Jeff Coyle and Elite Editing CEO Jennifer Rotner dive deep into how to keep an editorial operation firing on all cylinders. Scaling content while maintaining quality is no easy feat. In this inspiring conversation, Jeff and Jennifer discuss many of the challenges content teams face and how to overcome them.
Click to view the entire conversation.
Here are some of the takeaways from this 60 minute session.
The post-publish editorial process
Updating an existing piece of content requires a bit of editorial auditing to evaluate the content to determine whether it currently meets style and quality standards. The level of editing depends on the situation, if the content is dated (as in specific references to dates) the content may need to be scrubbed of those references.
Building a writing team
The writer is an important component of any content team. Like any team member, they will perform best with proper training and coaching. How do you make content continuous knowing that someone can leave or someone’s work can become full up? Create a process to make sure quality remains the same. Remember, the best methods are those that understand the process and how people play a role within it
Delivering content at scale
Delivering high-value content at scale required more than just having a stable of quality writers. You’ll need an interviewer to work with the client and understand their goals, aspirations, target audience and voice. That person will also need to work with subject matter experts to get any necessary content-related information. You’ll need a production manager to ensure schedules are met, plus an editorial editor, copyeditor, and proofreader.
Using subject matter experts
An interview with a subject matter expert (SMEs) along with a solid SEO content brief results in a worthy piece of content. A really valuable piece of content is going to primarily do two things: perform well in search and be valuable to an informed reader. The SEM could be a marketing manager, a CEO, an engineer, or anyone with the appropriate expertise in their field. Sending a questionnaire to an SEM usually doesn’t work. There are too many nuances that can only be uncovered through a meeting. Drawing that information out of an SEM, combined with the data and direction provided by a content brief is a recipe for success.
SEO and the content process
Some of the biggest pain points that occur within the editorial process happen when there’s lack of internal alignment about what you want a piece to be. Get everybody aligned on this is why we’re doing what we are doing. The SEO lead may have one purpose relating to SEO while another stakeholder wants to expand the article, effectively turning it into an ebook. That’s the scenario you want to avoid.
Jennifer Rotner is the founder and CEO of Elite Creative—the combined companies of Elite Editing and Elite Authors. Elite Creative is a woman-owned, full-service content and publishing services firm that offers content writing, editing, and creative support for companies of all sizes—from small businesses and nonprofit organizations to Fortune 50 companies—as well as for independent authors at every stage of the publishing journey.
Under her leadership and despite the intense pressures of the past two years, Elite grew to become one of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies in 2021.
Jennifer lives in Baltimore with her husband, son, and 12 chickens.
Connect with her on LinkedIn.
Jeff Coyle: Welcome to other MarketMuse content strategy webinar, and our smart content strategy webinars series. I’m Jeff Coyle, the co-founder and chief strategy officer for MarketMuse and today’s session is going to be super exciting because we’re talking to somebody who has done it, all that relates to content and editorial and editing.
And our session is called a behind the scenes look into editorial operations with elite editing. Before I introduce our. Special guests. A few housekeeping things, ask us anything or almost anything, and we’ll get to it either in line during the discussion, if it’s relevant, as the flow of our discussion goes, and we’re going to save some time at the end to answer any remaining questions.
So please don’t be shy fire away. Also you’ll be getting this, recording the next few days. So look for it in your emails, while you’re at it though, go check out the webinars link on our homepage. Access to all of MarketMuse sourced webinars, everything that we’ve run. I think it’s almost a hundred shows.
Everyone from sales enablement superstars, like Pam did her, content strategists like Andy Crestodina, and Kevin indig on user intent profiling way before it was cool. So go check those out. Let me know, give me some feedback. All right. So now, introducing our guest, she’s the founder and CEO.
Of elite editing, Jennifer Rauner. Thanks for joining us today, coming from Baltimore. Tell us a little bit about elite editing, how it came to be the mission. And the reason why you’re here is because I’m going to steal some of the mission. The, some of the mission is high quality content every time.
But tell us a little bit more about what you’ve done at Alina editing. Sure,
Jennifer Rotner: sure. I started a lead editing, coming up on 13 years ago. So we were. We were first before we were even in the content space, we were in the proofreading and editing services space. So at our core, we have always been a quality control organization, which feeds well into the conversation we’re going to have today.
And then obviously as the content marketing and content strategy, world evolves elite evolve with it. So over the years we’ve become primarily a content creation. Agency, basically working with companies like MarketMuse to help their clients execute on really great strategy. So we’re the implementers where the executor’s of a content strategy for a content marketing plan.
We do all B2B working with organizations to help them scale their content and we write and edit millions of words a month.
Jeff Coyle: Awesome. That’s exciting. So I’m just going to start with. A couple of things. What I find in the space, especially if you’re coming strictly from the search engine optimization world, some of these basic vocabulary words, they’re not easily definable.
Like what I find in the search space specifically, or even in content marketing, to some extent where somebody who’s just entering, they don’t know what proofread. They don’t know what editing even means, as a function. And how, there’s a follow up question. I like to ask four or five questions in a row and basically the role of an editorial lead.
What is Proofreading?
Jeff Coyle: So can you walk through your perspective on what is proofreading? What is editing with regard to. Both content marketing, but then separately, maybe for publishing and then we’ll get into kind of that editorial,
Jennifer Rotner: sure. And I’ll mention with that since you mentioned publishing. So we have, our parent company is elite creative elite editing as this B2B side of our business.
It’s my it’s the older sibling and the business elite authors is our second org. We are a publishing services company, so we do a tremendous amount. We work directly with publishers. Who are producing, traditional publishers who are producing books. And we also of course work with independent authors and do all sorts of publishing service.
So this is a world we’ve been in for a long time, really understanding, the different editorial levels. Like you’re saying, we get a lot of questions about this, and there’s a lot of misunderstanding in the world as to what is, editing versus proofreading and then break, editing down even more, services that we offer.
