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Copywriting: A 5-step guide to a well-defined copy editing process

October 13th, 2015 No comments

In my four years at MECLABS Institute, the parent company of MarketingSherpa, I’ve held a few different roles on the Editorial Content team.

However, my very first role was junior copy editor. Having been there and done that, it provides me a unique perspective to manage our current copy editor, Shelby Dorsey.

It’s a unique role. No one seems to know you’re there until you mess up. I can still remember that first email forwarded to me after a director in the company found a small mistake I overlooked in a newsletter send. It was horrifying.

Recently, Shelby and I have set out to help improve some of the processes around the copy editing role, and I know we aren’t the only ones who need help streamlining this area of marketing.

First on the list was increasing the turnaround times for the various content pieces.

To start the presentation, I wanted to find a quote that embodied what a copy editor is. In my search, I found the copy editor description Merrill Perlman wrote in her CNN article, “Why ‘America’ needs copy editors.”

Copy Editor Quote


It’s with this quote that I started a simple, but detailed internal PowerPoint deck outlining the copy editing process, requirements and timelines. To help you implement or improve your own copy editing process and procedures, we’re giving you an inside look at that deck.



Step #1. Shed light on what your copy editors do

Because it’s such a behind-the-scenes role, you might start with bringing visibility to the tasks your copy editor does.

It can be a misconception that the copy editor just sits around, waiting for something to come in for editing. That’s not the case at MECLABS at all. The copy editor is kind of a jack-of-all-trades role with a daily list of tasks outside of editing.

We outlined the duties of the role early in the presentation because we wanted people to understand why the copy editor can’t provide edits at the drop of a hat.

While the MECLABS copy editor services both the content and marketing departments, most of the copy editor’s duties exist within editorial content, with morning deadlines to meet the editorial schedule. This allowed us to show why emergencies before noon are harder to meet.


Step #2. Be transparent about why the process is changing

Before getting into the finer details of what and when, you want to be clear about why you’re making the changes or implementing an entirely new process.

For us, there were two reasons behind our “why.”

First, we wanted to make sure there was a full circle in the editing process where writers had final say over what we publish under their names.

Due to a longstanding process and time restraints, writers didn’t see edits from the copy editor before articles and posts were published. To allow for this much needed step in the process, each piece of editorial content would have to be sent to the copy editor with enough time for editing and the writer’s review.

Second, for all pieces, not just editorial, we wanted to ensure there was time for discussion around edits. Occasionally, edits can cause debate. If time is pressed, it’s easy for writers to reject the edit and publish. The extra turnaround time will allow the writer and the copy editor to talk over the edit from both perspectives and find a solution that best suits the content and, ultimately, the reader.


Step #3. Indicate who should get what

You need to clarify to whom writers — whether in an editorial or marketing department, a graphic design in video or designers — should be sending edits. Do you have two copy editors, and one gets one type of content and the other gets a different type? Do all edits go through an operations manager who then sends them to the appropriate editor?

For us, all edits go directly to the copy editor. However, as the manager overseeing the copy editing process, I get copied all on items. We had noticed that some followed this process and some only sent it to the copy editor.

We took the updated process deck as an opportunity to clarify the importance of this step. If you have an emergency edit and the copy editor is out sick, your content is heading for a black hole without a second individual copied on it. It also allows me as a manager to see the queue and decide if additional editing assistance is needed.


Step #4. Break down turnaround times and required information by content type

Every piece of content is a little different. What resources does your copy editor need for each piece of content — whether to edit more precisely or publish if part of their duties?

At MECLABS, we publish under both MarketingSherpa and its sister company, MarketingExperiments. The audience for each differs some, and so does the way we communicate with them. That means it’s important for our copy editor to know who will be receiving the list so that she can edit accordingly.

Each content type spells out what is needed, from audience information to proper format for images.

The deck breaks down the turnaround times for each. We also took into account the times when requests are made for multiples of a certain content type. Editing one PowerPoint deck is completely different than editing five of them.


Step #5. Define approval processes

Within our department, there is generally not much to the approval process. The complexity comes in for us when working with other departments. When you have three or more people reviewing and approving a single email, there can be confusion over what the end product should look like.

