- Brand publishing teams must strike a balance between creating valuable, interesting content and protecting the best interests of their companies.
- Review processes can help ensure their work doesn’t cause unintended friction or consequences.
- Instituting a review process upfront that places editors in positions of leadership can mean the difference between original, impactful content and reheated press releases.
Most brand publishing processes focus, rightly, on creating well-written, interesting, valuable and error-free work. For teams that want to make good content, the value of a great editor can’t be overstated. But there’s often another part of the overall review process that is often forgotten amid the enthusiasm of creating good work: Balancing writing good, impactful stories but not having them hurt the business itself.
There can be a variety of ways in which content can hurt the business:
- In the case of services businesses, a story or article names a current client of the company in an unflattering way
- For an investment firm, private equity company or venture capitalst, a story exposes certain gaps in their portfolio — or inadvertently criticizes certain investments
- Articles with certain tones or angles offend someone within the company politically or socially
- Specific stances around issues such as racial justice, health or vaccinations can be polarizing
Problems like these can often do lasting damage to relationships and how the company presents itself. What makes this issue even more tangled is that correcting, clarifying or consistently “pulling” certain content offline, or printing apologies, are reactive measures that often do more harm than good.
It can be tempting to not think too much about these types of “hypothetical” problems upfront. After all, people assume that teams are staffed with experienced and talented people who will intrinsically know how to present information in a way that’s interesting but also palatable; and won’t hurt larger business interests.
What causes friction and potential conflicts?
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Writers and editors can be completely removed from connecting the dots between their work and how it may (or may not) jive with the company’s business or work.
In other cases, there may be a sense of separation between the company’s business work and its editorial work — the proverbial firewall that supposedly exists in journalism, for example. This kind of misplaced sense can result in outright issues when writers or editors think they can operate entirely independently from the wider company. But the fact is that even in the most evolved of businesses, brand publishing’s first and foremost goal is to improve the company’s overall business — whether through smart thought leadership, driving and building an audience and growing the bottom line. When writers and editors don’t put that mission front and center, one of the side effects is an unclear or vague understanding of how to ensure that the content being produced is actually additive and doesn’t hurt the business.
When any business decides to go all-in on brand publishing, executives have to be cognizant of the downsides and risks of making good content. For one, someone, somewhere is bound to be unhappy with what the company is putting out. Consumers may not like certain stances or topics; clients may not either. But good, effective publishing strategies can build real audiences and real authority — when done right, the upsides will far outweigh any potential downsides. But having a clear understanding that risks do exist, and trusting those who manage the publishing endeavor to manage those risks, is paramount for leadership.
That being said, a clear and well-thought-out review process that catches issues before they happen, instead of putting teams on the back foot if they arise, can go a long way in ensuring interesting, valuable, and business-friendly work is created. It’s no different from a newsroom legal team that ensures that a reporter’s work passes muster (and won’t get the business in trouble.)
Creating an effective content review process
Content review and editing processes for brand publishing can become particularly problematic when the publishing operation isn’t given leeway to operate, or is considered simply part of the marketing arm. But once those boundaries are set, teams should attempt to stem issues before they occur by implementing a sturdy and thoughtful process.
A framework of trust
Without trust between the publishing team, its writers, its editors and managers, and the wider organization, there runs the risk of an internal suspicion that can cripple the publishing team’s momentum. Without trust, executives will, for example, insist on seeing every single piece of content before it is published, or foresee problems or challenges where there may be none. This in turn will slow down output and not let the brand publishing operation work effectively.