How is the role of a B2B Editor at a media brand changing? What skills do they need to acquire? How can I develop my editors when we are constrained by tight budgets and small editorial teams?
A publishing MD posed this question to me this week, and it prompted me to think about how B2B media have changed and what an editor now has to do to champion and grow their publication.
How B2B media has evolved
Most B2B publishers have moved on from a focus on a regular print magazine. They concentrate instead on serving a specific audience or business community, using a varied mix of channels, from newsletters to podcasts, conferences to round tables, special reports to datasets.
The emphasis is on understanding the professional challenges and information needs of a business community and providing a range of services to help them do their job better. This covers images, video, data, forecasts, research, training, networking and benchmarking, not just text-based articles.
And increasingly, B2B publishing business models are moving toward enterprise or corporate memberships. Now media businesses are almost acting as consultants to their member clients.
On the commercial side, the old separation between editorial and advertising is blurring, as commercial clients prefer to create sponsored content to communicate their message.
The role of a B2B editor
The editor is the champion and figurehead of a media business and needs to be able to confidently wear five different hats: as a community host or connector, a thought leader, an entrepreneur, a brand guardian and a team manager.
- Community Host/ connector – able to identify the movers and shakers in a sector, and the emerging voices, and bring them together, by interviewing key figures, moderating panels and round tables, in person or virtually. The measure is perhaps that individual who cannot walk across a floor at an industry event without being stopped and greeted by almost everyone they pass.
- Thought leader – the ability to spot trends, articulate and analyse the feeling within a market or community, sum up what everyone is thinking, and create a sense of direction. That could be in a printed or digital column, a podcast or at a conference session.
- Entrepreneur – B2B media are becoming more inventive in packaging content, data, insights or networking for different segments of their audience. A great editor can sense what their readers are missing and how much they might value a new product or service.
- Brand guardian – an editor needs to engage with advertisers on co-creating content, but also be tough enough to set the ground rules to maintain independence. In a frantic world, their role is also to build the reputation and authority of their media brand, so the community know they can trust its quality and accuracy.
- Team manager – editorial teams are small, and need to cover a range of new skills, from videography to social media, podcasting to data journalism. Hiring, developing and retaining journalists is a big part of the role. Also, an editor has to cultivate a wide network of specialist contributors from across the industry to ensure authentic voices.
How to develop your B2B editors
Your current editor is highly unlikely to have mastery of all these skills. It is enough to be competent in all, and a veritable ninja in one or two. You may need to support them to develop, possibly by connecting them with other editors in your organisation or outside who are adept in each discipline. There may be others in the editorial team who can deputise for one or two core skills. Say an excellent analyst to ghost write the “thought leadership” pieces or a competent manager to help develop the skills of the editorial team.
The first and crucial step though is building a mutual understanding that they need to play all these roles to truly grow their media brands influence with the market. Sitting behind a screen tweaking an article and fretting about page layout isn’t going to solve readers’ professional dilemmas. Regularly talking to them about their business challenges is much more valuable.
If you’d like to talk about how you can develop your B2B editors, I’m happy to chat over a (probably virtual) coffee – do get in touch.
About the author
Carolyn Morgan has bought, sold, launched and grown specialist media businesses across print, digital and live events. A founder of the Specialist Media Show (sold in 2014) she now advises media businesses large and small on their digital strategy through her consultancy Speciall Media.