To bring some simplicity and clarity to the process, we worked with the marketing team to define two of our most common approval processes.

By creating a formal order of approval, you do two things:

First, you allow the owner of the project or piece of content final approval of all the edits. Whoever is responsible for the end product should see and approve all changes.

Second, you avoid confusion for those receiving the edits, whether it’s email specialists, graphic designers or Web developers. You’re sending them one set of approved edits, instead of three separate sets of edits that could conflict with one another.


These are the steps that made sense for us. Depending on your copy editor situation, you might need to adjust or add to some of these. Leave any tips you may have below in the comments.


You can follow Selena Blue, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, on Twitter at @SelenaLBlue.


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MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 — At the Bellagio in Las Vegas, February 22-24

Categories: Copywriting Tags:

The Power of Visuals: How four companies effectively used visual content and three tools to get you started

August 18th, 2015 1 comment

An image is a powerful tool in the digital world.

It can draw attention, communicate value, increase shareability and so much more. In fact, HubSpot pulled together the “17 Stats You Should Know About Visual Content Marketing in 2015” to display this. From what your peers are doing to how effective visual content is for social sharing, the stats of recent studies are certainly interesting.

Two stats stuck out to me while researching this topic.Visual storytelling in the digital world

First, tweets with images were clicked 18% more and retweeted 150% more than those without, according to Buffer.

Second, when looking at the most shared posts from Facebook pages, a photo post made up 87% of interactions.

Even better than stats, I came across four success stories that show how visual content can greatly impact your content and social media marketing efforts, from blog views to Facebook shares.


Case study examples

Content Marketing: Interactive infographic blog post generates 3.9 million views for small insurance company

As a smaller insurance company, HCC Medical Insurance Service (HCCMIS) needed a way to stand out in its marketplace. While insurance can typically be thought of as a boring product, the HCCMIS team decided to make their blog content more exciting with interactive infographics.

The result? The team saw a 1,000% lift in blog traffic, as well as significant lifts in social media followers and email revenue.

Interactive infographic blog post generates 3.9 million views for small insurance company

Read more…

Marketing Careers: 5 sites to develop and enhance your skills with free online courses

March 31st, 2015 No comments

Marketing is continually changing and evolving, and nothing has propelled that more than the Internet.

This means marketers must grow with the industry. According to Formstack, those in digital marketing now need seven skills beyond the norm to succeed:career key

  • Analytics
  • Social media
  • Data visualization
  • Technical skills
  • Teamwork
  • Newsjacking
  • Soft skills


While the digital age has created a need for new skills, it has also enabled marketers to learn those skills with the click of a button, without going back to college.

It’s possible to learn these skills through books, blog posts, podcasts and more, all with little to no cost commitment. There are also moderate to expensive online courses available. However, for those who might want a more structured or interactive learning experience without the cost, we have a few options for you to check out.

Read on to learn about five different sites that can help expand your skills in a variety of areas.


Google Analytics Academy

Skill: Analytics

Google offers free online courses to improve analytics skills in its Analytics Academy. It’s an at-your-own-pace format. You can watch lessons from Google’s experts, then test your knowledge through quizzes and practices exercises. They have also created a learning community with course forums so you can engage with other students and experts.

After you’ve mastered the courses, you can earn Google Analytics Individual Qualification by taking the IQ test, which is now free of charge.



Skill: Coding

Codeacademy’s mission is “teaching the world how to code.” For no cost, users can learn to code in multiple programming languages:

  • HTML and CSS
  • Javascript
  • jQuery
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • PHP

It also offers courses on to make a website, an interactive website and a Rails Application, where students build their own versions of popular websites — Airbnb, Flipboard and Etsy.

Read more…

Email Summit 2015 According to Twitter: Your peers share their key takeaways from Day 1 on engaging, empowering and serving customers

February 25th, 2015 No comments

If you haven’t noticed, #SherpaEmail has taken over Twitter.

Well, maybe not in a break-the-Internet scale of Kim Kardashian, but your marketing peers have been tweeting their hearts out with all the good information they’ve learned at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015.

With Day 2 of Summit underway, we wanted to share some key nuggets your peers found valuable on Day 1. (I might have smuggled a few of my own in too.) Check out some key takeaways from each of yesterday’s insightful sessions.


