Kim Alexander, digital media editor at Garden & Gun magazine, a Southern lifestyle publication with more than 1 million subscribers across the U.S., shared 10 tips on how to create and manage online content.
Here’s a quick run-down of what she shared:
Kim Alexander, Garden & Gun
- Have an Editorial Calendar. Map out what you plan to cover (and when) based on what matters to your readers, starting with a monthly or seasonal outlook. “It will be your roadmap, your guide,” Alexander said. “You'll get lost and take sidetracks, but it will help set your direction."
- Know Who You’re Talking To. Understanding your audience and what they value is as important as knowing your brand. Monitoring how readers respond to your content through social media and other avenues yields valuable insights. “Demographic data means one thing, but what they click on will tell you what you need to know,” she added.
- Establish Your Voice. Know who you are and what you have to
say, and be confident and consistent. Build trust through a friendly, conversational writing
style. Be factual and accountable, but avoid corporate jargon or stiff, press release-type language. “Readers
see through that and run from it. No one wants to be hard-sold to,” she
said. “You’re telling stories, you’re educating them.”
- Make Friends in the Community. Stay tuned in to what’s going
on culturally, pop-culturally and politically in the regions you cover. Have fun, but also be aware of
larger, more serious issues. Don’t try to be an expert on everything;
instead, build a database of resources who are.
- Become a Resource for Your Readers. Create and publish honest content that delivers value and differentiates you from the competition. Event information, guides, recipes, tips, videos and playlists are a few examples. “Your job is to educate, not to sell,” Alexander said. “As an editor, it’s a hard hat to wear because you have to prove ROI, but connecting with readers by providing content they can only get from you is how you do that.”
- Engage Your Audience: Want to know something from your readers? Ask them. Polls, quizzes and debates perform well and generate great insights. “Think of topics and themes that matter to your audience and play into pop culture, then make them your own,” she said.
- Create Low-Cost Content. Budget-conscious editors can find scrappy, inexpensive ways to keep their editorial pipelines full. Leveraging guest contributors, curating third-party articles, and launching user-generated campaigns for photos are just a few ways to source inexpensive content.
- Stay Connected With Your Readers. Social media and e-mail newsletters are two effective channels for keeping content in front of readers who likely are not visiting your site each day. “You have to give them a reason to come back and remind them what’s new and what’s popular,” Alexander said.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Test. The beauty of digital publications like Coke Journey is that they can evolve in real-time, Alexander said, encouraging the audience to take chances and use social media to experiment with content ideas. “If you have a gut feeling, try it,” she said. “You’ll never know if it will sink or swim unless you throw it out there and see.”
- Do Your Homework. In addition to constantly monitoring your site’s traffic and what’s trending, be sure to keep an eye on the other guys. “Be a consumer as much as an editor,” Alexander said. “Know your space and see what you can be doing better.”
By embracing these lessons, editors can better serve their "customers," Alexander said.
“You answer to your readers above all,” she concluded. “That’s where your responsibility lies... it’s important to remember that. Because at the end of the day, the reader is your boss.”
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