The problem with herding cats is that they’re just so damned independent. While you’re off wrangling one that has decided to start unrolling all the toilet paper rolls in the house, another one is in the kitchen eating your table lining and puking it back up on the counter. Just as soon as you get that one’s puke all situation, another one has decided to attack the side of your new couch with the fury of someone getting the opportunity to go back in time and fight Hitler.
The other problem with herding cats is that they’re smart. You put one or two of them away in a pen, by the time you’ve situated the others, the first two have put their heads together and MacGyver-ed their way out and are upsetting the dog.
If you’ve ever managed multiple bloggers or had a team of freelancers working with you on a project, the metaphor is apparent. If you haven’t, honestly, this post might not do you a whole lot of good until you’re in a position to lead a team (at which point, please come back and read this).
The Importance of Governance
Why is it so important to have governance systems in place? To most people, that sounds like a dumb question, but originally to companies like Kenneth Cole, KitchenAid, and HMV, it didn’t seem that important…until something truly drastic happened. Click those links if you want the full stories, but let’s just say someone who wasn’t being watched said something online under the presence of their brand and a lot of shit hit a lot of fans.
Now, I know that those examples have to do with social media and we’re talking about blogging here. Obviously if you have a blogging network, you have an editor and a process to make sure that every word being represented by your brand under and channel is being scrutinized by multiple people before seeing the light of day. Wait? You’re not? Well, join the club.
But, if you want rapid growth through multiple, quality postings without having to write everything yourself, it’s important to understand how to govern a group of bloggers.
Step 1: Create a Documented Style Guide
Everyone has a different style of writing and that’s fantastic. You need differing voices to truly get a good community to grow around your blog and topic. The written style guide isn’t meant to make every blogger sound exactly the same and stifle creativity. The style guide is your way to address common concerns such as language, grammar, tone, voice, capitalization, spelling and length. Does your blog always capitalize the word “Like” in reference to a Facebook Like? What about the use of the letter “u” in words like “honour” or “colour”. How much cursing is too much? Is it okay to ever type “fuck”?
The types of things can be addressed up front to answer those questions to make sure everyone involved understands tone, voice and the general writing rules.
The style guide should also include SEO elements like how to properly use meta tags and descriptions, what’s the proper form for anchor text and internal links, how alt image tags are to be written and when to use H1, H2, and H3 title tags and in what volume. This can cut down a lot of editing time later when everyone is on the same page with the fundamental styles.
Step 2: Stick to a Schedule
You may have noticed that I pretty much always contribute to For Bloggers, By Bloggers on Thursdays. In that same vein, Sarah Arrow usually contributes on Wednesdays and so on and so forth with our regular contributors. That’s not by accident. When we began, we sat down and decided on topics and a detailed editorial calendar that we all adhere to. This is to make our lives easier and give you, faithful reader, a sense of continuity and consistency.
Those types of things are important because it allows us to keep each other accountable and allows you the ability to understand what’s coming and how often. Do your bloggers post once a week? Maybe they’re only needed 3 times per month. Whatever your schedule is, make sure it is written down and understood somewhere so that everyone (writers, editors, guest bloggers, and readers) are on the same page.
Step 3: Get the Right Tools
A lot of times, fancy-schmancy tools might not be required, but when you have a large amount of contributing writers (I’ve know people who work with 30 or more at a time), it can be really helpful to have some sort of system in place for contributions and queues.
There are many different tools you could use to do this and it’s up to you to decide on the best system. Some people simply use Google Docs and require submissions sent to a specific folder and edit them there and then move them to WordPress themselves. Others prefer plug-ins like the WordPress Editorial Calendar plug-in or CollabPress. If you need bigger tools, platforms like Kapost and EditFlow. Do some research and find the tool the best meets the needs of your team, set it up, do some training and then hit the races.
When it comes down to it, you’ll be doing a lot of work as the editor or wrangler of multiple bloggers, but you can take steps to make it a million times easier on yourself, your bloggers and your brand. In the long run, it’s much better to have systems set up before you need them than trying to scramble and fix something after someone posts something racist, untrue or simply terrible under the guise of your million dollar company.
What other tools have you found to be helpful for things like this? Other tips for people who might be starting out with a multiple author blog? Share your thoughts and advice in the comments!