Humanizing Your Email Program: How to transcend the digital revolution by using the essential ability to communicate person-to-person

Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute

Flint revealed four fundamental principles that guide effective communication and provided examples of how these principles can be used to transform your entire email program.

Read more…

Nonprofit Marketing: 3 tips to increase year-end revenue

November 14th, 2014 1 comment

With the end of the year approaching fast, it’s not only retail industry marketers who have campaigns to implement. It’s also a busy season for nonprofit marketers – a time of the year for holiday giving and year-end contributions.

What can nonprofit marketers do to increase their fourth quarter revenue? We’re sharing three tips for you that have proven effective for others, and might prove useful for you, too.


Tip #1. Coordinate your offline and online marketing efforts

It can be hard to stand out in a crowded mailbox – both your physical mail box and email inbox. That’s why HealthConnect One wanted use both channels in its year-end campaign. The team had previously sent out direct mail including an appeal letter to its supporters, but they decided email might be a great way to reinforce the message.

By creating a four-email campaign around the direct mail piece, the nonprofit saw a 50% increase in revenue compared to the prior year. To see the emails and learn more about the campaign, check out the MarketingSherpa case study, “Email Marketing: Four short emails boost year-end revenue 50% for nonprofit organization.”


Tip #2. Provide “quick donate” links for previous donors

The Obama for America campaign wanted to enable repeat donors to effortlessly give again. This required a few steps.

First, they encouraged donors to save their payment information during checkout. Second, they sent out emails with multiple calls-to-action (CTA) for different contribution levels. Third, with one click of the CTA, donors could donate again without visiting a landing page or filling out a form.



The result? Conversion rates increased 300% on average when using the links.

To learn more about this tip and other tactics the campaign used, read the MarketingSherpa case study, “Email Testing: How the Obama campaign generated approximately $500 million in donations from email marketing.”

Read more…

Email Marketing: Combining design and content for mobile success

July 1st, 2014 No comments


That’s how much mobile email opens have increased in just three years.

“Which is kind of crazy,” Justine Jordan, Marketing Director, Litmus, said following the recent statistics from Litmus’ research on mobile.

And she’s right. How many channels increase that much in usage in that short amount of time? Not many.

Because of the sudden growth, not all marketing departments have been able to keep up with the trend.

With 50% of emails being opened on a mobile device, mobile email strategy is worth considering for any market, even B2B companies.

Justine spoke at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 as an industry perspective in the session, “Email Design: How to optimize for ALL environments in a mobile world.”

She joined Allison Banko, Reporter, MECLABS, in the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 Media Center. There, she recapped her industry perspective session, as well as hit on two mistakes she still sees among mobile emails: content strategy and best practices of mobile design.

“It’s key to get those two things working in tandem to really optimize the full experience,” she said.


In addition to her industry perspective session, Justine also joined a diverse panel of experts, solution providers and brand-side marketers on responsive email design. Watch a brief excerpt from that panel discussion below:

  Read more…

Email Marketing: 4 steps to optimize a mobile experience for better conversion

April 15th, 2014 No comments

Mobile is big, but just how big is it?

Justine Jordan, Marketing Director, Litmus, posed that question during her Industry Perspective session, “Email Design: How to optimize for all environments in a mobile world,” at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014.



Almost half of all emails are opened on mobile devices, according to Litmus research. That’s definitely big – especially since it was just three years ago that Litmus found only 10% of emails were opened on mobile.

So what can we do to capitalize on this drastic shift?

Justine said we need to re-examine the subscriber experience from the mobile user’s perspective. While she covered the whole path, we’ll hit on four of the steps subscribers experience.



Step #1. Don’t ignore pre-header text

Many inboxes are formatted so that users can see not only the subject line, but also a line of additional text in the email. This text is pulled from the first bit of text at the top of your email. However, you can hide this text and still have it show in the pre-header area if you wish.

The default text for most templates is not very valuable messaging. She showed these examples of dos and don’ts to the Summit audience:



“My challenge to you is, is this a positive brand experience? Is this really what you want people to associate with your ‘From’ name and subject line? Go back and re-evaluate your pre-header text – it’s showing up in mobile inboxes everywhere,” Justine advised.

