Scale: How to Bring on Contributors Without Losing Your Blog Voice
By: Jennine Jacob

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There might come a point in time when you realize you can’t do it alone. You want more content for your blog, you want to spend more time developing the business end, or building the site, but your readers want YOU. It’s a tough call because that relationship between you and your bloggers is golden.

So how do you scale up? Bloggers like Tavi, launched the multi-contributor magazine Rookie, Into The Gloss has brought on Nick Axelrod, Man Repeller is rumored to be building an editorial team. Sometimes it can be a success, like Rookie, other times it can lead to a drop in readership. Others like ProBlogger seem to have lost their luster since Darren Rowse stopped posting as much and substituted his expertise with guest posts.

Since April, IFB’s traffic has doubled and I believe it has to do with the efforts of the team, Taylor, Amanda and Chelsea. Even though I’m not technically writing each post, I am deeply involved with the editorial process and constantly working on the direction. Getting to this point hasn’t been easy, and learning how to build a team didn’t happen over night.  My first experiences with contributors were having friends contribute, and eventually paying bloggers to post regularly. Finding the right fit wasn’t easy and learning how to lead was even less easy.

I certainly don’t feel like I “get it” but I have made enough mistakes to share what not to do, and a couple of things that have worked as well.

Know your working style

When I first started working with people, I thought everyone worked like me. I despise being told what to do. Telling other people what to do was the last thing I ever wanted. It turned out that not everyone likes to figure things out, and actually like being told what they need to do (politely at first). It also turned out that I particularly don’t work well with people who need a lot of validation and guidance. It’s not that that type of worker isn’t good, they just aren’t good for me.

It’s important to know what works for you when looking for people to work with. Do you like giving direction? Do you like getting guidance? Or are you more hands off, and like seeing what people are capable of creating, it’s important to know that. Just think of the types of bosses you have that you liked. What did you like, and dislike about them? This should give you an idea about your working relationship.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

When you are leading a team, it’s important that you communicate what you want if you expect to get it. If you don’t like something communicate that. If you DO like something, by gosh, communicate it! It’s so important that the people you work with know both the good and the bad. It’s hard at first, but gets easier with practice. Basically every point I have below is some aspect of communicating what works, and helps keep everyone on the same page.

Create Editorial Guidelines

When I first started growing the IFB team, I threw an intern on Twitter and let her tweet. Within minutes, I got DMs asking if the IFB Twitter account was hacked. Why? Because the tweets were off-message, and things I would never deem appropriate for the IFB brand. Hence, the need for editorial guidelines. This doesn’t have to be too fancy, just a document with your mission statement, and a few do’s and don’ts to share with other people so they know what you want. That way if someone goes off brand in a post, you can always refer back to the document.

Set Clear Goals & Clear Expectations

How do you know if your team is succeeding? One way I use as a mark of success is to set goals for the team. At IFB, I have high level goals, and then break them down to weekly and even daily goals (sometimes even hourly). If your team is aware of their goals, they have the power to figure out how to make it happen. People generally like to please others.

Create Your Editorial Calendar

Editorial calendars are important for blogs with even one person running them, and with multiple contributors, editorial calendars are essential. Editorial calendars help you map the content to make sure there are no overlaps, they help you make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what they have to do for the week. It’s also easier to make sure every post is adhering to the editorial guidelines of the blog when content is mapped out ahead of time.

Review Posts Before Publishing

Making sure your posts have the right tone, message and are hitting the mark with the readers requires reviewing before publishing.   Your contributors may not have all the knowledge in your niche you have, so you might also catch mistakes as well. It’s so important to read every post that goes out, as more often than not, there will be tweaks in contributors content.

Managing Contributors is Still Work

Getting contributors does not get you off the hook with your workload, you still need to be involved with the process to make sure your blog is staying on track. When I started bringing people on to help with the workload, I thought it meant it would mean less work for me, and while it certainly helps (I couldn’t possibly publish five posts per day) it still requires attention and care to keep the team inspired and achieving the set goals. At first I didn’t know how to do this and made a lot of mistakes, in the end I started learning about leadership which helps, but it’s a never ending process.

 
image credit: Shutterstock

 

Comments

  1. Jade says:

    I’d love to eventually have people contribute but I’m still trying to find the right person/people. At the moment though, I’m managing to get a blog post out each weekday so I think I’d wait until I wanted to increase the amount of posts her day or until I’m too busy with my daughter and work – right now it’s working well :-)

  2. Donna says:

    While I don’t think I’ll be needing help in the next few months, it’s always good to think about these things. This is a post I’ll be bookmarking for later reference. Especially the part about your managerial style and what type of colleagues you will work well with.
    There is a great book about finding your strengths that has an online quiz and then tells you your top 5 strengths. That has been valuable to me not only for my own life, but also to give to potential co-workers and bosses so they know if I’ll fit in with their group.
    Donna
    http://www.prettysparklythings.blogspot.com

  3. Avatar of Niyah
    Niyah says:

    I agree with everything you said. I’ve had my ups and downs with contributing writers, but now I have a team of 7 that I can really trust and rely on! It’s fun to be able to swap ideas and come up with new content that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. I especially agree with the editorial calendar part. It’s essential! It’s definitely not easy to make sure everything happens on time, but for the most part it works out!

    http://www.inexpensivechic.com

  4. Ana says:

    I’ve always admired blogs written my multiple authors because they (well, the ones I had the chance to read) kept their voice consistent no matter who was writing or what was being written.

  5. kimmie says:

    As my blog grows this is something that I’ve worried about. I don’t want contributors to write exactly like me, but I do want the voice to be consistent, no matter who is posting. This definitely gave me some guidelines to follow!

  6. Michelle says:

    I am ready to expand my content and know it’s time to bring on contributors, but I have been concerned about some of the challenges you’ve outlined in your article. Thanks for providing some solutions that will make the transition much easier when I decide to take the leap.

  7. This is a good article for all bloggers to use editorial calendar for managing their contents effectievly.
    Did you get a chance to check the website http://www.ezedcal.com to manage editorial calendar easily for your blog and show your editorial calendar in your blog easily (optional)

    Thanks & Regards
    ~Jo

  8. Vince Samson says:

    The good thing with having contributors in your blog is that you’ll give your readers more relevant information each day from different point of views. Its like giving them options to learn more, like they always say ” Two minds work better than one.” All you have to do is keep the posts in moderation and within the topic of your blog, review them all before publishing and you’re good.

What do you think?