managing editor

What Is a Managing Editor?

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We hear the same questions from overwhelmed marketers all over the country: Who should be in charge of my company’s blog? Should I hire an in-house writer or outsource that work? How can I staff my team so that content isn’t such a chore?

It’s true, you need people on your team to write and design content. But you also need someone to organize that work and connect it to the overall business goals and strategy.

You need a managing editor.

It’s not actually a new role — managing editors have long played a critical role in journalism — but they are still a fairly novel development for enterprise content marketing teams and even rarer in smaller teams. Even people already doing this work may not think to describe their work that way.

Here’s our quick primer on the role of the modern managing editor.

What Does a Managing Editor Do?

The managing editor is the person who owns content at an organization.

That means they:

  • Connect with other leaders in sales and marketing to develop a content strategy based on big-picture business goals.
  • Create an editorial calendar based on that strategy.
  • Manage the process for getting individual pieces of content created. At bigger organizations that might mean overseeing a full content team of writers, editors, designers and marketers. At a small company, that might mean actually creating the content. In either case, the “team” could include in-house staff, outsourced freelancers or a combination — but it’s the managing editor’s job to make sure all those roles are filled.

Who Makes a Great Managing Editor?

This is an intense role, whether inside a journalism organization or a marketing team.

The best managing editors we know have:

  • Broad business perspective. They need to speak the language of the C-suite. They need to understand business goals, see the plan to acquire new customers and be able to translate that information to other employees and the organization’s external audience.
  • Strong writing and editing skills. A great managing editor is comfortable writing and editing in a variety of formats and can make sure all content (written content, visual content and everything in between) is consistent with brand guidelines.
  • A knack for collaboration. They will need to work with different people across the organization to get content created and published. An effective managing editor will develop relationships with marketing, sales, product and customer service leaders to keep content ideas flowing throughout the organization.
  • Project management savvy. There are a lot of steps involved in creating a great piece of content, and the managing editor has to divvy them up and ensure they get done on schedule.
  • Analytical skills. They’ll need to interpret content performance data and make good decisions based on it.
  • Familiarity with marketing tech. Managing editors are often the lead decision makers in adopting and implementing marketing tech platforms.
  • Coaching and management skills. The managing editor will need to help everyone on the content team grow and improve.

What Does the Modern Managing Editor Need to Succeed?

In this context, managing editors sound like superheroes — which they are. But they need support from their organizations to make it all happen. Here’s what they’ll need:

  • Resources that match the ambitions of the organization. Content is powerful, but the difference between consistently amazing and meh is often a reflection of the time and money you devote to the content platform over time.
  • Technology that helps track effectiveness. As big-picture people, managing editors need tools to measure and record how content performs and how audiences react to it.
  • Dedicated time to spend on content strategy. At a small organization, this role might not be a full-time job, but the managing editor still needs time for planning and execution to keep the content plan from stalling.
  • Opportunities for continuous learning. The world of marketing tech is evolving quickly. Managing editors need to be able to set aside time for their own education and development.

Serving as a brand’s managing editor isn’t easy. That’s why we’ve created Managing Editor magazine — to give people what they need to succeed in the role.

Mary Ellen Slayter is CEO of Rep Cap. Before creating her own content marketing firm, she served as director of content development and a senior general business and finance editor at SmartBrief, a leading publisher of e-mail newsletters. Before joining SmartBrief, she spent 8 years at The Washington Post, where she authored the Career Track column and worked as an editor in the business news department. You can find Mary Ellen on Twitter @MESlayter.

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