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Every Document is a Marketing Document

by Kay Ross

In my opinion, every document that your organisation produces is by definition a marketing document. Why? Because every document (whether for internal or external distribution) presents an image of your organisation to the world - your staff, your members, your volunteers, your customers, your shareholders, the media, potential sponsors, financiers, industry analysts...

And no matter how brilliant your underlying message may be, spelling mistakes, bad grammar, poor punctuation, lack of clarity and an inappropriate style can compromise the effectiveness of your communication.

So how can you ensure that every document presents the positive, professional image you want, and targets the right people, the right way, so that readers respond the way you want? I say you need a good editor (preferably one with an understanding of marketing).

Editing means a lot more than just proof-reading a document for spelling and grammatical mistakes (although that's certainly part of the job). Here are just some of the things an editor does:

  • Attempts to reconcile the (sometimes conflicting) needs of the author, the publisher and the reader.
  • Ensures that the style and tone of a document suit its purpose and readership. Is it meant to educate, persuade, inspire, shock, amuse...?
  • Marks up copy for the graphic designer and printer.
  • Chooses appropriate typography.
  • Corrects errors of spelling, punctuation, grammar, style, idiom etc. (and makes judgement calls where these may be matters of opinion).
  • Ensures that the document is consistent with the "house style" and/or standard usage (in terms of spelling, punctuation, grammar, layout etc.).
  • Ensures that the chosen style is applied consistently throughout a document.
  • Ensures that the style/numbering of pages, headlines, sub-headings etc. is logical and consistent throughout a document.
  • Checks and corrects the writer's facts (e.g. the names of people and places, use of quotations, conversion of foreign currencies, use of foreign-language words and phrases etc.).
  • Cuts text or images where necessary (without compromising meaning) to ensure that the finished document fits the available space.
  • Fixes problems of ambiguity, unnecessary repetition, clumsiness, verbosity etc. (particularly if the text is to be read out loud).
  • Liaises with the author, client, graphic designer and printer (sometimes co-ordinating the whole publishing process from concept to distribution).
  • Commissions and manages researchers, journalists/writers, illustrators, photographers, other editors, indexers, graphic designers, printers, distributors etc.
  • Makes decisions about which stories and images are appropriate/necessary (or not) for a given publication.
  • Adapts text and images from many sources in order to produce a publication with a consistent style.
  • Makes recommendations about the most appropriate, user-friendly way to present information (e.g. narrative text, lists, tables, pictures, graphs, charts, maps, glossaries, bibliographies, indexes etc.)
  • Writes headlines and picture captions, and checks that these accurately reflect the accompanying text.
  • Points out (and often fixes) errors of logic, or the lack of logical flow, in a text.
  • Checks text for possible legal implications (e.g. libel, defamation, obscenity, sexism, racism, plagiarism, copyright issues etc.), and makes or recommends changes where necessary.
  • Makes sure that the publication is produced on time, within budget.
  • Selects excerpts from a publication, or writes blurbs, for use in marketing material.
  • Ensures that a website is user-friendly (in terms of content, design, navigation, stickiness, download time, security etc.).

So hiring a professional, marketing-savvy editor to check all of your organisation's written material makes good marketing sense, can help you to save "face" and can win you business.

Copyright Kay Ross


Kay Ross is a Hong Kong-based marketing consultant & coach, editor and copywriter. She devises creative marketing strategies and crafts compelling English-language marketing communications messages that translate into bottom-line results for her clients. To learn more, visit www.kayross.com.


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Sharing tips at the "Making the Most of the Media" seminar
September 18, 2006