“We wrote our first blog post before we wrote our first line of code.”
- Jon Miller, founder, Marketo

Blogging is important for every business. So we don’t just offer ghostwriting services for others. We blog for ourselves. Why? To discuss big issues such as content strategy, commissioning and ROI, as well as tactics for effective copy creation or editing, not to mention news about Collective Content.

Remember, over a third of marketers say blogs are the most valuable content type. Let us know what you’d like to read about here.

4 audiences for your content audit

Who consumes a content audit? The reason I ask is that how to do a content audit is now pretty well documented (including by us) – but I’ve never seen anyone discuss the output and the different ways it’s used.

I was looking at two audits recently. They both ran to hundreds of lines and took weeks to do, at significant cost. And I wondered whether anyone would use them.

As a rule of thumb, think of audits on four levels:

  1. Executive buy-in, not look-in – At the top level, consider those who sign the budgets for getting a content audit done. They possibly need to know an audit is taking place. They certainly want to feel like an audit is done in line with best practices. But do they look at the results? Probably never.
  2. Decision-makers and Johnny Mnemonics – This group comprises those few who make the strategic content decisions based on learnings from an audit, as well as the much wider team who might cling to one or two mnemonics – easily remembered topline memory joggers. From a two-week, two-hundred-line audit that cost a few thousand £/$/€, these joggers might be as simple as ‘Write for Brian’ (where Brian is a key persona), ‘Keep content short’ or ‘Every week must feature a list’ (maybe we had an audit with this result). We’ve seen such mnemonics pinned to kitchen walls, followed for one or two years.
  3. Topliners – This group is the one that cumulatively spends the most time on a content audit within any organisation. While they might take only short dips into the detail of the full content audit, they are likely to scan or fully read a topline findings report that accompanies most good content audits. They need to know some detail but aren’t about to skim a dozen columns across hundreds of lines of a spreadsheet. They take what they need from a content audit and act as necessary, now better informed.
  4. Auditors – This last group can be a person or two in-house who perform or review a content audit; or it could include an outside agency or freelancer who does the auditing. Their involvement is deep. They are reading / viewing / listening to past content, cataloguing it (technically, a content inventory) and making calls on its quality and what to do with it (the content auditing bit). This is a laborious and vital role. But it is performed by the few, for the few. Sometimes – though not always – this group will write the topline report and present findings to the other groups listed above.

The last group usually delivers a full rundown of audited materials, as well as topline findings. These commonly consist of a spreadsheet and written document. But not always. There is now dedicated software out there for content auditing.

Similarly, while content audits tend to be manual, there is some software available for automating the process. Across archives that stretch into tens or hundreds of thousands of items, this might be the only practical approach. (We’ve even heard of one case study where over a million items were weighed up – and realistically that is doable only with software.)

But, in general, nearly all content audits rely on an archive, a spreadsheet, some supporting commentary documents, and a person or small group’s judgment. It’s not an easy job. For the best results, it pays to keep the above four groups in mind during any audit process.

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

Read our How to… run a content audit guide – includes a downloadable our content audit template.

Read Further

11 essential content marketing links for Q3 17

  1. Why journalists ditch the thesaurus when it comes to “said” (for new journalism students who don’t) An unusual and simple start to this quarter’s round-up… but it’s important because the use of the word ‘said’ comes up day after day. Take the advice, bookmark this article.
  2. How to… ghostwrite Ghostwriting is an essential part of most content marketers’ armoury. But doing it well isn’t something that just anyone can do. Here’s what we’ve learnt from 20 years of practicing.
  3. 7 things you should know before hiring a content marketing agency We’re big fans of this kind of piece. So we wondered what another content marketer would advise. And we can’t argue with any of the points here.
  4. How Quartz achieved a 90 percent renewal rate for branded content We remain huge fans of Quartz. And, among a sea of other publishers all making money from branded content, Quartz stands out as an innovator with high standards.
  5. Content metrics for content marketing and journalism Which metrics are important to doing journalism and content marketing well? They’re not all the same. But comparing both side to side is useful.
  6. How to curate content: The secret sauce to getting noticed, becoming an influencer, and having fun online We’re fans of curation and fans of comprehensive guides. This checks both boxes.
  7. Content-as-a-service is the next evolution for marketing The first of a two-fer about the future of marketing. But is the as-a-service approach just a good story angle?
  8. Is marketing-as-a-service the future of marketing? And the second of two pieces with very similar headlines takes a surprisingly broad look at marketing, especially for ‘lean, agile start-ups’.
  9. 6 essential types of content for creativepreneurs Yeah, we don’t like ‘creativepreneurs’ either. But stick with this, especially points 4-6.
  10. Hacking your buyer personas: The only 3 questions you need to ask One way to get the best from those you’re working for is to identify points of pain. Often that means asking about their customers’ points of pain. And the ‘one thing that keeps you up at night’ approach really works.
  11. How could the Internet of Things change the game for content marketers? Finally, this looks like a terrible, clickbait-y headline. But think about the different ways we’re going to develop stories and learn. IoT and analysis of its data will affect most things – even content marketing.