Developmental editing, which is, a step down from ghost writing, a book doctoring, to line editing, copy, editing, proofreading, cold reading. What are all these things? I won’t geek out too much about it. Yeah.
Jeff Coyle: I’m going through the list. No, cause this is the stuff people need to know. A lot of, a lot of first teams basically they’ll get a draft.
They’ll look it over and then they’ll publish it.
Jennifer Rotner: This probably this just needs a proofread, right? This just means, and we’ll have to take a step back and say for various reasons, you may want to consider also, including these other pieces. Then coming up on when we write content and I will get back to talking about those things.
When we write content, all of those services. Are included in our editorial process, right? If we’re talking today about behind the scenes of editorial operations, as I said, we’re primarily, or at our root, we are a quality control company. What we’re all about is creating a process that allows content when it comes out, the output is going to be at the highest level of quality.
How you do that. Hiring a great writer. Of course that’s a ingredient, but a huge piece of that is, is getting all of those other pieces of the assembly rat line. All of those other editorial pieces. So quickly back to that question, developmental editing is a really, that’s a term that’s mostly used in the publishing world, but that’s when you’re going to bring in a higher level editor, who’s going to look at the piece, from idiation on, is this accomplishing the goals?
Of the piece, the goals of what we want this piece of content to do, is it all in one voice, that’s a really important piece because especially within an organization, if there’s multiple stakeholders who are submitting different pieces, you can often feel like this paragraph was clearly. From a different perspective or by a different person than this other paragraph or page.
We see that a lot when we work on white papers and reports and there’s multiple people feeding in information, we internally call that one voicing, right? One voice, everything so that it feels like it was written by one cohesive author. So a lot of that stuff happens at the developmental edit stage.
Line edit is like sentence level, really going through and not just correctly. Th the text, but, again, making sure that structurally it all feels similar. And then copy editing is copy editing is the run of the mill straight up the middle. When people think of editing, that’s checking for grammar, punctuation, spelling, syntax, overall correctness.
That’s also where we might check, any citations or anything like that. If they exist there. And then, again, It can be called different things in different industries. Proofreading, our cold reading, we use that as that’s the final check, when something has already been seen, it’s already been through a more cohesive or more in-depth edit.
The proofread is the final look to make sure that there’s no errors on the way out that a piece is published. Ready. That’s a very short version of, editing 1 0 1. And as I said, even different. And different verticals. Think of those slightly differently. That’s a publishing a definition of those pieces, but the answer is we use them all and they’re all tools in our tool belt, as far as getting a piece of content to be a high quality and out the door.
The Post-publish Editorial Process
Jeff Coyle: Nice. That’s perfect. That’s exactly what I wanted to walk through. Harming about post publish editorial processes. So after something’s been published, but the client has brought it to you and said, I this needs additional editing in some way, or it needs something more or needs to be expanded or touched.
What are the types of things you might do? What are the types of processes that might get, get put into motion in that situation so that they are touching someone else’s work. And it’s the expectation is that it’s going to be a, a, more of a lift. So what are the things that you think about, or what type of role resource would get involved?
Jennifer Rotner: Yeah. And I think, especially in the world, we’re in Jeff, we see a lot of that in that, oftentimes clients come to us and they know they need new content, but they also maybe have a whole library of content, existing content that isn’t. doing Isn’t performing for them in some way, either it’s outdated.
Maybe they had a really great blog writer on staff in 2016. And all of the articles talk about what was happening in 2016. So they need to be scrubbed for anything that was current at the time and just brought up to become evergreen content or they, a lot of times people come to us and they have a huge library of content.
Maybe the CEO has written a book or he’s he or she has spoken. And have they have a whole catalog of speeches and presentations in addition to old blog posts. And a lot of what we do at that level is a bit of an editorial audit. And then, and then a re-purposing right. How can we use this content?
How can we make it, how can we make it usable now? How can we make it valuable to you now? So a lot of editing at that point, is Evaluating and updating, that could be any level of editing, right? That’s not necessarily one level over another. And like all of our editorial operations, those conversations start with talking to the stakeholders, understanding the purposes of the content that you need, and then understanding the level of writing or editing that would be needed to accomplish that.
Yeah, we come in at all levels. We come in with fully existing content, or. Just another way that we often help organizations. We work with some large, fortune 50 fortune 10 companies, where they have writers that come in from all over the place, but they’ve really high editorial standards for who can publish on their blog.
And so they’ll hire us to essentially The arbiters of style, or we’ll take their style guide or we’ll help them even create a style guide. And then anyone who writes for them, it comes through us we’re that final look on the way out. So that, again, that one voicing all of the content has the same level of quality.
It’s all styled in the same way. It feels cohesive. So that from the blog perspective, even if there’s 50 writers, it’s going to feel nice and consistent
Jeff Coyle: Cool. No, that’s great. That’s a great output. So I’m going to track back to something that you said two things that you said that to somebody who maybe doesn’t know you at detail, they might seem a little bit contradictory.
One was you talked about, what happens when a great writer left and then later on it was. People believe that just hiring a great writer is enough. Yeah. And what, and my interpretation is, first of all, if you’ve done or listened to anything that I talk about from a competitive analysis perspective, one very important thing in competitive cohort analysis is knowing when great writers leap, because, or when Greg writers are hired or when various strategic SEOs were at.
Or things like that, you should always know that for your competitors, you should know that, this person that used to write everything there is to know about shipping containers over here. They don’t write that stuff anymore. And the supply chain content got really weak and now maybe it’s being outsourced to a non-expert group and you can see it happen in the competitor’s inventory.
So now you’re talking about though, when the writer leaves. Okay. What do you. What are those processes look like from a, from the lens of editorial perspective now, and then the second question will be, why is a, why is it not enough to just have great expert level writers or great writers, generally generalist writers?
Building a Writing Team
Jeff Coyle: What are the pieces that we’re missing when we’re staffing our team? Like when we’re building a three-person writing board, we’re building five and what are we missing? What do we not know about. The operations, editorial, operations, getting stuff done that, because you’ve done it 1 million times.
