​Editorial calendars are rather common to write about, but they’re rarely used. What is an editorial calendar, and why do you need one?
What is it? An editorial calendar helps you schedule your content production.

Why do you need it? It helps you strategize your content and deliver on your communications.
Our clients juggle a lot of content-related balls: They want to publish or republish white papers; they’re working on e-books; they’re rolling out articles for trade publications; they’re creating new blog posts; they’re updating their websites.
They’ve got a lot going on, but they don’t usually have it going on in an editorial calendar.
Maybe “editorial calendar” connotes too much insider knowledge to sound useful to anyone outside of a publishing or marketing team. Maybe it seems unnecessary for (theoretically) easily producible writing-related tasks.
But while content is (sometimes) easy to produce, it’s most definitely not a one-and-done effort. Quality writing is brainstormed, strategized, roughed-out, edited, market-tested, proofread, published, and then republished again (and again).
It requires a lot of (sequential) steps. To make those steps as easy and efficient to execute as possible, use an editorial calendar.
Like regular calendars, an editorial calendar reflects the annual marketing cycles of your business, including:

  • Launches
  • Events
  • Routine touch-point opportunities

Unlike regular calendars, an editorial calendar also denotes:

  • The assigned writer and/or editor
  • The relevant audience personas
  • The target channels
  • The relevant workflow elements, especially status and notes

Editorial calendars help businesses get content done. But they do a lot more. An editorial calendar can help you develop content strategy and manage communications. And, as we’ve said before, all content should be multipurpose content. An editorial calendar makes clear how work already is (and can be further) repurposed.

At MWS, working with cause-driven organizations is one of our passions. In our experience, they face some special challenges in making sure their mission is both concisely formulated and diffused throughout their communications. The Firefly Sisterhood is one organization we’ve worked with to lay some important groundwork for this kind of mission execution.
The Firefly Sisterhood is a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a mission to foster one-to-one connections between women recently diagnosed with breast cancer and inspirational survivors. As a fledgling organization, Firefly worked with an agency to develop the organization’s message and brand identity. But they didn’t have the in-house resources to really bring those materials to life.
“One of the things that organizations struggle with is consistently using the right language to talk about what they do,” said Kris Newcomer, executive director of Firefly. This can be especially fraught for organizations that, like the Firefly Sisterhood, deal with difficult or sensitive issues.
But the challenge that Newcomer faced in integrating their brand is one that organizations of all sizes have to manage.
For larger organizations, it’s a matter of providing the communications team with the training and materials necessary to get everyone up to speed. Smaller organizations without a dedicated communications staff often benefit from more direct support.
Newcomer’s priority was to develop Firefly’s blog, along with other communications materials, in line with their new brand strategy. For the emergent organization, the blog was an important place to establish a trusted voice and demonstrate leadership in the cancer support community.
After reviewing Firefly’s brand strategy and discussing their goals with Kris and her team, MWS created a series of blog posts to help Firefly institute a publication schedule and to provide templates for a variety of approaches they could take for future posts.
From personal interviews and profiles, to researched pieces, to advice and how-to’s, our white-branded posts—often reposted by other local and national organizations—built out a voice that resonated with Firefly’s audience and drove traffic to their website.
One post that resonated with Kris and with the blog’s readers tackled the importance of language head-on. In a discussion on Firefly’s Facebook page, people had been chiming in with some strong opinions about their preference for (or aversion to) terms such as “survivor,” “victim,” and “battle” when it comes to the experience of having cancer. The debate inspired us to research and write a post about how the language that patients and caregivers use to talk about cancer has a serious impact on patients’ lives and health.
“I loved that post because it really spoke to the kind of care we were taking in developing our own vocabulary as an organization. It was a great example of how your work gave us a guide for how to present ourselves through our blog,” Kris reported.
This year to date Firefly has already served over 130 new clients, and they’re on track to triple the capacity they started with in 2014, in part by expanding their connections with women in a wider range of language and cultural communities. We’ve been thrilled to watch them grow and bring their remarkable mission to life for so many women.
We’ve all been there (well, maybe not actually there): You ask a question, your question is misinterpreted, you respond with clarification, but that, too, goes astray. You give up feeling like your original question wasn’t fully answered, and you’re more confused than you were before you asked it.
It’s a problem as old as conversation. But it’s more frequent now that so much of our professional communication takes place over email, text, or messenger services like Slack.
We all know the basics for writing answerable emails: Make it personal (but not too personal); keep it short (but not too short); ask for what you want (and make sure what you want is do-able).
But what happens when you follow the rules and still end up in a communication rabbit hole? It happens to all of us—in fact, it just happened to me on Slack.
Why do our messages go astray? Usually because we’re vague, we forget our audience, or we don’t loop in the right people (or we loop in too many wrong people)
In my situation, I wrote a vague message to the wrong person. I got a sharply worded reply that immediately put me on the defensive. Prompted by Slack’s slick, immediate interface, I replied too quickly when I should have pulled back to figure out where I went wrong.
Learn from my mistakes, especially if you interact in a lot of ways with different clients, colleagues, and assorted professionals.
In addition to making it personal, keeping it short, and asking for what you want, be direct and explicit in your ask, remind yourself who you’re speaking with (and keep it relatively formal), and be sure you’re speaking with the person who can help.
And, if all else fails, pick up the phone. I did. And I found that what I’ve secretly suspected is true: Sometimes a human voice is better and more efficient than anything technology can offer.
As Molly Gage noted in her last post, one of the signature services we now offer at MWS is brand strategy integration. Yep, it’s a mouthful—but it’s really quite a simple concept. Here’s a closer look at what it means, and what it looks like in action.
Everyone knows how important it is to develop a solid brand. But often once a brand has been created or reimagined, it just…sits there. A new logo and list of key differentiators can only do so much, even if an organization has committed to a top-notch branding effort. Once the excitement of the branding process wears off, figuring out who communicates what (and when and how) in line with a new brand is challenging.
MWS supplies the crucial link between brand strategy and brand execution. We integrate your brand into your communications processes and materials, and we ensure that your team can communicate your brand effectively and efficiently, too.
When we work with clients who are looking for comprehensive brand strategy integration, the process typically has several steps:

