Precor Inc. develops personalized health and fitness experiences that help people live the lives they desire. In 2016, Precor introduced more than 50 new products and expanded our product sales in new and existing markets using more translated content. Previously, most of our printed content was produced solely in U.S. English.

At the same time, the number of Precor content creators and the types of content for various audiences also grew exponentially. Content creators were quick to craft new marketing and technical materials to respond to these new product launches, though sometimes, the textual part of those materials could have used additional polish. These important customer-facing documents didn’t always look like they were created by the same company, showcase the Precor brand and messaging consistently, or address specific needs in the many countries where we did business.

Though technical and marketing product content translated into over 19 languages had become a strategic asset for the sales and service teams, the cost of translation and rework, in some cases, had become too high. Global field marketers and other stakeholders wanted to influence content at the source—not after it was translated when it was usually too late. Continuing at this rate would only cause budget overruns as well as delayed, incomplete, and potentially inaccurate content released to our global customers.

It was clear Precor had evolved to the point where we needed more editorial oversight of all major customer content touchpoints. The importance of crafting and distributing content with precision that would ensure accurate product documentation as a critical enabler for global sales, customer satisfaction, and brand advocacy was paramount. We needed an intelligent content solution that was scalable, reasonably priced, and workable into existing project calendars, without becoming a burden during the entire content development lifecycle.

The solution was to craft and implement a more prescribed editorial process for the content at the source, before it goes out to translation. Applying editorial rigor—where content projects are assigned to an editor and tracked in an online tool, and stakeholders are held accountable for quality, on-time reviews throughout the project’s entire content development cycle—was the initial goal. We undertook a 90-day trial (from mid-Q2 2017 to mid-Q3 2017 within one marketing group) to test the process, fix bugs, examine feedback, reassess what was working and what was not, then make a case for the future of the process.

For this trial, a group of content creators and their managers decided which materials would be reviewed, the types of edits required, and the roster of reviewers they needed. Sell sheets, webpages, training materials, and the product catalog were just a sampling of the materials included in the full editorial cycle as part of the pilot project.

Then the types of edits—legal, graphical, technical, and linguistic—were defined. Deciding which of these levels of edit was appropriate for a particular document depended on Precor policy or management direction, available time and human resources, and the final draft quality of the original material. Stakeholders were identified, cooperation was elicited, and expectations were set. The effectiveness of the stakeholders depended on two things: that the right reviewers were in place and that they provided quality feedback by the deadline provided.

 

Iteration-cycle-for-the-editorial-process
Figure 1: Iteration cycle for the editorial process

 

Finally, Precor introduced a create-edit-review iteration locally (U.S. headquarters) then presented two webinars globally as part of a beta content process.After collecting as much data as possible—from the online tracking tool as well as verbal feedback—and analyzing the data with respect to our goals, and then testing and acting on the results to ensure a good return on investment, the trial was considered by all to be a resounding success. The trial changed mindsets and behaviors toward achieving a content creation and review best practice, ensuring that the editorial process is now permanently in place at Precor, due in large measure, to the three keys of its success.

First Key to Success: Editorial Authority

Marking up a document is the most basic task that an editor does. More complex is the range of interpersonal and technical skills that an effective editor uses to help marketers and content creators inside and outside the Precor marketing team manage a project and reach their goal(s).

An editor’s degree of authority is influenced by the culture of an organization itself. Currently at Precor, the status of the editor, despite the employee not being an Editor with a capital E, is valued by their peers; in part, because they have been given significant authority, for example, to participate in projects, help oversee the content development cycle, and recommend changes. They have earned respect for that authority through the expertise they provide.

Editors can gain authority in two ways:

  • by increasing their editorial skills through professional development courses
  • by changing their organization’s culture so that editing work is valued

Second Key to Success: Project Tracking

At Precor, we use monday.com (formerly Dapulse) as our project management software. In monday.com, the editors set up an Editorial Process board as a Shareable Board, where they can formally track all projects they edit using the deadlines dictated by the iteration cycle (see Figure 1). Providing our management with visual data for the iteration stages in a table format (see Figure 2) as well as in a timeline format (see Figure 3) helps them at-a-glance gain insight in how we’re doing. They can measure the progress of the editorial process for specific documents as well as the responsiveness of all participants.

stages-of-editorial-iteration
Figure 2: Stages of editorial iteration

 

example-of-project-timeline-using-project-management-software
Figure 3: Project timeline using project management software (e.g., Monday)

 

Implementing a tracking tool for the editorial process helps to hold all content creators and stakeholders accountable for their part in it. A formal data ecosystem (editorial process + tracking software) helps both employees and managers in three key areas:

  • adjusting editing metrics and editorial calendars as needed
  • coaching employees and/or load-balancing assignments
  • assisting in end-of-year employee performance reviews

Third Key to Success: Customer focus

Setting up a formal editorial process has been instrumental in elevating the accuracy and informing the consistency of the Precor brand, style, and voice in our content. Before the editorial process was implemented, U.S. English content was reviewed locally, sent out for translation, and then reviewed by in-country marketers after the fact. The global marketers could only affect translated content, not content at the source. Sometimes, their feedback came too late in the review loop to change the version of the document their customers would see, so they ended up making the changes outside of our translation memory database, leading to inefficiency.

Marketing and technical content is now reviewed by content creators and stakeholders in U.S. English as well as in all languages/countries where we do business both before and after translation. The editorial process is a true collaboration across the entire global marketing team to affect change that positively impacts our customers. Internal feedback on this process has been extremely positive, and ultimately, the hard work everyone has put into making it work has significantly raised the standard for customer-facing materials at Precor and raised the bar for customer documentation within the fitness industry.

The content that all Precor customers see now, regardless of where they do business with us, has been much more thoroughly reviewed from the beginning to the end of the content development lifecycle. The extra attention we’ve paid to the quality of our documentation gives us an advantage over our competitors and makes for a better brand experience in the minds of our customers.

As a result of incorporating this process into our content development workflow, all our marketing and technical content creators now recognize the importance of the role of the editor and the editorial process, and can appreciate how it has positively impacted the Precor brand overall and contributed to a better customer experience. Another plus has been increased awareness by Precor management of how the process helped us better align with our top business goals and how our content has been transformed to become a much more valuable business asset.

Moving forward, the Precor editorial process will regularly undergo changes to accommodate the growth of the business, which, in turn, will continue to give our content that professional edge. Even as we move toward new technologies that require content for chatbots, voice interfaces, and virtual reality, our editorial process will develop in tandem with them and stand us in good stead with our customers.

Embracing a new, intelligent approach to how we create, review, and translate content will help us thrive well into the future, knowing we have management’s support along the way.

The Author

Teresa Floreano Goertz has been a Senior Writer and Content Strategist at Precor Inc. since 2015. For more than 20 years, Teresa has been an award-winning technical communications professional who has designed, developed, and managed content projects for Microsoft, Swedish Hospital, Puget Sound Energy, and Weyerhaeuser. She’s also a current Advisory Board member of Steyer Associates and the University of Washington technical writing certificate program, former member of Bellevue College’s professional writing program, and volunteers as the Scholarship Chair for the Society for Technical Communication—Puget Sound Chapter.

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