Artist’s Guide to Working with Marketers – Part Two

If you're gonna die on that hill, just make sure you've picked the right one.


by Dave Robson

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Already read the first in our series about working with marketers? Good. Then let’s talk about another major sticking point: editing.

Don’t Be Precious About Editing

Your work will be edited. Sometimes by committee.

If we have one piece of advice about editing, it’s this: know what hill to die on. Lots of edits that get suggested, particularly if you’re working with people who haven’t created the kind of content you’re working on, will be unnecessary. Unless the edit would genuinely destroy the point of the work you’re doing or take far too much time, it’s best to let it go and just say yes.

Here are a few hills worth dying on:

  • The edit will take more than 25% of the time you spent creating the actual content.
  • The edit strays from your content goals.
  • The edit alienates your audience.
  • The edit does not fit your content themes.
  • The edit is completely incongruous with the rest of the content.
  • The edit uses too much corporate language, buzzwords, or jargon. We realise that ‘too much’ is completely subjective; our rule of thumb is that content marketing should be indistinguishable from the content you share everyday. If it starts to look like a commercial, read like a brochure, or otherwise offend your sharing instinct, the line has been crossed.

Take the Lead in Organising the Editing Process

Since you might be working with people who aren’t familiar with the creative side of editing (as opposed to the legal approval and logistical side), it’s your job to take the lead in making it work.

Here’s how to make the editing process go smoothly:

  • Insist that the process involve as few people as possible. Some managers like to bring a bunch of people into the loop. Then said bunch of people all feel the need to comment in order to justify being in the loop. Then everyone has created more work for themselves for no good reason. Try and keep the voices involved in editing to a minimum. Note, though, that lots of large companies will have to run stuff by their legal department first.
  • Limit keywords. Chances are, the company you’re working for will want specific language used in what you create because it relates to what they do. A phone company will insist on ‘smartphone’ instead of ‘phone’, a windmill company will want ‘green energy’ used, a selfie-stick maker will want to say ‘millennials’ ad nauseum. You get the idea. Keywords are fine but only when used in moderation. When moderation goes out the window, the content you create starts to read like a corporate brochure instead of, you know, an article. So draw the line and limit your content to just a handful of keywords. Have everyone decide on what they are prior to writing the content and then stick with your plan.
  • Set deadlines. For everyone involved in the editing process. If everyone on the team agrees to, say, a two-day turnaround time for a short 500-word blog post, then everyone will realise that it’s probably better to have three people in the editing chain instead of six.
  • Make sure you share editing standards of your field with the marketers. If, for example, you’re writing magazine articles for publications that use CMS (the Chicago Manual of Style), make sure to be clear to the rest of the team that those are standards you have to abide by.

Recognise That You Don’t Have Final Cut

You take ownership of the things you create. We get it. That’s why you’re good at what you do and it’s an admirable trait to have. But when a company is paying for you to create content marketing, it will belong to them and it’s important to never lose sight of that fact.

If you find yourself clashing too much with a client over what the final draft of your content will be, you basically have two options. One, you can fire the client and take whatever kill fee to which you’ve agreed. That might be the best move if you haven’t been working on the project for very long and can’t see yourself continuing without provoking a stress-driven aneurysm.

Two, you can suck it up, complete the work, and decline to work with the client in the future. This might be the better move if the project is already well on its way, if there isn’t a kill fee you can pick up for your time, or if you’d prefer not to anger the client.