Category Archives: Editing

How to Keep Deadline Creep from Killing Your Newsletter

Let’s say you publish a monthly newsletter to keep employees or customers informed about your business. Your submission deadline is the first of each month, but whenever it approaches, you realize you’ve got almost nothing for the upcoming issue. So, you email contributors a reminder to shake some articles loose.

And then you listen to the crickets.

That’s deadline creep. It’s crazy, but many newsletter contributors think the word deadline means the date they’re supposed to start thinking about possibly submitting. When you should be finalizing your content, it’s just beginning to trickle in.

It’s a problem because it’s like dominos. Once one newsletter’s schedule goes into the weeds, future issues are affected. You may have to push back submission deadlines or publication.

If the creep becomes extreme, skipping an issue may be the only way to get back on track.

Another mistake often made is assigning newsletter production to an employee with other full-time duties unrelated to publications. This makes the newsletter an oddball chore to be tackled “whenever.”

Every time you miss deadlines, it sends a subtle message that they don’t matter. How well (or long) would your company survive if employees and customers flouted all due dates?

Every newsletter published late, erratically, or not at all hurts your company’s credibility. If you don’t deem the content important enough to publish on time, readers won’t value it.

Fortunately, eliminating deadline creep is straightforward.

First, determine your newsletter’s appropriate frequency. This should be as often as you can reasonably manage while keeping the content fresh.

A quarterly newsletter is two-thirds less work than monthly (4 issues vs. 12), but if the content grows whiskers before anyone sees it, the publication is self-defeating.

Next, create a simple editorial calendar with submission deadline and publication dates. When figuring the editing and layout time you need, don’t be too generous. Newsletters go stale when the production phase drags on.

Now, publish your calendar.

A week or two before each deadline, send a reminder to contributors. If material straggles in after that, reject it or bump it to the next issue until they learn to respect your deadlines.

Once you begin publishing regularly and on schedule, your content’s value automatically increases. Once readers see your newsletter as a viable place to showcase their news, they become more willing contributors.

Killing deadline creep is a win-win because your contributors and production staff now know when to work it into their schedules, and readers begin to anticipate your regular communication with them.

How to Make the Leap from “Good Enough” to “Great!”

In any business communication to customers, prospects, or employees, the difference between mediocre and memorable writing is enormous.

Mediocre writing can make readers dismiss your message as junk, but clear, incisive writing has the power to boost your credibility and make your organization a trusted expert and industry leader.

Which image would you prefer?

This is how many companies end up with communications that are just “good enough”:

  • Competent in-house writers are unaware there’s an important distinction between composition and copywriting, so they write marketing materials all about what you do and how great you are — and they fall flat.
  • Brilliant engineers write technical descriptions of great products, but without editing for the target audience, readers scratch their heads and ask, “So what?”
  •  Typos appear in expensive, glossy brochures, newsletters, and website text because nobody took time for proofreading. Simple mechanical mistakes aren’t just embarrassing — they erode credibility on every level.

Every waking moment, people are bombarded with meaningless words and tune them out.

That’s why your words must matter. Your message must be sharp enough to cut through information overload.

I have helped many businesses improve their:

  • Ad copy
  • Blogs
  • Brochures
  • Direct mail
  • Internal communications
  • Manuals & user guides
  • Marketing collateral
  • Newsletters
  • Website content

First, I help you pinpoint your target audience, then I learn about your products and services so we can figure out exactly what you want readers to know about them — in language they can understand — so they’ll remember and choose to do business with you.

If you plan any investment in graphic or Web design, printing, or postage, you owe it to yourself to get the most for your money with writing that’s not just good enough, but Great!

How to Kill Your Corporate Newsletter

One sure way to make a corporate newsletter thrive is to place its focus on employees. They will read it, they will contribute to it, and they will believe that management cares about communicating with them.

I once had a client with such a newsletter. It was a delight to edit because employees across the country submitted stories about their accomplishments and events, complete with photos. It was a great recruiting tool, truthfully portraying the company as a fun, participative workplace.

But then control of the newsletter shifted from marketing to human resources, where the HR head was a political animal who saw everything as an opportunity for personal career advancement. Under this person’s direction, the newsletter withered.

If you’ve got a pesky publication you’d like to kill, you can follow this company’s recipe for disaster:

  • When the submission deadline nears, send a vaguely threatening reminder to potential contributors, with wording like, “This is strictly a friendly reminder that we’re expecting your articles.” (The “or else” may be implied.)
  • Keep stories of employees winning awards and hosting successful events off the front page. Instead, lead every issue with a formal essay on some aspect of the company’s finances—a real wall of words with long paragraphs and no subheads to break things up. Attach a highly placed exec’s byline and headshot to give it credibility, whether he/she actually wrote the piece or not.
  • Forbid the professional editor you’ve hired to improve the front-page story’s readability or make it consistent with the publication’s more conversational style. The executive authors may come off looking long-winded, grammatically inept, and prone to redundancy, but their every word is golden.
  • Decree that any article mentioning the company president must appear no later than page 2, even if the article falls neatly into an established section for such news. The president should never be forced to mingle with the peons, even on paper.
  • As employees disengage and submissions dwindle, fill the void with boilerplate about safety, customer service, ethics, whatever top-down lectures you can cobble from the Internet. Nothing livens up a publication more than recycled generic content. And the longer it is, the deadlier.
  • If the publication is print, move it online, but maintain the print format so readers may have to scroll and jump around a lot to follow stories. Bonus points if the original format was an oversized page — they’ll have to zoom, too.

Before long, your newsletter will shrink like a contestant on Biggest Loser. But the biggest loser will be YOU. You will have stifled employee engagement and killed one of your most effective channels for communicating with employees in a painlessly entertaining way, while earning their goodwill.

Why Proofreading Should Never be Optional

I was recently looking for a new healthcare provider and responded to a well-written, slickly produced brochure I received in the mail. The practice sent me an impressive “Welcome” package that contained two paperback books, which both appeared to be self-published.

One was a thoughtful, substantial work by the physician about his specialty. As self-publishing goes, it was impressive, but there were a few typos. Not a big deal.

The other book was a collection of first-person patient testimonials, accompanied by their full names and, in some cases, photos.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I found typos, usage errors, spelling, and punctuation problems on virtually EVERY PAGE.

The question it raised was, “How can a doctor take such pride in helping his patients feel better, and then leave them swinging like semi-literates in the breeze in PRINT?”

When I met the physician, he was bright and articulate, and I think flummoxed when I told him those testimonials don’t project the image of his practice that he undoubtedly had in mind.

He said, almost apologetically, “Well, they made all those mistakes.”

Obviously.

Since these weren’t professional writers, they probably assumed that this highly educated man would fix their mechanical errors and present their stories in the best light.

I’m guessing he saw it as a matter of honor to publish their words verbatim. But, unless there’s some legal consideration, it’s NEVER a good idea to leave in mistakes that make the writer look careless, inept, or downright ignorant. It makes you look just as bad — maybe even worse if you spent a small fortune having those errors preserved in a book.

ALWAYS proofread and clean up the wording. Every mistake you let stand detracts from your own credibility.