That’s what you
Jennifer Rotner: know, yeah. Look finding a great writer is key. That’s I’m not gonna dispute that note, in general, of course, having great writers, having great editorial talent is key. That’s what we’re all about is finding great editorial talent. But, we talked about this before and I even mentioned that there was someone that commented on my LinkedIn post about this webinar.
I was like, I’m really interested in your perspective on this. We have one writer who writes 20% of our content or 50% of our content, or in some smaller orders, one writer who writes one person, I write out all of our content that might be. Someone within the marketing org, it might just be someone who’s just a good writer who does it on the side.
But we as humans are a finite resource. So what we’re really talking about today is how do you scale that content? How do you make that content continuous knowing that someone can leave or someone’s work, they can become full up. How do you maintain content quality? That’s really the big question, right?
That’s what we talk about here all the time. Jeff, you and I have had many conversations about that. When, a client comes in, we work with MarketMuse on a lot of clients. So if someone comes in and they want really high quality, potentially technical or niche content, that’s going to be several things.
High-performing based on the data and research. So something with the SEO background, backbone, that’s number one. But also, so it’s going to perform well, but also going to be valuable to an informed reader. That’s a really important piece. And also, it’s going to be successful in whatever the marketing metric of success is there, and moving people down the decision-making funnel.
How can you get a piece of content to do all these things? And do that at scale so that you might have a writer who can handle one or two pieces at a time. But what if you need 20? What if you need 50? What if you need a hundred? What if you get a really fantastic content strategy from Jeff’s team and it recommends so much opportunity that can happen.
If you write a hundred pieces over the next year, that’s a big undertaking, right? So that’s, those are the conversations we’re having. Those are the teams that we’re helping build. And that can’t be accomplished by one writer. And it certainly is a high risk. If you have one writer who you think can do it, and then something happens in there, they’re no longer available, they’re no longer an asset to you.
So what we really talk about is how to build that assembly line. That’s going to create a really great output, a really great content deliverable at the end, that isn’t just about one writer. And so for us, what we have learned is it’s about creating a process. And creating a, a process really above everything else in a workflow that is going to.
Make sure that the quality remains the same, regardless of the people you’ve got to have good people are so invested in hiring and training and coaching everyone who’s on this team. But what the most important thing to us is understanding the process and how people, the role that they play within that process.
Something we hear from clients all the time and we smile and nod when we hear this is, we really love that last piece. Can we make sure to have that. Can you just make sure that writer that does our next piece or D is on our team? First of all. Yes, of course. If you’re happy with the writer, we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.
But the reason that we often smile and nod, when we hear that. The writer is such a small piece of the assembly line. It’s important to have someone who can be in there with close to the words. But if I just break down really fast, I’ll break down really fast, what our assembly line looks like. We could probably spend days talking about
Delivering Content at Scale
Jennifer Rotner: what does that look. What are those pieces, right? If you, if anyone listening is thinking, what do I need to build in order to really establish a high value, high quality output of content at scale? We break that down into so many roles. You might have one writer who does all of these things, but again, there a finite resource.
So what happens when you need more? So we start with, we have a full interview team. Their job is to work with directly with the client and, there’s a whole expectation setting piece, which I can talk about separately, but once expectations are set, we understand the goals of the content. We understand the target audience, we understand the voice and tone.
We get all of that as part of our onboarding process. And again, we can go into that because there’s so much to unpack there. We then take those conversations, those transcriptions, all of the notes that we put together and the research and the resources we get about a client. And we turn that into what we call client dossier, right?
This is everything that we need to know internally. We package that so that the team, a whole team of people can use that in a repeatable way. So that information can be shared. That’s super valuable to our clients because once they tell us once they never have to tell us. We gain that institutional knowledge and we keep it.
We’ve all had a really great writer on our team or, whether it’s a freelancer or internal person and when they’re gone, all of that institutional knowledge leaves with them and then you have to start over, right? You have to train someone, you have to get them to understand that the audience, the voice, the tone, the products, the services with.
You tell us once we keep that knowledge and we share that among our team, because we’ve packaged it in a way that’s really digestible to the whole editorial staff. And from there we build the team. So we have the interviewer, they’re going to be the person, communicating. We obviously of course have a project manager that keeps production schedules and calendars and make sure everybody shows up to the meetings and everything gets done.
We then have. And this could sometimes be the same person, but essentially that developmental editor they’re going to come in and they’re going to do the ideation. What does this piece need to be about? What’s the kind of central thesis of this article. If you’re writing a 2000 word article with a million different H2s that it’s really important to stop and say, what does a reader need to walk away from?
What is, what are we really trying to say here beyond just hitting the SEO structure and content score? We add that layer really what’s what does the client want to see in this article? What’s going to be valuable to their informed reader. And then that gets packaged. It gets given to the writer writes, they’re given all these writing instructions, all of this material and these resources to write from, that’s where obviously the big stuff happens.
And then from there continues down that assembly line. It goes back to the D to the dev editor. Who’s going to look at it and say, yeah, you hit it. You got. Or, I heard these other things in the interview. They mentioned those five things, but they really hammered home that this was the most important.
So let’s make sure that gets brought up or prioritized in terms of, the structure of the art. So it might go back to the writer at that point for some rewrites, then it continues on, goes down to a copy editor, to a proofreader, et cetera. So by the time we send something to a client that might be, that might happen and, 10 days, it’s, it can happen in a pretty short period of time.
We can write a very big, robust piece, but it’s gone through that entire editorial line. And when we hand it back, it’s essentially published. Ready. Of course at that point, we’ll do feedback rounds and close any feedback loops with stakeholder. But we’re giving them a piece that it’s the layers of thought and the layers of, beyond just SEO or good writing or all these things, the layers of strategy that go into them is what makes them, I think the most valuable ultimately, and we all know a piece of content essentially lists forever.
