What does an editor in chief do and why does it matter?

What does an editor in chief do and why does it matter?

3 minute read

What does an editor in chief do and why does it matter?

3 minute read

What does an editor in chief do and why does it matter?

Gigi Griffis

Content Strategist
As many of us know, content is often what causes projects to go off the rails. It can easily delay our launches, bring our project managers to tears, and keep us up at night.

Table of contents

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

It causes us stress because we know it’s vital for a successful project. Content is why people come to our websites. We should always be looking for ways to make our content more:

  • Useful
  • Usable
  • Polished

The key to doing all three and wrangling messy content is taking a cue from the world of print publications—hiring an editor-in-chief (EIC).

What is an editor-in-chief?

An editor-in-chief (sometimes referred to as an executive editor) is the head editor of a publication. They’re responsible for managing:

  • Editorial policies
  • Content production
  • Editorial staff members such as senior editors, assistant editors, and writers
  • Content budgets

Ultimately, the editor-in-chief is responsible for ensuring all content fits into the publication’s big picture. By being the final pair of eyes on every detail, they ensure a polished, professional online presence that contributes to improved content marketing metrics.

Their role is crucial on big content projects, especially if you have multiple authors and subject matter experts contributing to your content pool.

What does an editor in chief Do?

To better understand the responsibilities of an editor in chief, let’s consider three core aspects of the job.

‍1. They ensure consistency

The more content contributors you have, the higher the chances of inconsistencies with voice, style, or format creeping into your content.

Because an Editor in Chief has a strong understanding of organizational goals, content strategy, and style guidelines, they can unify content from various contributors. Their work can make your website and overall online presence feel more organized, trustworthy, and cohesive.

‍2. The checks for accuracy

The responsibilities of an editor in chief go beyond proofreading.

Incorrect statements, grammatical errors, and other content crises can wreak havoc on your reputation if you let them. ‍

‍3. They ensure strategic alignment

Finally, a shrewd, strategic editor in chief can ensure that every piece of content on the site lines up with your strategy. In other words, they give each piece of content the best chance at reaching your goals for it.

Editor-in-chief at os.me, Medha Shri Dahiya, summed up the role: “An editor-in-chief is where the buck stops for all things editorial. They’re the most senior editorial member of a publication or media outlet and are responsible for editorial policies and operations. Usually, all the departments report to them, and they report to the publisher or proprietor.

Principal responsibilities of an EIC include, but are not limited to:

  • Setting the tone, style, look, and feel of the publication
  • Leading the editorial team to produce factually accurate work that abides by the journalistic standard of the organization

They are the ultimate boss, and the onus of what goes in the publication lies with them.”

Editor-in-chief responsibilities in the words of EICs

For more context, take a look at how some EICs speak about their job descriptions.

Let’s start with Elizabeth Puckett of Motorious. In her LinkedIn profile, she mentions everything from managing the editorial calendar and creating content to distributing content on social media and analyzing performance data.

Editor in Chief LinkedIn Profile - Elizabeth Puckett
An example of job duties from EIC Elizabeth Puckett

Alyssa Mitchell of Cheese Market News mentions some similar responsibilities, along with the addition of page layout strategy and attending industry events.

Editor in Chief LinkedIn Profile - Alyssa Mitchell
An example of job duties from EIC Alyssa Mitchell

And, last up is Suzanne D’Amato of PepsiCo, who describes her role as involving the “creation of key narratives and messaging” for internal and external audiences.

Editor in Chief LinkedIn Profile - Suzanne D’Amato
An example of job duties from EIC Suzanne D’Amato

Why can’t our content strategist handle this?

Based on the duties we’ve been talking about, you may be wondering if your content strategist could take on these responsibilities to save you the trouble of hiring someone new. The short answer is maybe. There are two factors to consider here:

  1. The strengths of your content strategist. Different content strategists have different specialties. While one may be well-suited for the editor-in-chief job, another may not. Consider this when choosing who you work with.
  2. The size of your project. ‍Don’t overwhelm your content strategist. If your project is huge and multi-faceted, you may want to keep their focus on high-level strategy, messaging documents, writer wrangling, or process. If your project is on the small side, you have the budget for it, and your content strategist has the right specialties, "editor-in-chief" may be a perfect addition to their job title.

If the former is the case with your content strategist, here’s the next step.

If not a content strategist, who can fill this role?

Of course, you can contract or hire a skilled copy editor for some outside perspective. The important things to look for are:

  • Strong attention to detail
  • A background in both big picture editing and line editing
  • An understanding of and passion for your overall business and content strategies
  • Strong communication skills and interpersonal skills
  • The ability to manage writers and deliver constructive feedback
  • The ability to juggle multiple deadlines one-handed

Alternatively, you may already have a senior writer, creative director, or marketing professional in-house who fits the bill and could fill this role. This person may even be you! How can you know if you'd be a good candidate?

