Getting ready to launch a new publication or revamp an old one? Planning for daily blog articles or a weekly industry newsletter? You’ll want someone at the helm of your project whose primary responsibility is to establish exceptional quality for your publication.
That person is an editorial director.
What they do
An editorial director is responsible for the editorial vision and mission of your publication. Often, the ED is the person who guides the themes and long-term planning of your editorial calendar, influences guidelines and sourcing, hires or recommends writers and producers, and line edits larger features or packages, ensuring they meet high editorial standards. Sometimes, the ED also is responsible for approving freelancer payments, selecting photography, and even posting or formatting articles.
What to look for
Some editors work strictly with print. Others love the ease of online publishing. And still others feel drawn to specific industries, topics, or types of companies. But great editorial directors have a few things in common—skills and talents you should look for on their resumes and in your interview process. Things like:
- Line editing experience. Line editors are language people. They love words and grammar. And they’re really, really good at making sure your publication’s style, tone, and grammatical choices are reasonably established and clearly communicated—even if you’re working with dozens of different writers.
- A background in language. Linguistics majors and English majors tend to have an edge when it comes to editorial thinking. Again, these are the people who understand the science of language and the intricacies of literary techniques. They nerd out when you say things like “Oxford comma” or “narrative arc.”
- Attention to detail. Running a publication—keeping multiple writers, editorial vision, and a long list of story ideas organized and effective—requires a high level of attention to detail.
- A passion for publishing, membership, and awards. Great writers often write in their spare time. Great designers think in pictures. And great editorial directors voraciously consume all types of publications. Look for someone who spends her time reading and closely following media news and trends—both digital and print. Membership in professional trade organizations is also a good sign of industry knowledge. And be sure she’s worked on an award-winning team at some point in her career.
Where to look
The best editorial directors will likely have some experience with traditional media, or at least maintain media connections via trade organizations, conferences, alumni groups, literary nonprofits, etcetera. Here are a few places to find them:
- Journalism Jobs: This online marketplace is a go-to for journalists with experience in various mediums, and will put your listing in the same company as major national outlets like The New York Times and NPR, as well as top-notch business magazines such as Fast Company and vast digital content providers like ABC.com.
- Alumni jobs boards and newsletters: Editorial directors usually maintain connections to the education programs that trained them. Keep tabs on the top-ranked creative writing, journalism, and communications programs, and announce your job listing with them. At an academic level, they often include Northwestern University, University of Iowa, Columbia University, University of Missouri (Columbia), University of Florida, New York University, Cornell University, and various others.
- Mediabistro: The jobs listings page for this media-focused site is frequented by all stripes of communications professionals.
What to ask
Once you find a few good candidates, interview questions like these will help you narrow your prospects:
- How do you keep up with publishing technologies and editorial standards for today’s various channels and platforms?
- How do you juggle and prioritize editorial goals with business objectives?
- Given the budget to hire or contract an editorial assistant, which responsibilities would you delegate to him or her first? (Note: Be sure they’re not the most important to your organization at this time and that they aren’t managerial duties.)
- Which outlets and programs do you read, watch, or listen to regularly? What do you like about them?
Have you hired an editorial director in the past? Are you an editorial director with tips or advice to add? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Vanessa Martinez contributed to this post.