Naming an Editor-in-Chief: The Master of Your Fate, the Captain of Your Content

Remember being assigned group projects in school? The painful hangnail of academics which made up 20% of your final grade? No one knew their role. Efforts were overlapped, or worse, neglected. No one knew when to gather for a meeting, or who should call the shots. Someone almost always ended up in a panic 24 hours before the due date, finishing it for the group and putting everyone's name on it. Your professor knew who put in the hard work and who showed up...with Dorito dust on his shirt.

A publication without an editor at the helm is falls into the exact same predicament: a delicate group exercise that requires the attention and commitment of every participant in order to be successful.

Without an editor, you're a ship without a captain. To imagine, create, produce, and distribute excellent brand stories, we always ask our clients to name an editor-in-chief so we know exactly who we're working with, and the relationship they have with the content. Sometimes, large brands we work with have a clearly defined role for this. Other times, we take on the role of editor, working with a single individual who can communicate their needs, goals, customer journey, and planning with us.

Lacking an internal point of contact – a single content compass – efforts to create content fall apart, due in part to a lack of vision and understanding of both mission and message. Bad content rears its ugly head. Good content sits in the queue. Ideas and topics lose priority. Without an editor, something always gets in the way, people are confused, and initial pushes for content publication dry up

The process of naming an editor-in-chief is a collaborative one. Ideally, this person already holds a leadership role or senior position within the company, perhaps as a visual merchandiser, co-founder, or marketing manager, dependent on the project's goals and objectives. The editor-in-chief has a colorful vision from the top, and an ability to communicate multiple story angles to the right writers, videographers, and designers that can then bring them to fruition. An editor-in-chief that can marry messaging with storytelling, mission with promotion, and imagination with integrity is the right fit. 

Naming an editor-in-chief solves multiple problems: 

  • They offer structure by appointing those who will create, edit, publish, govern, archive, and manage content
  • They prevent too many cooks from entering the kitchen, and give direction to teams large and small
  • They break silos and encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration, making sure content supports each division's messaging and goals
  • They set boundaries for agile decisionmaking and flexible changes in scope
  • They have a clear understanding of all customer touchpoints – both online and offline
  • They possess the ability to orchestrate multiple teams, i.e. writers, PR experts, photographers, videographers, social media
  • They triage urgent content needs and provide a single point of contact in case of emergency
  • They can hire new talent as necessary, and make recommendations for changes in team structure
  • They can give first glance and final review to all outgoing content
  • They can plan for future content while managing current content output
  • They can become the sales contact for all new business, giving a name to a face behind an otherwise anonymous publication

Who is your editor-in-chief? We'd love to hear about your experiences (good, bad, or ugly) in the comments below.