How to Become an Editor-in-Chief

In addition to the above soft skills and experience, a common path to becoming an Editor in Chief includes:

  • Getting your Bachelor's degree in English, journalism, or a related field
  • Developing strong writing skills such as through journalism
  • Attaining industry experience
  • Having at least five years of experience in editing roles as did the EICs whose LinkedIn profiles we looked at earlier

(Editing experience is especially valuable if you've worked your way up from other positions such as junior editor, associate editor, senior editor, or managing editor.)

And, of course, it's also helpful to have training and certifications under your belt, such as through the Advanced Editing Certificate Program.

It’s a Bird…it’s a Plane…it’s Your Editor-in-Chief

Once you’ve found or hired the right person for the role, make sure they’re involved in every step of your content process. In particular, fold them in for:

  • The strategic briefing meeting: Your editor-in-chief is Strategy’s advocate at the detail level; they should be intimately acquainted with its ins and outs.
  • The site map finalization: Your editor-in-chief needs to know what pages you’re creating, why, and what criteria to judge late additions or subtractions by.
  • The first review: Your editor-in-chief shouldn’t just review all content submissions. They should have access to the feedback of all other reviewers so that it can be incorporated into the final review.
  • The final review: The last eyes on everything before it launches should be those of your editor-in-chief.

Of course, if you’ve decided to head up the editorial staff, you’ll want to insert yourself into these same workflow stages.

If you’re using a content operations platform like GatherContent, you can easily build approval processes into your workflow and templates. This will prevent regulatory processes from being skipped or forgotten about and ensure compliance and consistency across your organization’s content.

Print best practices, meet website processes

In summary, our online publications should take a cue from the world of print. While online content production is different in some ways—more fluid, more complicated, more easily altered after the fact—in other ways, it is very much the same.

For example, it still addresses busy users, entertains, informs, and needs to be professional and polished. Thus, the processes used in the print world also have a place in our processes for online publications. But it’s up to us—and, specifically, EICs—to consistently implement and maintain those processes, using tools like GatherContent to make it easier.

Good to Know: If you haven’t already, sign up for your 14-day free trial and see how you can build editorial guidelines and approvals into your workflows!

It causes us stress because we know it’s vital for a successful project. Content is why people come to our websites. We should always be looking for ways to make our content more:

  • Useful
  • Usable
  • Polished

The key to doing all three and wrangling messy content is taking a cue from the world of print publications—hiring an editor-in-chief (EIC).

What is an editor-in-chief?

An editor-in-chief (sometimes referred to as an executive editor) is the head editor of a publication. They’re responsible for managing:

  • Editorial policies
  • Content production
  • Editorial staff members such as senior editors, assistant editors, and writers
  • Content budgets

Ultimately, the editor-in-chief is responsible for ensuring all content fits into the publication’s big picture. By being the final pair of eyes on every detail, they ensure a polished, professional online presence that contributes to improved content marketing metrics.

Their role is crucial on big content projects, especially if you have multiple authors and subject matter experts contributing to your content pool.

What does an editor in chief Do?

To better understand the responsibilities of an editor in chief, let’s consider three core aspects of the job.

‍1. They ensure consistency

The more content contributors you have, the higher the chances of inconsistencies with voice, style, or format creeping into your content.

Because an Editor in Chief has a strong understanding of organizational goals, content strategy, and style guidelines, they can unify content from various contributors. Their work can make your website and overall online presence feel more organized, trustworthy, and cohesive.

‍2. The checks for accuracy

The responsibilities of an editor in chief go beyond proofreading.

Incorrect statements, grammatical errors, and other content crises can wreak havoc on your reputation if you let them. ‍

‍3. They ensure strategic alignment

Finally, a shrewd, strategic editor in chief can ensure that every piece of content on the site lines up with your strategy. In other words, they give each piece of content the best chance at reaching your goals for it.

Editor-in-chief at os.me, Medha Shri Dahiya, summed up the role: “An editor-in-chief is where the buck stops for all things editorial. They’re the most senior editorial member of a publication or media outlet and are responsible for editorial policies and operations. Usually, all the departments report to them, and they report to the publisher or proprietor.

Principal responsibilities of an EIC include, but are not limited to:

  • Setting the tone, style, look, and feel of the publication
  • Leading the editorial team to produce factually accurate work that abides by the journalistic standard of the organization

They are the ultimate boss, and the onus of what goes in the publication lies with them.”

Editor-in-chief responsibilities in the words of EICs

For more context, take a look at how some EICs speak about their job descriptions.

