Editorial Choices

Valeria Maltoni and Jonathan Fields

After four plus years of blogging and ten plus years speaking and introducing speakers, I've said quite a bit. If you read this blog, you know what long posts look like — my average post is more than 800 words. I try to make every word count and hopefully succeed.

I'm not talking about this kind of editorial choice, though. When I saw Fred Wilson's post about editing, I realized that I have been doing that more and more here, and in public speaking as well. Maybe I always did to a certain degree.

When it's best to keep it separate

I started blogging when still in the chemical industry, and later working at a corporation where it was a better idea to keep things separate. Although the company knew about my online activities, keeping them personal afforded me some responsible leeway.

This didn't prevent the business from fully realizing the benefit of my learning and carrying that knowledge into my day role. However, it was clear early on that an integration would have meant losing my streams to the organization.

While it wasn't the case with me, this is an issue still common in many companies — the inability to be one person on and off the job. Is it fair? Particularly in light of the fact that in some businesses, having an associate with many and positive online connections ends up being beneficial.

Exercising editorial restraint is smart for more reasons than this one.

Editorial choices

Being a long term kind of person, and seeing and living issues from different roles — corporate communications officer, brand strategist, and blogger active in social networks for 10+ years — have both been good counselors to me. If you ever published something you ended up regretting, you know why.

Here's how I gain perspective and do my editing.

I research and write most of my posts during the weekend and reread them/edit them as the week progresses. This allows me to see what I'm saying from a distance, a bit more detached from the moment.

In case you're wondering, my passion for certain conversations runs deep, so I don't generally lose that. What may be lost in immediacy ends up benefiting all of us. So many are starting to talk about real time — it's the new navy blue (walking the talk is the new black) — I hope there is some real time thinking to go with that.

While I believe in transparency and authenticity, I also believe strongly in responsible choices. To me that means making fewer assumptions and doing more research and homework up front. What I may lose in traffic and number of comments, I gain in self respect, which is an important metric for me.

To me the maturity of online communications means also shifting to making more editorial choices that are the result of declaring and living out values. Last week we talked about how braided journalism is connected with the future of public relations. Good execution of that means making more editorial choices and adding to the signal.

Your take

What is your threshold for keeping things to yourself? Have you written posts and then chosen not to publish them in their current form and edited them? These are not right or wrong questions, of course. The mere fact that I am seeing more evidence this is happening is a sign of maturity in the space.


In case you were wondering, editorial choice rooted in public interest pays more than traffic bait.

[with Jonathan Fields at Blog World, courtesy of Annabel Candy]


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0 responses to “Editorial Choices”

  1. When I started blogging, I worked for a fairly oppressive and stifling company. I once got in trouble for blogging that I ate in their cafeteria more than once each day (a big no-no). Of course, I hadn’t mentioned that they paid me so poorly that I couldn’t keep up with my bills (which were minimal) AND buy food. It was an either-or situation.
    Then, I moved to a company that hired me partially as a result of the success of my personal online activities. Of course, I was told that they wanted me to continue blogging & all that, but that I couldn’t actually, for example, blog as well for the company because I had the wrong voice. So, what happened? They apparently liked my work to such an extent that they gave me so much to do that I didn’t have time for any personal activities online 😉
    Now, I’m empowered to make decisions about what of my own streams I make corporate and when & also whether or not anyone else is asked to contribute. That being said, I much prefer to keep my streams fully owned and represented by myself. For me, that means that I have pretty strong definitions of what content is, say, “work appropriate” vs “Eric appropriate.” That becomes less defined when I’m outside of streams that I or my employers control (here for example), but ultimately, that is probably less important and unavoidable. Nobody wants a corporate name commenter like “Acme ABC Corp says…” 😉

  2. Thank you, Valeria for the thoughtful post. I heartily agree re: exercising constraint.
    I was taught to embrace the old notion of “counting to 10” before you say something in anger. This rule still guides me, many years later. Of course, it’s true of more than just angry feelings. Hope, fear, loss, love all benefit from some distance.
    When it comes to writing a post, I’ve realized that my own passion can sometimes be a problem. While the social web constantly urges us to write from a place of passion, I’ve found it can be a mistake.
    If I am feeling intensely about a subject, it (often) does not mean that my intended audience is having the same reaction. Remembering that point is critical as I try to grow our blog.

  3. I probably didn’t dare enough so far, Valeria.
    I never thought “wow I shouldn’t publish this”, so I guess I never really exited my “comfort zone” so to say. But I am still learning, so I hope I am excused 😉
    What I really liked about your post is about writing a while before publishing to have time to edit the post in a new light. I do the same and I can clearly see the benefits of it.

  4. @Eric – you had the wrong voice, yet were hired on the basis of your skills and experience… which makes me wonder why in companies communications are run by the most conservative and risk-averse people. You’d be surprised by the number of people with a new blog trying to get link juice here by commenting nonsense to 3-4 posts in a row and using the name of their company. There are plenty who don’t care, and they get back in the currency they dispense. Glad you were able to shift into a more accepting culture.
    @Elizabeth – there is a fine line between being knowledgeable on a topic and thinking that because one has built a following, they are infallible. Inability to participate in a civil discussion about disagreement is also a culprit, along with the subtle intimation that plays to human needs for revenge (Dan Ariely does a good job of describing where that comes from in a book I reviewed here a few weeks ago). There is another side to paying attention to what readers value, and that is playing to what readers will reward with positive comments and writing into it. It’s a balancing act for sure.
    @Gabriele – when writing in the moment, one can assume too much about what the reader knows. So it’s about self-censoring, as much as writing clearly. I know I have a long way to go to do that, still.

  5. I agree – a thoughtful post. I also try to use the “count to 10” rule mentioned by @Elizabeth. I love the idea of doing the work and setting it aside, revisiting the content before posting.
    Thank you for all of your posts. Between managing my college’s social media and my fiction writing, I don’t currently have time to blog. However, if I do start one I will use so much of your counsel.
    Have a great week!

  6. Hi Valeria,
    I find myself editing a lot! As a ‘new’ blogger in the community, I often get inspired by a conversation or article or another blog and go with it and just start pounding the keyboard. Where my edits come into play is looking at the post and asking myself if it really fits with my overall blog ‘theme’. Sometimes, I am writing about certain topics that are more related to me than my blog. A simple ‘would my audience care’ seems to do the trick!

  7. It always comes down to the choices we make – what we choose to disclose and how – filtered / unfiltered. Chris Anderson wrote (I believe in Free) about how because print was a fixed costly medium he had to be much more particular on which stories were included vs. Wired online.
    I think having to make such choices helps us (at least it does for me) refine our focus, figure out what we want to accomplish. Because of the choices you make here – making every word count – I find myself spending more time here than other blogs. I feel like it’s time well spent as the concepts and ideas you put forth offer much to think about and act upon.
    It’s taking me awhile to figure out my focus. To avoid the “Look, Squirrel!” tendency and shift focus. I’ve finally put my name on my own blog to force me to do so (after three other domains I started).
    Being forced to choose makes us look hard at what’s important. And making sound editorial choices is an art in and of itself.

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