She suggested making your pre-header “tie into the subject line, bringing [readers] in and encouraging the click.”

The pre-header is another opportunity to infuse value into your email – don’t let it go to waste. iPhones cut your subject lines off at about 35 characters.


Step #2. Embrace scrolling in an opened email



This is the same email but it looks completely different. Why?

“It’s because not every smartphone or mobile device is going to support HTML and CSS or even display the email in similar way,” Justine said.

Plus, Android devices vary in what they do and don’t support, so they can be challenging to work with. Some scale the email, some cut off the right side of an email and some support responsive design. Justine said iPhones are a little friendlier, scaling to a 320-pixel width.

But with scaling comes other issues to keep in mind: text and images resize as well.

Justine hit on another key aspect of the user’s experience after opening an email on your email: scrolling.

“Scrolling is a really natural behavior on any mobile device,” she said. “Clicking, or tapping, represents a decision. It’s a point of friction that people are going to either have to embrace or move past.”

mobile-site-clicksIn an email like the one to the right, you don’t know where you’ll be tapping. Where will your finger land with so many small choices? You need to make the user experience more friendly in emails. You don’t need to compact as many options as possible “above the fold.” There is no fold on your iPhone.

“Embrace the scroll; people are inherently going to scroll on mobile devices,” Justine said.


Step #3. Recognize a finger is the new mouse

On mobile devices, people are not clicking. Instead, they’re tapping, rendering your “Click Here” call-to-action illogical. There is no mouse to click on a smartphone – only a finger, or stylus, to tap.

“’Click Here’ is a really crappy call-to-action anyway. You need to add a lot value, make sure the buttons are topical, and tell people what they’re going to get when they click or tap on your emails,” Justine said.

The “tap” experience is more than the text of your buttons and calls-to-action. It’s also about the area or location you want to physically tap.

Justine said, “You no longer have a one by one [pixel] target area. It’s more like a 40 by 40 target area.”

A finger requires more tapping space than a mouse needs clicking space. Make sure they can actually tap on that valuable CTA you crafted.

  Read more…

Top MarketingSherpa Blog Posts of 2013: 10 lessons in social media, content and email marketing

December 26th, 2013 3 comments

After tallying up the number of times our audience shared posts, social media, content and email marketing are the areas to receive the most tweets from your peers. That means inbound marketing as a whole once again reigned supreme on the MarketingSherpa Blog, earning 10 of the top 15 spots of 2013. We’ll break down these three areas with key lessons we can learn and apply to our efforts in the new year.

And, since this list is all about the tweets, we’ll include some interesting ones about select posts. Carry on to learn the top 10 lessons of 2013.


Social Media Lessons

Lesson #1. Adapt your social content so that it is appropriate for each social media platform 

In his post, “Social Media Marketing: Which type of content is appropriate for different platforms?” Jonathan Greene, Business Intelligence Manager, MECLABS, used an unusual set of analogies to help marketers understand what tone and content to use on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Read this post to learn about the personality each platform has, and how you can effectively put them to work.


Lesson #2. Be able to answer why customers should like or follow you

When it comes to social media buttons, you should ask yourself why your customers should follow you. This can be a tougher question for companies that aren’t natural content producers.

You must provide some value for customers in exchange for the privilege to show up in their newsfeed. Value can be ongoing, like exclusive discounts just for Twitter followers, or a one-time opportunity, such as a chance to win a prize.

Read more about this question, and three others, in the post, “Social Media Marketing: 4 questions to ask yourself about social media buttons.” You can also use value proposition to better answer this question, as described by Jonathan Greene in this post, “Social Media Marketing: Why should I like or follow you?


Lesson #3. Add visual elements to your social media content

While a quote is just words, it doesn’t mean you can’t bring a visual component to the content. The New York Public Library created graphics for an already popular content type –  celebrity quotes – to create a social media campaign with impressive results. Learn more about its efforts from Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS: “Social Media Marketing: How New York Public Library increased card sign-ups by 35%.”