That doesn’t mean it can’t then be repurposed. That really good piece from 2016, that’s outdated. But if you do this. And you put this content out there, it’s going to return and return. It’s going to continue to be a piece. That’s a value wherever it is within the marketing funnel. So that’s our goal is to make these really high value pieces that are going to help people achieve their goals.
The Onboarding Process
Jeff Coyle: That’s such a great breakdown at so many levels, but I’ll unpack it. So you’re talking about your specialized onboard. How long does your onboarding. And is it a one day process? Is it five meetings? W what is it typically? What’s the length of time for that onboard?
Jennifer Rotner: Okay. I’m going to answer this in two ways.
I’m going to answer this externally with our clients, and then also internally with our editorial team, our writers and other,
Jeff Coyle: yeah.
Jennifer Rotner: I’m sorry. I, because when I first heard the question, I thought about that, but now I know, thinking about our. It takes a minute. It takes a minute.
It’s not something that we try and rush into. We always try and set the expectation with clients that, the first 90 days is all about calibration. If you help invest in us in teaching our teams, What we need to know, then it becomes something you have to think about anymore.
We have clients, we have joint clients. We have clients we’ve worked with together for years now, who, when it comes time, they’re like, tell us what you need, because they’re SMEs. Look at something really fast and approve, because we’ve gotten to a place with them where it’s on rails, right?
That’s the goal. That’s the sweet spot when content is on rails and it takes all that. Off of the client’s side. And for us, we know we’re delivering something, that’s going to be high value. So we start, we generally, I would say, have, we can narrow it down to, one to two kickoffs. The really important thing at the beginning is understanding who the stakeholders are and making sure we get everyone on the same page, all expectations aligned for what the purpose of this content is, where things go off the rails later is often if that step is not done correctly, probably a lot of people out here listening have run into these issues where, everyone’s down to do this content. Everybody agrees that SEO is super important. Everybody wants to have a robust blog, and some really great pillar pages and all that gets approved and you start and then down the road.
When you’re getting ready to publish, you learn about the unanticipated stakeholder, right? That might be someone in legal or compliance, or it might just be, another, a C-suite person who wasn’t involved, but then comes in and says, Hey, if we’re writing about this, can’t we add this and this end.
And that, that takes content off track in terms of what its original purpose was. It gets, it starts to get muddled or. Worried about SEO or do we want to get all these new topics in there? It’s what causes things to lose their timeline, to become less efficient. So what re what we really focus on from the beginning is get everybody on the same page.
What do you want out of this content? Who do we need to show this to? We’ll manage the entire approval process. So who needs to see. When do they need to see it just, do legal and compliance need to approve the topics because oftentimes they’ll, we’ll get all the way down the road and we’ll have this beautiful 2000, 2,500 word article or page ready to go up.
And it’s we can’t talk about that. And that’s a lot of, that’s a lot of effort from a lot of people. So we try and get everybody on the same page from the beginning. What’s the purpose of this? Do we all understand? And agree to what the purpose of this is, who are the SMEs that we’re going to be working with?
How, how do we get in touch with them? What’s the cadence going to be of both interviews and delivery. We set all that up on a kickoff call. We get everybody on the same page and then we’re ready to go. We’ll then do some resource collection, any style guides that are available, any, resources out there, whether they’re credible websites, you want us to link to.
Looking at the competitor market is obviously a big piece. Who do you not want us to link to? You know who’s doing this really well? What content out there? Can you hold up? Whether it’s on your own site or a competitor site, or even a totally different industry to say, we love their voice. We want to sound like them.
We take all that. We mix that together into, what we call our client dossiers. And that’s what, that’s our secret sauce, is understanding what clients are looking for. So in a, on. How much is involved at the beginning and how technical things are either a kickoff call or two gets everybody aligned.
And then from there we run with it, we’ll start to put together a whole production calendar, and schedule things out based on the cadence that’s decided. So it takes probably a couple of weeks to produce that first piece of content. And then from there it rolls right. Then if a client. Five, 10 pieces a month.
We can set that schedule ahead. We have a content strategy we work from and it just rolls. So you start to see content on a regular cadence. So that’s the onboarding process for us again. And in a nutshell, I did want to mention the onboarding process for writers and editors, because I think that’s important too.
And I’m glad that you asked that. We hold a lot of time for training. And, and coaching to both get people into our process and to get people acquainted with the level of quality that is expected of them. We do a ton of investment in our new people, obviously hiring right now is everyone’s pain point.
And we’re really focused on, we have a team, a freelance. Of contract writers and editors that’s in the several hundreds. So we’ve got a really good team to work from. And so we focus not just on hiring, which we’re hiring all the time, but also on retention. And for us, it’s really about, especially, these.
Everyone’s remote. We’ve been remote for almost 13 years. I’ve been almost 13 years, so we’ve always been a remote organization. I consider that a huge competitive advantage, but I liked that the world is catching up. But we do find that the more connected, a freelancer feels to the organization, the longer they’re going to stay.
So we spent a lot of time really investing in our team. From a cultural perspective, from a communication perspective, making them feel like they’re a part of us and the beginning, they’re working directly with a person. We call a senior editor. That’s essentially their coach, who is working with them.
Who’s answering all their questions so that they don’t feel like they’re in a silent. Or they don’t feel bad about raising their hand and being like, am I doing this right? Does this, I, I saw some, a direction here about what I’m supposed to do, but that didn’t really follow with what I heard in this interview from the client.
How do I reconcile those two things? So we really leave a lot of space for our new team members to feel acquainted with how we do things and to feel connected and a part of. So I, I don’t know that I could put an exact time on that, but certainly the first four to six weeks are really key. We don’t just have someone write a piece and be like, all right, you did good.
Go on. It’s really, for both our clients sake and internally for retention purposes, we’re very careful in walking people through the product, the process until they feel like they’ve got it down cold.
Jeff Coyle: Wow. No, that’s really awesome. That’s and that’s kinda what I like to explain to folks who are getting.
