Features

What does an agency-side editorial director actually do?

We Are Social's Suz Tucker isn't your traditional newsroom editorial director. Here, she describes how she maintains her editorial integrity while producing client work in an agency environment.

I joined We Are Social as editorial director late last year, so I’m pretty fresh, and so is the role. It’s similar to a managing editor job at a publication, except, obviously, without the separation of church and state.

So where does ‘editorial’ actually fit in the agency setting?

My team works as a creative function within the business, so if you think about it in terms of what the org chart might look like, editorial sits adjacent to our team of traditional agency creatives. We’re responsible for the content used to engage brands’ audiences regularly to build brand equity with the audience over time. That’s the most utilitarian way I can define editorial.

If we wanted to give it a ‘higher purpose’ spin, our role – like the traditional role of a good ol’ fashioned newspaper – is to serve the audience first. So we always challenge ourselves with the question: “why would I – a real human – care about this?”

That’s the main focus of my role: finding that intersection between what the audience cares about and where the brand has a credible angle within that context.

Our team works at two speeds like most digital publishers; there’s the reactive newsroom-driven stream of work as well as long lead content.

The day-to-day

My background is independent digital publishing, so I’m from the quick ‘n’ dirty school school of problem solving, but the past few years I’ve started using tools (Evernote and the Remember The Milk app) and actively learning how to be a more zen office presence instead of darting between desks clutching fistfuls of A3 paper.

Now I usually break my day into three sections:

Reading, research and reviews

Get in early to knock over emails, get through urgent edits or approvals on my team’s work

Browse Wired, the Business of Fashion, NYT, weird Twitter, Reddit, headlines from the NextDraft e-newsletter (highly recommended if you’re after a great daily edit of the internet), and the most petty incidents from the NBA overnight (for personal reasons). 

Scribble story ideas on Post-Its to bring to the newsroom.

Meetings, the necessary evil

For better or worse, meetings make up a big chunk of my day. From 9.30 we cover off the essentials:

Projects/campaign WIP

Newsroom meeting to workshop reactive content opportunities (like this and this) for clients

Briefings or reviews

Then there’s a semi-regular cadence of meetings and creative workshops with the wider Creative team for concepting and reviews of editorial work, all of which are necessary and valuable… But yeah there are times when the meeting:getting-shit-done ratio is wildly disproportionate. That’s life.

Writing

I try to block out a couple of hours for writing, whether that’s evolving the editorial strategy for an existing client, new business presentations or a piece of content. I still like to write for every client I work across because it’s the best way of getting a proper handle on tone of voice and style. My team probably find me excessively hands on. Sorry, mates.

What’s my idea of a good day?

When an interesting, challenging brief comes in.

When someone pitches the perfect intersection between cultural moment and a brand in the newsroom and everyone laughs – then the client actually goes for it.

When great new ideas come out of the team and you can see a client have either a ‘that’s really fucking funny’ reaction or they embrace something new right there in the room.

And generally it’s always good when the team gets a piece of work live and it performs really well.

What does a bad day look like?

When I drop half a sandwich on a white shirt shortly before a client presentation.

When a great, unimpeachable idea gets knocked back for inexplicable reasons and no amount of reasoning can do anything to overcome the objection to it.

When someone breaks the Cardinal Rule of Fridays and books a meeting between 12 and 2pm.

There are very few true bad days. It’s more moments of general stress that come with simultaneously juggling several clients with multiple deadlines for each. Or working on a pitch where emotions run high and people are sleep deprived and, for some reason, designers tend to cop a lot of hysteria.

More often than not, pitching is fun and people clamour to get involved. We get through a civilised volume of beers at our local (as long as the Cardinal Rule of Fridays is observed). And most of the time I get home in time for dinner with my partner.

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