  1. Discovery. We meet with the client’s team to discuss in depth their goals and challenges. We review all existing brand materials and related communications or strategic planning documents.
  2. Development and deliverables. We create and present a plan that includes a communications schedule and recommendations for publications as well as an extensive style guide. We can provide training materials or work directly with an organization’s in-house team to ensure that everyone is up to speed. Other deliverables may include updates to existing materials such as web copy and promotional materials, as well as draft content or templates for new materials.
  3. Review. Six months after we present our deliverables, we’ll follow up with a review. This provides the opportunity to discuss continued pain points and solutions.
  4. Continuing support. We provide ongoing support in various capacities, depending on the client’s needs, from communications management to content development and editing.

We’re passionate about helping organizations connect with their audience, and brand strategy integration is an excellent tool for accomplishing that goal. Questions about how it might work for you? Let us know!

Though it’s already February and 2017 has lost its shiny-newness, we’ve got something new that we want to share.
Over the last few months, we’ve been building out our business to better serve our best and most interesting clients. We still offer the standard range of communications services—like smart content creation, comprehensive report writing, and efficient on- and offline editing.
But now we offer brand strategy integration, too.
What is brand strategy integration? It’s a post-strategy service to help you and your team combine new branding materials with existing communications processes. And it can absolutely help you!
While the process of developing a new branding strategy is thrilling and all-consuming, we’ve found that broadly implementing that strategy—consistently, straightforwardly, and repetitively—requires active management.
So, do you have a fantastic new (or maybe not-so-new) brand? Do you—and your team—have a plan for translating it onto your website, your blog, your presentations, your internal and external reports, and all your other communications portals? Are you wondering how to deliver consistently and every day, over and over again?
We can help.
Bring us your positioning statements, your key differentiators, and your messaging points! We’ll provide the templates, style guides, content, and training to ensure that everyone on your team knows exactly what happens after your new brand is born.
It has been a week. A week in a month in a year for which not everyone wants to give thanks. But Jess and I are inviting the spirit of cooperation to a place at our Thanksgiving table (in the hopes that it will seep into the rest of our lives, too).
Cooperation seems easy, but it can be hard even for the best of friends. When Jess and I became colleagues, we saw right away (and over time) that we came to our tasks with different personalities, different ideas, and different strategies.
But we believed—and still believe—that we’re stronger together, so we have a vested interest in learning how to bend ourselves to our common goals. Below are five strategies that make working together work.