They’re in the historic mindset of I’m a content marketing specialist I’ve got up. I don’t have any writers or I’ve got a writer, right? Here’s those processes that you can’t possibly be doing at the elite level when I’m using that pun intended. But what it also tells us is here’s the situation, right?
You can’t possibly be building the things that are, product that has that possible output without a clear understanding of what a great developmental editing process is, without a, process for these different ways to make sure that you’re getting what you’re getting. And then you think about the way that you’re training up the way that you were doing that.
Consultative approach for developing as you called it a client dossier or getting a value match with the client ahead of time and all the stakeholders. I think that’s really cool.
Using Subject Matter Experts
Jeff Coyle: One of the things you mentioned, and I’ll just, pivot this to a different line is a content brief and an SME interview how do those things turn into.
Payload effectively. So many times, this is so many times I’m talking to teams and they will write content without an SME interview and they’ll write content without briefs. And then they’ll wonder why they’re not being successful when those are two of the pieces of every puzzle, unless it’s repurposed, right?
Yeah. If you’re re if you’re repurposing. You can get by without certain items and still make it good. Cause you’re using output that was generated with and as I’m the interviewing and the content brief in the first place. So tell us a little bit more about that. And then I have a couple more questions about Reaper.
Jennifer Rotner: Sure. That’s the basis of all of this, right? Is those are the two keys that you have to have at the beginning. And certainly there are some less technical. Businesses out there that might feel like I don’t. Do you really need an SME? Our answer usually is at first, please. Yes, because it’s always going to be valuable.
Everyone thinks they there’ll be fine. Just evergreen content. It doesn’t need to necessarily
Jeff Coyle: subject matter expert.
Jennifer Rotner: Yeah. We say SME, some people say to me, but, but subject matter expert, I don’t know. What’s right. I’ll be honest.
Jeff Coyle: I don’t want it to be jargon.
Jennifer Rotner: Yeah, that was a really, that’s a great call-out.
So that’s us meeting with subject matter experts. That subject matter expert, might be The marketing manager, it might be the CEO, just talking about what are your products or services? What, again, who’s your target audience? Who are we trying to reach? How are we talking to them? Just getting, even just getting that information downloaded at the beginning is super valuable, but we also live in a space, where we’re working on, we’re working in a lot of niche industries.
We’re working on a lot of technical material. We’re always going to want access to those SMEs because. Again, coming back to one of the points I made earlier, a really valuable piece, a really valuable piece of content is going to primarily do two things and a lot of other things too, but primarily it’s going to perform well in search and it’s going to be valuable to an informed reader.
And in order to be those two things, you need, the two things you just said, you need a great SEO, brief. You need the backbone that the content is going to perform because you can write all the beautiful content you want. But if it’s not. What’s the point, right? So if we’re talking about SEO content, that’s number one.
So we start from really great data. That’s why we’re here talking. Jeff and I have worked together. Jeff. I actually just was curious. So I looked at our first introduction. We were we’re, past four years now that we’ve been working together, that we first smoke time flies. And the reason why this has been such a great partnership is because.
You guys value great content and quality, and we value really great data, right? So we get really great data from MarketMuse, from the platform that sets us up for success to start. And then what we try to bring to the table from there, besides knowing how to write to these briefs is getting, pulling out the information that’s going to make each article each piece valuable to an informed reader.
That’s when we’ll meet with SMEs, we get to know SMEs on. teams So I mentioned it could be a marketing manager, or it could be anyone up to the CEO, but in the technical niche industries, it’s going to be the specialists. We write about a lot of technology services and products. That’s a big space that we’re in.
If you’re going to really dig into, database and cloud services, you’ve got to talk to an engineer, you talk to a developer. So we identify who are those key stakeholders on your team that you can let us work. We manage those relationships. We try and make that really easy.
But we’ll set up quick calls and just say, here’s the topics we’re going to talk about. Here’s the briefs? Does this look like, is there anything in here that feels like it shouldn’t be here? Is there anything that feels like there’s a conflict? Is there anything missing, if you’re going to talk about this time.
Is there anything that we didn’t catch in the brief, anything we want to make sure it gets added in. And it might be something, news jacked. It might be something that’s happening in the world. Yeah, we could talk all about this, but there’s also this whole new, there’s this whole new talk of a whole new theory that’s related to this and we might just want to mention it because that’s pretty buzzy.
Those are the things we get from SME interviews on top of just the content. We also, we want to get it right. And without talking to people, we can’t know, we can send a questionnaire and all of that, but we get there too with clients who, if they prefer it, what are the resources out there?
Who do you want us linking to? Who are the subject matter experts in your industry that are non-competitive? So we’ll get all of that information. On an article per article basis. For most of our clients, we meet monthly. We usually in 30 minutes to an hour can cover depending on the level of technicality, anywhere from five to 10 articles.
So it keeps us moving really fast, but it keeps that feedback. On the backend really little, the really low. So if we get all this information up front, we can write a great piece. We can send it over to those SMEs and to, anyone else who is who’s doing the approvals and they can look at it and be like, oh, they hit it.
I got it. The goal is to make that piece of the process of the workflow as truncated as possible. So let’s get it right upfront and then move it through. So the, so you said it, those are the two things that we required. Or a great brief from an SEO perspective and subject matter expertise that we can overlay on top of that information that’s going to make it valuable.
Jeff Coyle: Love it. Now I’ll just highlight two things you said, and I’m gonna ask some questions. If you are just doing work outside of the org and then passing it to an assembly line that then SEO is it. You’re probably going to be in trouble. It’s never really worked well. It makes everyone feel bad. Get a habit, do it early.
Make sure, when you’re making a decision about what to create, how likely is this going to be successful at the end of the funnel? That’s your first goal. Second is build the outline and structure so that the writer will naturally build something that has the opportunity to be successful in organic search.
You do those two things. You start to get it right.
