next issue--typically, 5-6 months before it would hit the newsstands. (In retrospect, that timeframe sounds bonkers!) When we met to pitch ideas and assign writers, we’d always keep the editorial philosophy in mind. That meant we had to stay consistent, hitting three points in every story and issue:
- Writing to our desired audience
- Maintaining an overarching voice (i.e., style and approach)
- Conveying a specific point-of-view
The magazine I worked for was aimed at affluent couples between 40-65. We knew what they liked: seeing photos of themselves at social events, high-end jewelry, luxury cars, and five-star resorts. Our voice was formal and slightly deferential. The magazine had been around for at least twenty years and their formula worked pretty well.
When you create content for clients, as Imagine does, it’s a little more complicated because you have to be able to generate and execute ideas for many different audiences. Plus--and this holds true even if you’re working in-house for one company--if you’re overseeing content, you’re likely working with different writers with different voices and different grasps of your audience.
That’s why an editorial philosophy can be a lifesaver. It guides you as you write a content brief. It helps both new and long-term writers stay on track. And while sales reps will likely never care about your editorial philosophy, it’s a useful guide to ensure you create content to target leads.
Here are some of the factors we consider at Imagine when we’re creating editorial philosophies for clients:
1. Purpose: What are you “hiring” this content to do? Is it designed to drive traffic? Conversions? You’ll need to know what you want to accomplish in order to measure your success.
2. Personas: This factor is very important. Many companies create editorial content aimed at industries, but ignore personas. But even within a single industry, someone from finance will have very different concerns than someone from HR, engineering, or operations. To create effective content, you need to understand what roles you’re targeting.
3. Problem: What’s your persona’s problem? This is crucial, especially since (in my experience) the most effective content speaks to your target’s pain point. While the specifics may vary slightly from individual to individual, most personas share a general problem that they must overcome to succeed at their job.
4. Epiphany: This is a big one, and it’s often overlooked. Your target persona needs to have a realization about the solution to their problem in order to understand that your company is the right partner. Here’s a caveat: this is a process. Your target isn’t going to read one blog and sign on the dotted line. Reaching the epiphany stage takes a while, but if your target isn’t engaging with your content, it’s a lot harder to make them have a flash of realization.
5. DEALS Framework: What stage of the DEALS Framework (discover, engage, activate, launch, success) are you aiming for? Typically most content is created for the early stages (discover or engage), because that’s where you’re trying to raise awareness. If you’d like a deeper dive into the DEALS Framework, we break it down in this blog.
A successful editorial philosophy is a process that’s refined as you learn more about what’s working and what’s not. However, if you take all five of these factors into consideration as you put your philosophy together, you’ll come out of the gate with a strong showing.