1. Communicate: It’s easy to assume your colleagues share your views—about big stuff, like what drives you and your commitment to the work—and small stuff, like what does (and doesn’t) belong on Facebook. Don’t assume. Instead, integrate twice-weekly check-ins with your team, and use an agenda to keep yourself on track.

2. Write Your Guide: Sure, it’s easy to make fun of a vision board. But you need to capture the spirit of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Work with your team on a manifesto, a position statement, or, yes, a vision board. Your guide is your…guide—it will determine the shape of your work.

3. State Your Goals: Don’t let business happen to you! Take control by taking an active role in driving growth. Committing to short- and long-term goals helps you and your team define success in specific and realizable terms. Bring those goals out at every turn to gauge your growth and remind your team how success can be achieved.

4. Keep a Team Calendar: A calendar may look like an isolating cage of to-dos, but it’s actually the easiest way to focus only on the one thing you need to complete right now. A team calendar can also help to clarify roles and responsibilities and ensure accountability. Teach yourself to rely on its wisdom.

5. Celebrate: A team that celebrates reaching small goals together will be a team that celebrates reaching bigger goals, too. In every calendar, make room to raise a glass to toast a team that works on working together.

Happy Thanksgiving, readers. We are thankful for you.

There’s a cold-sweat feeling I sometimes get when I open a new doc in Word. A shadowy fear passes over the blinking cursor, reminding me that there’s nothing new to say that hasn’t been said before.
The Old Testament called it back in the 3rd century BC: there is nothing new under the sun. (Of course, the observation was old news even then.)
Although the anxiety over originality is partly existential, it’s partly practical. It’s trite and superficial to say the same thing in the same way again and again. It’s dull and annoying to read it.
In fact, there’s a word for an expression that’s so repetitive that it’s (mostly) meaningless: it’s called cliché.
In writing as in life, repetition does not always aid expression. But avoiding clichés can be hard. They may bore readers to tears, but they’re as old as time for a reason. They can point to a universal—and thus immediately recognizable—feeling. They can offer a shortcut to meaning, an easy-as-pie solution for time-crunched writers.
To avoid the cliché crutch, writers often turn to online tools like the Cliché Finder. But should they? At Cliché Finder, writers type or paste their content into a blank box, click the “find clichés” button, and are directed to a page that highlights the text’s clichés.
After reading about the tool in last month’s CCO, the magazine for chief content officers, I gave it a try. If it couldn’t help stem the tide of my existential anxiety, I figured it could at least point me in the right direction of originality.