Using Internal Resources
Jeff Coyle: I’ll give you the other Trojan horse, Jeff, the Jeff’s secret of the day, right? Is if you ask people internally for their perspectives on things and their expertise, they care about content more. Okay. Because no matter how big or small they have, everyone’s got a little or a really large ego, getting their input on content is one of the most important.
Things for an editorial team internally, a writing team, a content team, no matter how big or small and an SEO team to be successful, right. Is your head of product. You never talked to him in four months, ask him a bunch of questions to interview for content pieces. Guess what? He’s going to care about content a little bit more.
Okay. That’s just my inside baseball, a behind the scenes for.
Jennifer Rotner: And you get buy in, you get by asking people to turn to someone and look at it. It’s a win-win because you actually really do want their perspective. So to be able to go to that head of pro of product and say, you’re an expert, you’re the expert here.
We really want these pieces to be so good and no one’s going to make them we’re involved. So we lean on you to just help us set this up for success. Oh, you’re right. I am the expert. I could probably help with that. And those are the relationships we, as the editorial team covet because, and we will help make that happen.
And our whole job and our whole goal is to make it painless. So we’re not going to sit there and make that person feel like they have so much work to do. You are the expert we want to lean on you. We would love to know from you what you want out of this, what’s going to make this successful for you.
We get their buy-in, you get their buy-in and we get the information we need to write a successful piece. Yeah.
Jeff Coyle: It’s not naturally in most cases is not naturally going to be their priority. And when I get lost in the lost, in the MarketMuse sauce, I’m not controlling. Insights and expertise to our content as much as I’d like to be, but I’ll just give you an insight.
It’s literally on my Jeff personal OKR to contribute X, doing SME interviews and working with the team. And if you can get to that point with your C suite, you’re doing it right. And that’s, I think about elite editing, one of the teams writing millions of words, won’t write a content item without.
And an SME in most cases. That’s just you, that’s what you shall tell yourself. Okay. So I got some great questions coming in from some awesome people, Jim. Hello? He just gave us a, an early hello, Eric. Eric Schwarzman. How are you buddy? Don’t check out our podcast that we did a few months ago.
Packaging, Pricing, and Performance
Jeff Coyle: How do you think about, it’s a multithreaded question. We answered the question. Do they consider search engine optimization? Goal-setting for performance before a writing, as well as during the process. The second one he asked is, it relates to image, dry image, driven posts, pricing, and what wouldn’t be included.
So image licensing fees, sourcing, picking, placing images. So let’s talk about packaging pricing, and. How you think about performance? I think that’s a good way to summarize is five questions. No, not Garrick. I love your questions, but yeah.
Jennifer Rotner: Yeah. That’s okay. Let’s break that down. So what’s included in images.
I’ll start. Yeah. So those are all things that we certainly can do. We always include them as an add on, because we do find that if there’s a, a robust marketing team that needs the editorial, that’s our zone of genius. We know that. So we start with, a package that’s just about creating content.
Sometimes we’ll be asked, if you’re meeting with SMEs, cause a lot of times, depending on the topic and SME might be an external person, it might be. It might be a partner of the client. It might be someone who, who weighs in a consultant who, depending on what the topic is. So sometimes when we’re out there, we’ll be asked, can you gather the assets?
Can you just, when you’re talking to the SMEs and any stakeholders, can you ask them if they have an image of themselves, if they’re being highlighted in some way, or of the work that they’re doing, if it’s a project specific piece of work. So sometimes we’ll do the, The gathering of images.
Sometimes it will be asked, can you give us suggestions based on the content? Can you give us maybe, two to three suggestions of what a good image would be and we’ll source them because we have a licensing agreement with Getty or something like that. So oftentimes our role in that is just playing a part in the suggesting or in the gathering.
There are certainly clients who ask us to pull images. We’re happy to do that, but that’s, that’s not our main role there. We can fulfill a lot of creative pieces. We do have folks on the team, especially because of our publishing services side, who can resize images and other things just so that you get that kind of full agency experience.
But, I, we don’t upsell that in any way. If you need it, we’ll do it for you. But otherwise we will focus on yeah.
Jeff Coyle: On content. Good to now. You answered the question, you also, you, you answered, also answered the question. How do you handle image sourcing and licensing at scale? Particularly if you want editorial rather than promotional.
So not a huge focus, but you will provide it
Jennifer Rotner: on record. Absolutely. Absolutely. We’re happy to pull images. Sometimes people will just give us their login and say, can you just make that part of your process just to supply, one to two images that suggest. And as I said, resize them and other things, but we that’s if people don’t have those resources internally, we’re happy to provide them, but it’s not something that we say you must have when you hire us.
We’re going to do all of these pieces. We really focus on where content creators were writers. I will say also we do a tremendous amount of social media. That is one place where we do a lot more creative. We write, full social media content sets for people specifically on LinkedIn. You don’t need any help.
Jeff, you’re amazing at LinkedIn, but you’ve got, you’re a thought leader. You’re. You’ve got, you’re putting out tons of content. We help people essentially be like Jeff, right? Putting out at least three pieces of content.
Jeff Coyle: He did do more. No, I’m behind my, I’m behind my goals this year already.
Cause I got, I had a cold and stuff out painful have back. I should have backup plans in place in case I’m out of.
Jennifer Rotner: That’s what we’re here for. We’ll have to talk about that. So I, and I’ll be the first to say. I run a writing company. I didn’t get really great at, until I plugged myself in like a client.
And now my content is, is singing it’s doing great. But so with that, we’ll produce, we’ll produce posts that are in a company style in their colors with their logo, all of that. So we do have the capability to create, like tile posts and other things like that. And we can certainly apply that to.
SEO and the Content Process
Jeff Coyle: Awesome. We are getting blasted with questions and they’re really good. One and one of them I have to answer first and then hand it off to you. So Carly, hi, Carly. High five for this question. How do you ensure that SEO doesn’t get lost throughout the process? Should that be owned by an editorial team or an SEO team?