Interestingly, it seems this post was the most shared on Twitter for certain individuals:


Lesson #4. Go beyond the “like” to track your social media success

David Kirkpatrick, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS, broke down a chart covering social media marketing metrics tracking in the post, “Social Media Marketing: Social metrics from “likes” to ROI.” While social reach (e.g., “likes”) tops the list, some marketers are also measuring ROI, leads and conversion. See what other metrics your peers are using to benchmark success in their organizations.


Content Marketing Lessons

Lesson #5. Analyze your blog to identify areas for improvement

There are a lot of elements that make up your blog. When was the last time you stood back to evaluate if all of those pieces were working as well as they could?

In his post, “Content Marketing: An 8-point analysis for your blog,” Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, explained the eight points on which to focus your evaluation. From the frequency of your posts and their titles, to author bios and social media integration, you could have untapped potential waiting to be found.


Lesson #6. Use WordPress, or any tool, to its fullest potential

No matter what channel or platform you’re using, you want to get all you can out of it. For the post, “Content Marketing: 5 tips for WordPress blogging,” Erin Hogg, Copy Editor, MECLABS, broke down some ways she’s learned to improve a WordPress blog. Learn how to cross promote media with embedding, use basic HTML to improve the look and feel of a post, and more.


Lesson #7. Implement (and stick with) a style for your content

AP? Chicago? MLA? APA? There are many established styles, and one might work as-is for your organization. You could decide to create your own.  At MECLABS, we use the Associated Press Style Book as our foundation and supplement it with a set of our own guidelines.

No matter which direction you choose, it’s important to stick with the guide for all of your content. Having well-proofed and consistent content adds to the credibility of your content and builds the authority of your brand.

Erin Hogg explained this and other tips in her post, “Content Marketing: 7 copy editing tips to improve any content piece.”


Email Marketing Lessons

Lesson #8. Don’t forget about current customers when designing triggered email campaigns

In the post, “Email Marketing: 3 overlooked aspects of automated messages,” Daniel Burstein said nurturing current customers is one of the most overlooked automated email opportunities. He shared a list of triggered email types you can implement to strengthen relationships with you customers, including product education and upselling.

This post also features two other overlooked aspects of automated emails: customer lifetime value and the gap between what marketers should do and what they actually do.


Lesson #9. Test your emails to discover what really works for your audience

You could be using every best practice you’ve come across, but unless you know it’s best for your specific audience, then it might not be the practice you should be using. Testing lets you know what your audience best engages with.

Justin Bridegan, former Senior Marketing Manager, MECLABS, explained how testing revealed two segments of the MarketingSherpa email list prefer different email lengths. Read on to learn his other tips in the post, “Email Marketing: What I’ve learned from writing almost 1,000 emails for MarketingSherpa.”

Read more…

Mobile Marketing: 5 takeaways from MarketingSherpa case studies

February 28th, 2013 1 comment

While looking through the MarketingSherpa 2012 Mobile Marketing Benchmark Report, I noticed a parallel between the top mobile tactics to be implemented within the next six months and the most recent case studies MarketingSherpa has published on mobile marketing.


Recent MarketingSherpa case studies have focused on four of the top five tactics, even touching on the top tactic, mobile website. Some marketers have started the implementation process of mobile marketing, and they have already seen great results. To help you get started on these top tactics, we pulled out the key takeaways from these case studies.

Read more…

12 Most-Tweeted MarketingSherpa Blog Posts of 2012: Inbound and email top the list

December 28th, 2012 No comments

This time last year, we put together the top 11 posts of the MarketingSherpa Blog for 2011, and social media marketing easily dominated the list. In 2012, email marketing put up a good fight, but social media marketing along with other inbound strategies and tactics still took the gold.

This year’s list focused on three areas: inbound, email and customer-centric marketing. Along with a brief summary of each post, you’ll also find some interesting tweets about select posts. Read on for 2012′s most popular MarketingSherpa Blog posts, as determined by your peers.


Inbound Marketing

Blog Awards: The 13 best marketing industry blogs (according to you)

Our top post of 2012 shared the results of the MarketingSherpa Reader’s Choice Awards, where we announced the 13 winning blogs, in a variety of categories, as decided by you, the MarketingSherpa Blog audience.

“If you’re looking for information to help you improve performance and advance your career, check these blogs out,” said Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, in the post.

Read more…