How helpful was it? Well, not very. I pasted in my content and clicked the button, but the tool didn’t recognize “bored to tears,” “old as time” “easy as pie,” “stem the tide,” or “point in the right direction.”
To be fair, I haven’t used the most common cliché iterations. And, of course, there’s much discussion about the subtleties between clichés and idioms and the fact that sometimes a cliché is exactly what a writer needs to bring a point home.
Despite (or indeed because of) that, the Cliché Finder isn’t a particularly useful tool for assuaging existential anxiety or for expressing the same old same old in an original way. But, I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
I was supposed to finish A Little Life, oh, three weeks ago? It’s a book club pick (er, my book club pick). But for so many reasons—summertime, small children, email and the internet’s siren song—I’m treading water at only a third of the way through (sorry, fellow book-clubbers, but it’s true).
Among the reasons I’ve been hanging out in the 300s is not a flagging interest. Not at all. I am so curious about these characters. And I am so, so curious to find out if the pages to come will bring forth implicitly promised revelations.
But curiosity does not necessarily compel action.
My attraction to the very long book has always been strong. When I was much, much younger, it was about the bragging rights (humble though they may be) of the big-book burden and (probably?) pride in completion. What gives me so much pleasure today is not just the world-inhabiting possibilities of the very long book, but its promise of stability.
Long books offer immersive escape, sure, but what I like about them is their there-ness. A very long book is big and bulky, and it follows me around—from the bedroom to the coffee table…to Florida—but it doesn’t really nag me (or at least not loudly) for attention.
Also, as long as a very long book has been started and not finished, its world is still spinning, its characters are still just about to do or say anything at all.
The only real downside to taking all the time in the world to finish a very long book is the fact that there are so many very long books left to be read (and the certain knowledge, thanks, Tim Urban, that I will never, ever be able to read them all). Well, that and the book club.
A few months ago, Jess and I were giving our website a critical once-over. Something wasn’t quite right. When Jess mentioned that the sidebar was a little old fashioned, I cocked my head and suddenly saw that it wasn’t just the sidebar—the whole site was old fashioned. And not in a good way.
Our old website didn’t really speak to our work, and it definitely didn’t speak to the clients we worked for.
So we began the redesign process. And it was hard. So hard! Part of the hardness is that the medium—and what is relevant to it—is constantly changing. But an even harder part of the hardness is the impossibility of achieving the personal perfection for which every professional writer aims.
I assumed we’d get stuck negotiating big-picture elements. And coming up with a tone that sounded like it originated from our brains and could be uttered in our voices (without the obligatory eye roll accompanying pretty much all industry jargon) was the worst. “Authentic” and “curated” are so overused we don’t want to write them—or read them—ever again. Even actually valuable words like “content” started to feel weirdly loaded and vacuous.
But we got stuck on smaller stuff, too. Image proportions, font sizes and weights, the number of case studies to include, and the persistent and omnipresent question of whether (and how) to flout rules of grammar for the sake of tone and style prompted debate and soul searching.
The interminability of the process began to prove the old perfect-is-the-enemy-of-done adage. Our debates shifted from the perfect manifestation of our business vision, to the perfect way to show how we can help organizations, to the perfect serif and sans-serif fonts, to the perfect use of a comma splice. It was clear that we were ready to be done.
And we maybe missed out on perfect, but I think we achieved the best iteration of our current vision for Modern Writing Services. We’ve also (and very helpfully!) illustrated that perfection is a process—it’s best not to aim for it alone. 
In an ideal world, every writer would have a top-notch editor who understands the needs of her project and the idiosyncrasies of her writing process. There’s no substitute for a trained editorial eye when it comes to realizing the full potential of a piece of writing—even (or maybe especially) those of us who are editors by trade value another editor’s insight on our own writing.

But we live in the real world. And the reality of tight budgets and tight timelines means that you can’t always get what you want. What you can always get, however, is yourself. It’s absolutely possible to be your own (cheap!) editor, if you know how to shift gears. Self-editing is not always easy—there’s a reason it’s called “killing your babies”—but it’s among the most useful skill sets for anyone who writes.
Try these tricks for wrangling your writing into top form.

  1. Step away from the manuscript. Yes, you have been staring at it for too long. To successfully edit your own work, you need to see it from a different perspective, and nothing facilitates this more effectively than time. So go take a long walk or watch some cat videos before you try to edit.
  2. Give yourself fresh eyes with a fresh format. As with stepping away, printing out a hard copy of the document in question is an important way to see it differently. While it may seem terribly twentieth-century, working from a print copy forces your brain to engage more deeply. Similarly, you’ll also notice things you wouldn’t otherwise by reading your work aloud—one of the oldest tricks in the editor’s book.
  3. Think big-picture first. Fight the temptation to start rewording sentences or adding commas, at least for now. Start with a holistic review—that means looking at the organization of the entire piece to make sure it’s logical and complete. Creating a reverse outline is a great technique to this end.
  4. Get to know your bad habits. We all lean on certain writerly crutches, and it’s important to recognize your own. Perhaps you overuse the passive voice, repeat the same transitional phrases, or write overly long sentences. Once you’ve identified your problem tendencies, it’s easy to spot and fix them. (We’ve got a post in the pipeline that focuses on this topic, so stay tuned for more!)
  5. If you can say it in fewer words, DO. While the utility of academic jargon has long been a contentious topic, it’s always the case that more direct communication equals more clear (and therefore more effective) communication—even if you’re writing for an audience of specialists. Examine every sentence with an eye toward simplification. Your readers will thank you.