And I’ll say. Or both, but let me answer it first. When I said before the dreaded SEO edit, what I meant was you only start thinking about SEO after the editor thought of what they’re going to write, wrote it, execute graph, did all the work and then handed it. And then it got chopped up and words added.
And can we focus on this? And then it goes back to the writer, that’s the recipe for disaster, but what is my, and I love your answer for this too, but it’s, if it’s being thought of throughout the process, less of that painful stabbing of one’s art happens at the end. And I know this from personal experience because I was.
like In that situation once. And I was like stabbing the content in the heart and trying to do that. And I know that doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for so many reasons. But from your perspective, generally, so Carla, hopefully that clarify what I said earlier. How do you ensure, Jennifer at elite, how do you ensure that search doesn’t get lost throughout the process above and beyond just that a brief, and then whose, who should own that on an in-house team?
That it is on them.
Jennifer Rotner: What a great question, because that speaks to probably some of the biggest pain points that we feel within the editorial process when that gets lost, or, when, there’s not that internal alignment about what you want a piece to be. If you ask two different stakeholders, what is the purpose of this?
And one says SEO, and one says, I really want it to be a deep dive into this topic. So when someone reads, it’s whoa. So what I said before about, having. Those kickoffs and getting that internal alignment. It’s really, for us understanding, who’s the final sign off here, but also does everybody understand what we’re trying to accomplish?
We have had multiple times we’ve had clients where we think we’ve gotten that and we’ve had a lot of lessons learned here. And you get down to, the final stakeholder approvals and someone comes in and they essentially, they weren’t involved in their original conversations. They don’t necessarily understand the.
SEO Purpose. And they want to turn that piece into a white paper essentially. And they start stuffing in all of this content. If you’re going to talk about this, you also have to talk about these three other pieces and a piece that maybe started out at 1500 words is getting to 3,500 words and the SEO is.
Gone. It’s in the ether, right? That’s the scenario you want to avoid. And I’ve lots of experience shares there. And Carly, I’d be happy to talk more about it, but the ultimate answer is get it right from the beginning. Get everybody aligned on this is why we’re doing what we’re doing. You brought us in because you care about SEO because you want this piece to be found.
You want it to perform. We’ve identified. This is where it is on the. funnel This is who’s reading it. This is how it’s going to get in front of a key decision maker. And in order for that person to find it, to do these things right. Sorry about my digging,
Jeff Coyle: Calendar
Jennifer Rotner: reminders. I’m actually I’m on with the MarketMuse scene after this, we’ll be fine.
Jeff Coyle: We got a bunch more, so let’s what I’d say is your search engine optimization. team Needs to own search engine optimization, right? The content team being aligned on what the goals of those pieces are. The dream scenario is you’re not touching it. And that’s what you, that’s your aspirational goal and who will love that more than the editor.
Right? And so that’s the type of experience you want to develop. And by the way, you work at one of the best company. In the whole wide world for this. So the person that asked that question and one that I love, so props to that. Okay. Now Daniel asks, and hi, Daniel, how are you, what tools do you use to help clients transfer knowledge to use so that you can properly write content?
Client Knowledge Transfer
Jeff Coyle: And by the way, we just had thunder come in. So let’s hope that I won’t get knocked out. We got a little bit of time. There’s wild. Okay. So what tools do you help to do client. Client knowledge transfer. And then we talked about interviewing, we talked about briefing, but what are some other things that you might use during that info gathering discovery process?
Jennifer Rotner: Yeah, it is so it varies significantly for us. The reason I say that is because we often, we come in and try and be a seamless part of organization. So I’ll tell you more than 50% of the time we’re working with an accompany is proprietary tools. We’re coming into their editorial workflow, but it’s part of if it’s part of their CMS in some way.
So it. I have not done heavy investment in putting people into our own tools. We definitely use things that are widely available. Of course. We primarily run on Smartsheet. We’re really big fans of Smartsheet in terms of project management and workflow. It’s a great place to also link to all of those resources I mentioned.
And then, we’ll use any kind of storage thing, Dropbox, nothing too crazy to gather, but we spend so much time in other people’s platforms. MarketMuse is a great example of that.
Jeff Coyle: Transcription also, who do you use for transcription?
Jennifer Rotner: We use a company called Temi, T E M I M.
And I know that zoom has, a lot of capabilities around that too. We happen to like Tammy. We also, we do a lot of work with people on other continents and theirs. So we also apply our own editing layer to, transcript. Which is we have people literally read and fix up those transcripts to be sent on to the writer so that they’re really legible and helpful.
So we do lots of different layers that I didn’t mention to get this stuff right. But, but we’re a big fan of Temi we’ve been using them for awhile.
Freelance Writer Incentives
Jeff Coyle: Awesome. Great answer. Tracy. Hi, Tracy. How are you? Can you talk about any incentives you use to retain freelancers
Jennifer Rotner: ours on her page?
This question didn’t come earlier because I would have spent way too much time on this.
Jeff Coyle: I got two. I got two. How good are they at predicting outcomes is one that I’ve seen at some really innovative teams, where they’re bringing the ideation in. How often are they right. That those things actually perform at the end of the.
That’s one, the other one is specifically performance driven against topics. Those are two really innovative ways to, to retain freelancers is. Spiffing on those two things, but you w what’s your ways to
Jennifer Rotner: retain, I’m going to listen back and take notes on what you’re saying.
Cause I always get great stuff from you.
Jeff Coyle: Oh yeah. Let’s get to the 62nd version just so that we can get through everybody.
Jennifer Rotner: So really quickly, as I said, we really focus on coaching and, from a retention standpoint, making people feel like they’re part of this team. We have a whole thing that we call, we call it the elite journey.
We finally launched it after years of training. Where we literally, we send people, gifts throughout their process of joining, a welcome gift when they’re out of that new editor queue, a birthday gift and anniversary gift. Obviously like a Christmas bonus, things like that.
