Just like every good idea, a good blog starts with a plan. In an effort to help your team produce better articles, I have compiled this in-depth itinerary to plot out your future texts, no need to thank me, a statue of gold and gift card to Etsy will suffice:
Step 1: Select/assign positions
Before stepping into battle it is important to define the roles and responsibilities of each job necessary to craft an excellent piece of writing. Keep in mind that these parameters are made for a “best-case scenario” type of situation; meaning that you have the access and resources available to staff each of these positions and set enough time aside so there isn’t a deadline looming ominously over everyone's head (although some seem to prefer the tight deadline situation). If you don’t have the aforementioned resources, jobs may overlap or even be all one person.
Your writer is the one who crafts the words. The builder of the story. A good writer or blogger needn’t be stout with honors or have the smooth prose of Hemingway. A good writer merely needs to be passionate about the subject he is writing on and stick to the point. Consider the type of piece you are writing and determine who is the best suited to create that article. Sometimes it’s the guy with the English background who can build flourishing worlds and create descriptive narratives that enthrall the reader more and more by the line. But for other projects, you may need the methodical accountant tucked away in the back room who can pragmatically spell out detailed lists in a way that a reader can digest. The abilities of a writer come from his grey matter, what he or she does special outside of pen and ink. Tap the right person for the right topic and anyone can become a journalistic dynamo.
Your editor is the man with the overall theme. Your editor defines the flow and topic of the article and makes sure that the writing sticks to the framework of what the piece is about. Sometimes a writer can lose track of the topic and go off on a tangent or try and make points in a way that strays into other conversations. A good editor understands how to make a point and support arguments. Editors are also responsible to remove any conflicts of interest potential readers may have, this includes making sure the wrong people aren’t offended by bold statements, off-jokes, or flat-out don’t understand what your article is talking about. Look towards upper-level employees with a clear company vision and the ability to stick to the script to fill your editorial needs.
Your proofreader is the one checking for grammatical guffaws, redundancies and making sure you get your facts straight. This job should be saved for the most English-savvy person on your team, at the very least the one with OCD reorganizing your fridge by color. If you don’t have either of these people do this: find out the two people who showed up to work the earliest, choose one of them, and give them a dictionary. The tie goes to the one with the best-pressed shirt.
Step 2: Prepare
Research is best done en masse. Naturally, the more heads on the research portion, the more research can be gathered. The general content and direction of your article come from a background of great research. This means doing a little bit more than Googling your topic. There may be some actual footwork to do; making phone calls, scheduling interviews (more on that later), and doing some off-the-internet-based research (remember libraries? They have databases of journals and scholarly articles that may provide some good facts.).
A series of intensive blogs can be written on this subject alone, and there are much better articles out there on the subject than I can write so I will just touch on a few basics to help out the journalistic novice:
- Make sure to cover your 5 W’s and the How: The who, what, when, where, what, why, and how should be addressed in your interviews. Take special care to make sure that the conversation doesn’t veer off-topic by sticking to the why. Why is this question important to my article? Why does this conversation matter to the context of my article?
- A live interview is always better than one done via correspondence: Getting someone in a room always makes for better conversation and grants you the ability to ad-lib the conversation and creates a more comfortable environment for candid answers and responses. The more distance you put between you and the person you are interviewing creates a less dynamic interview which in turn will give you less information for your piece as well as make for dull quotes. Avoid over-the-phone and the dreaded email interview at all costs, new video chatting software can make due when the distance is too far, but a face-to-face interview is always best.
Once your information is gathered, it is now time for your writer and editor to meet and discuss the flow and possible new direction of your story. Outline your talking points, bullet points, and where you want to start and end the article. If possible use some time now to create a grabbing opening sentence and title. Create a skeleton of how your article will go, and make bookmarks for where research and quotes will go. A well-made outline will take a lot of the time out of creating your article, not to mention adding to the overall flow and style of the article.
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