A Day in the Life of a Content Marketing Editor
Glassdoor currently lists 1,753 open content marketing editor positions in New York City alone. Of course, that number doesn’t include all the companies looking for branded content editors, content managers, marketing editors, and managing editors. Traditional media outlets may have fewer opportunities for writers and editors, but on the branded side, content marketing jobs are still on the rise.
Still, it can be challenging for brands and the right candidates to connect. Content marketers and journalistic editors may share skills, but their day-to-day tasks won’t be identical. As more media professionals move into content marketing, explaining that common ground is important.
We asked our associate editor Emily Gaudette, who previously worked in magazine writing, to break down her day. Below, she compares her daily Contently tasks to the tasks she completed at previous jobs, offering what life is like for a content marketing editor.
My alarm goes off. While still lying in bed, I check the top headlines on the New York Times app.
While I brush my teeth, I read emails and my Google alerts. I set up alerts for certain terms like “content marketing” and “content marketing software” to stay current on any news that could spark a story or help me in a meeting.
I’m on the subway listening to a podcast about arts and culture (Alright Mary) or communication (Clear and Vivid) while looming over the person who looks most likely to get up soon. Fidgeting and getting their bags together is a dead giveaway.
I also fire off some irreverent tweets from my personal Twitter account. Now that I’m not an arts reporter anymore, I have to put my thoughts about TV and movies somewhere.
I’m at my desk with coffee. Before anyone talks to me or sends a Slack, I check Buffer for high-level social data and Tweetdeck for anyone vying for attention in Contently’s mentions.
Next, I put together a draft of our email newsletter and shoot a test email to the editor-in-chief. If I forgot to link an image to something, he’ll send me a note, and I’ll go in to fix it. Once it’s ready, I schedule it to go out with an A/B test for different subject lines.
Typically, the marketing department comes together for a team huddle one morning a week. I’m on the editorial team, but marketing also encompasses the design team, product marketing, and corporate comms. Each team has projects they own, but there’s also plenty of overlap that calls for collaboration. The goal of the meeting is for each team to give an update so we can prioritize pressing projects and give employees clear instructions.
By now, I’m knee-deep in a blog post for The Content Strategist. One of my professional goals is to write two posts each week, in addition to whatever else is on my plate. Usually, I work on some kind of industry thinkpiece I can tackle on my own plus and a reported feature that requires interviews.
I aim to get a first draft on my boss’s desk by mid-day. If I need to use concrete examples of branded content to prove my argument, I might Slack someone who’s client-facing and ask them to hook me up with the right contact. Otherwise, I’ll do some digging online for exemplary content from brands.
Someone else in marketing has copy they need edited. I edit for clarity, leave a few comments, and sprinkle in commas where they’re supposed to be. I also vary their sentence length. Finally, when I notice the writer is calling a facet of our software by a name we phased out a few months ago, I “find and replace” that term with the new one.
I almost send the doc back, but when I look over it again, I notice I only left criticisms. In my experience, professionals can be a little precious about their own writing. It can feel personal, as if an editor wanted to critique your character or your unique point of view. For this reason, I usually highlight a passage they wrote well and give them a compliment.
I get my second cup of coffee and start in on the highest priority marketing assignment. Depending on the day, that could mean copyediting a 30-page e-book, putting together a short client case study, or approving an event program. It’s a juggling act, for sure.
Speaking of juggling acts, I’m of two minds when I’m writing and editing in this job. While one half of me belongs to marketing, with all its jargon and data and adherence to business objectives, the other half belongs to editorial, which is a hybrid of journalistic practice and artistic flair.
Another part of my job is ghostwriting op-eds for executives, which I truly love. Interviewing an expert about their mindset and then sitting down with my notes to essentially do an impression of them for 800 words is my bread and butter.
At this point in my day, I’m coaxing one of my boss’s bosses to tell me what they care about. I encourage them to say things a few different ways until a nice phrase pops out and the narrative starts to click. I take notes on any rhetorical devices or specific references they use but also record the interview for backup.
I’m in an edit meeting with my boss, another marketing professional, and whichever guests we’ve invited to pitch us from other departments. I present a single, fleshed out pitch for the week ahead, and I adjust the story idea according to everyone’s notes. Then we put a due date on it, and I weigh in on others’ pitches.
The only thing I hate about my job is having to stare at a laptop screen for hours on end. This is why I always leave the office by myself for lunch.
Sometimes I go to Washington Square Park to clear my head, call my mom, or meet up with a writer friend who’s looking for a traditional reporting job. I say something like, “Yeah, I guess I’m in marketing now, not media,” and they say, “Well, hell, at least you’re in something.”
My editor is done with my first draft, and he has a lot of notes. But that’s what I prefer.
When an editor hands you a mixed bag of rhetorical questions, devil’s advocate arguments, and requests for clarification, it feels like they’re gently pushing you away from your weakest impulses. Having an editor who cares enough to challenge you is such a gift.
I shoot a second draft back to my boss, and he hands me rough copy from a different writer that needs to be shaped. I do a final proofread of that blog post and nudge it from our CMS into WordPress. There, I choose a header image from the options the design team sends over and put the piece out into the world.
I finish a first draft of the executive ghostwritten byline and send that to my editor. He says, “Okay, let’s trade,” and hands me back the final draft of my blog post from earlier in the day. I get that sucker in WordPress too.
Somebody in marketing has a question about a dangling modifier. These quick requests for comment remind me of the language section on the GRE; you just develop your ear to the point where things feel right or wrong.
Additionally, design needs someone to snip eight words out of a case study, and that person is me. This means I remove all the adverbs, regrettably.
Our PR team wants my eyes on the press list they’re building. I go into my Twitter feed and pull out the names of all my friends and mutuals who work in business reporting, and I add those people to the doc.
I check Tweetdeck for anybody who slid into Contently’s mentions and answer emails. Typically, I’m reviewing pitches from freelancers and forwarding the good ones to my boss.
I reorganize my to-do list for tomorrow and set a Slack reminder for 9:30am to look into marketing events.
I also keep a couple documents going with notes on aspirational projects I think Contently should launch. I add my new thoughts on a branded podcast and a video series to the doc—I’ll try to pitch them and plan them out when there’s time.
I’m out the door at exactly six. On the subway, I use Pocket to read all the magazine features I saved throughout the day. One of those might spark an idea that I can turn into my next story.