So we do a lot to make people feel a part of things. We run culture calls and other things that aren’t just for our full-time people to really let people understand our values. We’re very culture-based so there’s all of that. And then of course, there’s the technical. We start people in at a certain rate.
And, and then they can work up based on, we, we having great increases based on how much work they’re doing and the quality, if we’re able to cut out certain editorial steps. Amazing that ideation piece, like you said, and they’re writing something that isn’t going to need to go through a dev at it.
We pass that, that rate along to them. So we, don’t just like more that we say, you’ve saved us this time and energy. We’re going to pay you more for that. So we really try and incentivize people in different ways.
Jeff Coyle: I’ve never heard that by the way. I’ve never heard that when it’s a good one-two punch with what I had said.
So that’s super, super awesome. I love that one. Really cool stuff. I’ll also say just, bragging on your order as well. You set an, a great example internally, almost all of your promotions, internally, our internal, internal, hires, who have elevated through the ranks. And I think that shows it’s a speak from experience show, show by.
Jennifer Rotner: My team, almost my entire senior leadership team and almost our entire full-time staff, started as a freelance writer editor, and we saw there, we saw their potential. We had that conversation. We think you’re great. Can we work more together? And we grew them through the ranks, my, including my number two person who we’ve worked together.
As I mentioned for 11 out of 12 years.
When Clients Won’t Share
Jeff Coyle: Steve. Hey man. Awesome. Are some businesses particularly difficult to write for when it comes from obtaining SME information? How do you handle that situation? Great question.
Jennifer Rotner: Great question. I would say I would, I have found that it’s not necessarily industry specific. It’s more about, a client’s willingness to share.
I will tell you we work with a lot of. Specifically in technology where a lot of information is proprietary. And so there’s a sense of, we don’t have much we can share. We don’t know what metrics we can say. So we do a lot of work at the beginning about expectation setting. Get again, getting everybody on the same page of what’s the purpose of this and how, what, how will this content.
We’re very clear about any sign-offs we have to get, if there’s any sort of compliance layer to make sure we’re never, putting people in position where they’re at the end and they’re ready to publish, and it gets yanked back from them. I think that there’s a lot of trepidation, in technical industries to share information or to let an SME go wild with a content agency.
So we’re very careful to like, hold hands there and say, this is how we’re going to handle it. You’re going to be read in on everything. Nothing’s going to get into the world with. Everyone signing off. I would say that’s usually where we run into, any roadblocks.
Jeff Coyle: Cool. No, that’s awesome. Yeah. I find, in subject matter expertise, in, in local, it’s hard.
If your expectation is. That may have been why Steve asked that question because he wanted to hear me say that word, because maybe he thought with that question now in local, it’s real tough. If your expectations, so I like to do a generalist experts. Local experts are tough. So you got to make sure that you’re being empathetic to what would, if somebody really was from this area and you wanted that to have local target, local intent target, what are the things that they would know?
Flagging Poor Performing Content
Jeff Coyle: That’s. And then you got to find people who have that level of information. So that was the only thing that I would add. Awesome questions. Thanks, Steve. Josh, awesome. How do you flag poor performing content? How quickly do you attack them and what do you do with them? It’s such a good question.
I’ve got so many ads. I can, we can do a whole
Jennifer Rotner: webinar for you. From an SEO perspective,
Jeff Coyle: I it’s by knowing what its goals. At the beginning. So if this is a support piece, I’ll tell you how not to do it sort descend by page views or entrances, anyone that tells you to anyone that tells you to prune your site based on traffic.
Doesn’t know what they’re talking about. And I’ll stand on that one. Maybe we’ll have an entire webinar on that, but. Yeah. What was its goal? What was the expectation that it would chip in? What value would a chip in? Is it achieving those goals? You do want to monitor, you don’t want to just monitor things at the page level.
You want to monitor at the mass, the topics, everything you have about coffee cups. This is just one of those things you want to go to the page level, topic level as well as the entire site. Cause one page can influence the entire sites before. You want to check those things. You will have a, I’ll keep this short.
You will have a average ramp time by site section. You should know that, right? How frequently does stuff start to happen on the site? Historically your page should be equal to, or better than your historical rank, then have checkpoints. Periodically for that page. Is this page fluxing more or less than the rest of my site?
So those are the types of things you’re looking at, but Josh, great question. How quickly, as quickly as that page is doing worse than your normal content, that’s actually the answer. I know that’s a super, super hard one, but hopefully that just made your brain explode. Awesome. That’s the answer. If it’s doing worse than what your typical stuff is doing from any of those characters, Take action.
You might need to manually submit it. You might need to rework it. You might need to think about repurposing earlier, blah, blah, blah. I can get into it. Wow. We are on two o’clock. We got through almost every question that we possibly can get through. Thank you to everyone that did ask questions. Thank you, Jennifer.
Go check out if you want to premium demo, which is where we’re actually looking at content strategy, personalized difficulty metrics. Topic authority and other things that only the MarketMuse premium offering enables. Go check it out. MarketMuse dot com slash book dash demo. We’ll set that up. Custom audit.
Jennifer, what have you got some plugs as we get to the end, but also just thank you so much. How can people get ahold? If they aren’t interested
Jennifer Rotner: in, LinkedIn’s probably the easiest space. I spent a ton of time there, as I mentioned. So Jennifer Rauner at LinkedIn, of course lead editing.com, but we worked so closely with the MarketMuse team.
If anyone’s coming on to, for a great content strategy and to use the platform and they also, on top of that are looking for, someone to execute on that content, tell MarketMuse they’ll come right to us.
Jeff Coyle: Exactly. All right. Thank you again, Jennifer. This was a. I’m already getting blown up on my phone feedback that this was just like super awesome.
So we’ll have you back and we’ll come up with some new topics, about briefs or about proofreading. We can just have, how do you proofread one-on-one so thank you so much for, for bearing with my weather and my slight cough and, thanks everybody else for joining us. It’s been really fun and we’ll see you next time.
Jennifer Rotner: Pleasure. Thank you.
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