Setting Your Own Editorial Guidelines

When I was writing for National Mortgage News, we ran one article written by an industry leader in each weekly print issue. We didn’t have much in the way of an online publication back in 1997. 

Today, some industry publications are written almost entirely by non-reporters. To make that work, each publication offers a set of editorial guidelines that any writer must meet if they expect to be published.

As a result, whenever you agree to write a bylined feature article for a trade publication and the editor agrees to publish it, it will always be subject to you following that publication’s editorial guidelines.

As thought leaders, the amount of content you will produce, whether in print, audio or video, puts you in the same league as some trade publications. Shouldn’t you have your own set of editorial rules?

Setting your own guidelines

A good set of editorial guidelines will tell prospective writers about the content requirements for the stories you write, including topics the editor will consider, acceptable word length, whether you can mention products in your story and sometimes even what person they want you to write the article in. Some take first person accounts, others won’t.

These guidelines ensure that the publication provides a uniform reading experience to its subscribers and it’s an important part of building the publication’s brand in the marketplace.

It should be the same for you.

You’re building your brand and you want to attract readers that will come back to read, listen to or view your future content. I’ve written in this space before about how I think every company should have an editor on staff just to seek out great stories and get them told, both internally and externally. If you don’t have one in your company and you want to be a thought leader, you are the editor.

As the editor, you’ll want to offer that consistent reader experience, so you’ll want to set your own editorial guidelines. 

You can start with just a few tactics in the Thought Leader’s toolkit and establish additional guidelines as they become necessary.

Here are some editorial guidelines I like to use. You’re free to create your own.

White Papers

2,500 words about a single problem the prospect is facing right now. A good paper defines the problem, explains how the prospect is dealing with it and why that’s not working and the negative implications of not solving it. Then scopes out an ideal solution before presenting the company’s solution to the problem. Finish with a call to action.

Feature Articles for Print

1,200-2,000 words with three or more sections in support of a single thesis, followed by a strong conclusion.

Online Articles

750-1000 words with three sections in support of a single thesis, followed by a strong conclusion.

Blog Posts

450-750 words about a single idea of topic.

Status Updates

Meeting the requirements of the various social media platforms that provides value by pointing back to valuable company content or other content of value to the firm’s prospects.

Just like any other part of your life, setting your own standards makes it easier for you to maintain a uniformly high level of performance. And like any other rule, once you set it, you’re free to break it.

This post first appeared on Scott Schang’s Second Opinion Loan Officer (SOLO) community. Find out more about his work on his website.

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