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How to be a Content Editor

Today we have Business and Technology Editor San Sharma.

Tell us about what your job involves?

It’s two things really: being a subject matter expert and really getting under the skin of business and technology trends and then applying that knowledge to help set the editorial direction of our clients’ content. In my case, that’s Microsoft – UK, Western Europe and its global mobile devices unit. It’s a bit of a hybrid role, as it’s creative – I do a lot of writing myself and I also I work with designers. It’s strategic, as I’m working with insights, planning and other strategists. It’s also client-facing. There’s a lot of collaboration with the client on content ideas.

How did you get to where you are now?

It was a funny old career path. This is actually my first job in an advertising agency. In fact, it’s my first proper job. I spent pretty much all of my time since university freelancing, writing for business and technology publications. I had a long stint at a company called Enterprise Nation, which was set up to help people start and grow their own businesses. This was an invaluable experience that helped me understand the needs and mind-set of business owners. I also ran my own business – an iPhone app called WorkSnug, which gave me some experience of London’s tech scene. For the past couple of years, I’ve been appearing on television as a tech expert, responding to new tech developments and trends, such as the Apple Watch.

What are the biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?

Honestly, the biggest challenge for me has been adjusting to agency life. On the one hand, there is great resource at your fingertips –strategists, creatives, data experts, etc. On the other hand, there’s a traditional agency process that can become unwieldy when creating content that needs to be dynamic, responsive and authentic. Our agency is constantly evolving and that’s a great thing. I think that change has to be around dynamic, agile teams that come together and break apart when projects start and finish, so you have the best people, with the best experience and knowledge on the work.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Having worked practically on my own for many years, I really enjoy working with people. Creating content is a collaborative process that works with insight, data and creative to reach the right people at the right time. I love to see that in action and to follow the line back from the content that has landed to the insight that generated the idea.

What characteristics do you need to do your job?

You’ve got to be a bit of a news junkie to keep on top of your subject matter. I’m always reading tech and business publications, Twitter and my RSS feeds. You’ve got to be curious about what developments are around the corner and be able to articulate a position or point-of-view. Also, you’ve got to be able to write and spot good (and bad writing), as a lot of the job is editing, fashioning and banging it into shape!

How do you think your job will evolve over the next few years?

I think more people like me will enter agency world from outside of it from media, journalism and broadcasting. The role will become even more hybrid. Editors will have to be more creative, strategic and also take on some of the roles of account managers too.

How are you adapting for this change?

Well, I’m working with smaller teams and sharing the work of account managers. It sometimes makes sense for just a couple of us to go to client meetings rather than an army! This will cut down on costs and the chain that can sometimes slow down creativity and content production.

What would you recommend to anyone thinking of doing what you do?

Get out there and start writing! Respond to stuff that happens in your subject matter area, in the news and in the industry. Start your own blog, send articles into publications and try and get on TV. It helps to have a profile and a body of work out there already before entering agency life, if you haven’t already.