Let’s start with Elizabeth Puckett of Motorious. In her LinkedIn profile, she mentions everything from managing the editorial calendar and creating content to distributing content on social media and analyzing performance data.

Editor in Chief LinkedIn Profile - Elizabeth Puckett
An example of job duties from EIC Elizabeth Puckett

Alyssa Mitchell of Cheese Market News mentions some similar responsibilities, along with the addition of page layout strategy and attending industry events.

Editor in Chief LinkedIn Profile - Alyssa Mitchell
An example of job duties from EIC Alyssa Mitchell

And, last up is Suzanne D’Amato of PepsiCo, who describes her role as involving the “creation of key narratives and messaging” for internal and external audiences.

Editor in Chief LinkedIn Profile - Suzanne D’Amato
An example of job duties from EIC Suzanne D’Amato

Why can’t our content strategist handle this?

Based on the duties we’ve been talking about, you may be wondering if your content strategist could take on these responsibilities to save you the trouble of hiring someone new. The short answer is maybe. There are two factors to consider here:

  1. The strengths of your content strategist. Different content strategists have different specialties. While one may be well-suited for the editor-in-chief job, another may not. Consider this when choosing who you work with.
  2. The size of your project. ‍Don’t overwhelm your content strategist. If your project is huge and multi-faceted, you may want to keep their focus on high-level strategy, messaging documents, writer wrangling, or process. If your project is on the small side, you have the budget for it, and your content strategist has the right specialties, "editor-in-chief" may be a perfect addition to their job title.

If the former is the case with your content strategist, here’s the next step.

If not a content strategist, who can fill this role?

Of course, you can contract or hire a skilled copy editor for some outside perspective. The important things to look for are:

  • Strong attention to detail
  • A background in both big picture editing and line editing
  • An understanding of and passion for your overall business and content strategies
  • Strong communication skills and interpersonal skills
  • The ability to manage writers and deliver constructive feedback
  • The ability to juggle multiple deadlines one-handed

Alternatively, you may already have a senior writer, creative director, or marketing professional in-house who fits the bill and could fill this role. This person may even be you! How can you know if you'd be a good candidate?

How to Become an Editor-in-Chief

In addition to the above soft skills and experience, a common path to becoming an Editor in Chief includes:

  • Getting your Bachelor's degree in English, journalism, or a related field
  • Developing strong writing skills such as through journalism
  • Attaining industry experience
  • Having at least five years of experience in editing roles as did the EICs whose LinkedIn profiles we looked at earlier

(Editing experience is especially valuable if you've worked your way up from other positions such as junior editor, associate editor, senior editor, or managing editor.)

And, of course, it's also helpful to have training and certifications under your belt, such as through the Advanced Editing Certificate Program.

It’s a Bird…it’s a Plane…it’s Your Editor-in-Chief

Once you’ve found or hired the right person for the role, make sure they’re involved in every step of your content process. In particular, fold them in for:

  • The strategic briefing meeting: Your editor-in-chief is Strategy’s advocate at the detail level; they should be intimately acquainted with its ins and outs.
  • The site map finalization: Your editor-in-chief needs to know what pages you’re creating, why, and what criteria to judge late additions or subtractions by.
  • The first review: Your editor-in-chief shouldn’t just review all content submissions. They should have access to the feedback of all other reviewers so that it can be incorporated into the final review.
  • The final review: The last eyes on everything before it launches should be those of your editor-in-chief.

Of course, if you’ve decided to head up the editorial staff, you’ll want to insert yourself into these same workflow stages.

If you’re using a content operations platform like GatherContent, you can easily build approval processes into your workflow and templates. This will prevent regulatory processes from being skipped or forgotten about and ensure compliance and consistency across your organization’s content.

Print best practices, meet website processes

In summary, our online publications should take a cue from the world of print. While online content production is different in some ways—more fluid, more complicated, more easily altered after the fact—in other ways, it is very much the same.

For example, it still addresses busy users, entertains, informs, and needs to be professional and polished. Thus, the processes used in the print world also have a place in our processes for online publications. But it’s up to us—and, specifically, EICs—to consistently implement and maintain those processes, using tools like GatherContent to make it easier.

Good to Know: If you haven’t already, sign up for your 14-day free trial and see how you can build editorial guidelines and approvals into your workflows!

Ready to get started?
Start your free trial now
Start free trialBook a demo
No items found.
gigi griffis

About the author

Gigi Griffis

Gigi is a content strategist and web writer specializing in travel, technology, education, non-profit, and wellness content. In 2010, she quit her agency job and started Content for Do-Gooders, where she helps clients solve messy content problems around the world. You should follow her on Twitter.

Related posts you might like