Why 11 links? It’s the day of the month when this writer was born. We’ll have more in the way of content marketing round-ups before the end of the year.

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

Read Further

What is… editing?

Writers tend to be solitary creatures but bringing writing to life is more often a group effort. That’s especially true in B2B communication.

Whatever the business writing project—a blog post, a white paper, an e-book or a script for a video—there are usually at least a few other people, if not whole teams, who have a say on the final product. But, just as too many cooks can spoil the broth, too many editors can turn a promising written work into a mess.

To avoid that outcome, it helps to understand a bit more about what editing is and isn’t.

First off, it’s definitely an art and not a science. Unlike two chemists told to produce the same compound, two editors—no matter how skilled—aren’t ever likely to produce the same results. There’s no one way to correctly edit anything.

While the process of mechanical editing, also called copy-editing or sub-editing, corrects spelling, capitalisation errors, noun-verb disagreements and other fundamental language errors, substantive editing or line editing focuses on the content itself and how it can be fine-tuned to make messages clear and effective.

Here’s how The Chicago Manual of Style, one bible of the editing world, describes the substantive editing process:

The editor will know by instinct and learn from experience how much of this kind of editing to do on a particular manuscript. An experienced editor will recognize, and not tamper with, unusual figures of speech and idiomatic usage and will know when to make an editorial change or simply to suggest it, when to delete a repetition or simply to point it out to the author, and many other matters. Since every manuscript is unique in the amount and kind of substantive editing desirable, no rules can be devised for the editor to follow.

Despite the ‘no rules’ description, editing is not an invitation to a Mad Max-style attack on someone else’s words. Whether you’ve asked an in-house writer to craft a short statement for a press release or commissioned an agency to ghost-write a book for your CEO, it helps to remember some guidelines during the editing process:

  • Respect the writer’s unique voice—As the Chicago Manual notes above, it’s often best to preserve personal wording and phrasing choices if your alternative isn’t more accurate or more appropriate for in-house style. One person’s ‘hodge-podge’ is another’s ‘smorgasbord’… but either is OK.
  • Keep your focus—While suggesting changes to copy, keep your eye on the goal of the final piece. For example, a product brochure needs to provide brief, user-friendly reasons for a reader to place an order or contact your company for more information; editing here shouldn’t involve adding material that’s better included in a lengthy white paper.
  • Offer useful suggestions—“No query to an author should sound stupid, naïve, or pedantic,” the Chicago Manual advises. “Nor should a query be so phrased that it seems to reflect upon the author’s scholarly ability or powers or interpretation… Every author has a right to expect conscientious, intelligent help from an editor.”

Editing, as New York Book Editors says, “addresses the creative content, writing style, and language use at the sentence and paragraph level. But the purpose of a line edit is not to comb your manuscript for errors—rather, a line edit focuses on the way you use language to communicate your story to the reader. Is your language clear, fluid, and pleasurable to read? Does it convey a sense of atmosphere, emotion, and tone? Do the words you’ve chosen convey a precise meaning, or are you using broad generalizations and clichés?”

Consider all these things. And don’t feel shy about asking for expert help when you need it.

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

Need a corporate blog but don’t have the time or editorial expertise? Try Speech-to-blog, a new corporate blogging service from Collective Content.

 

 

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Contact us

Contact us to find out how we can help you:

Email:  tony.hallett@collectivecontent.co.uk

Twitter:  @ColContent

Facebook: facebook.com/CollectiveContent

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/collective-content

Phone:  0800 086 9333