How can ASBPE help you improve your career in 2012?

We need your help! ASBPE will be holding regional boot camps across the United States in 2012. It’s our goal to make these in-depth training sessions as relevant and useful as possible. Please share your training needs with us so that we can better customize the boot camps to suit you. These regional boot camps will be held in lieu of a 2012 national conference.

This survey is 10 questions and will only take a few minutes to complete.

Click here to access the survey

Thank you very much for your input!

Making the Leap from Editor to Content Strategist

Sara Zailskas, a content strategist for, the website for the National Association of Realtors, asks questions editors should consider before they pursue a career as a content strategist. Those who do, Sara says, may find a more lucrative and stable career than what they had at the publishers they’ve left behind.

If I ever lost my current job as a content strategist, I like to think I’d have a good shot at finding another position because:

  • I have editorial skills that are the foundation of good content strategy, and
  • companies I’d never think of as publishers are using content strategists, meaning I wouldn’t be limited to looking for a job in one industry.

That was one of the takeaways from two days last month at Web Content Conference 2011, which gathered content strategists from all types of non-publishing companies – places I’m willing to bet pay more than any publisher today. Think BP, Abercrombie & Kent, and Wyndham Hotel Group.

Most of these very smart people were also just learning about editorial calendars, how to execute the same message in multiple media – concepts editors in trade publications use daily. As editors, we often underestimate how transferable our editorial experience is, and those skills are particularly important to content strategy.

The last I checked, publishing had some kinks to work out, and many folks have lost their jobs – that was me a year ago. You’re probably hearing about content strategy as a full-time job and wondering if it might be right for you. If so, consider these questions:

  • Can you let go of a project? Content strategists often work as consultants and don’t “own” their projects, and that means, whether you’re internal or external, you don’t always get the final say on key decisions.
  • Are you good at looking at things from different perspectives? Working across groups with different goals and interests?
  • How are your teaching skills? Content strategy is a new concept to many communicators or stakeholders in general. Plan to explain your role, thinking and reasoning. A lot.
  • Are you curious about the who, what, when, where, and why behind a project? About the history behind how you got to this point? About how people in other organizations would approach the same problem?
  • Do you have a sense for design and spatial organization?
  • How well can you sort things?
  • And how are your negotiating skills?
  • Can you apply your skills to all content types and subject matters?
  • Are you willing to track data and use it to make decisions, even if it goes against your idea?
  • Are you capable of performing triage without making your blood boil?
  • Can you define content strategy in one sentence?

And finally, what color is your content-strategy cape? Because if you answered positively to pretty much everything, you’re ready to wear one.

Is Your Job the Enemy of Your Career?

“ ‘I don’t know that there will be jobs. There will be careers,’ said Charles Whitaker, a professor at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, which teaches more about the business side of media than in the past. ‘We’re telling students they need to be much more entrepreneurial about their careers.’ ” — The Baltimore Sun, March 31, 2009

I was privileged to participate in an ASBPE webinar last week with editorial consultant and ASBPE Lifetime Achievement Award winner Howard Rauch. Our topic was the impact of digital media on editorial jobs and careers. I took the big-picture approach, looking at how to manage your career in the social-media era, while Howard offered a close-up, quantitative view of how digital media is adding to editorial workloads.

One thing we did not have the chance to address was the relationship between a job and a career. I suspect most editors tend to equate the two, not intellectually so much as practically. If you have a job, that is, doing it — whether badly or well — tends to constitute your entire effort to build your career. For most of us, it’s only when you don’t have a job that you start to think intensely about career-building.

When jobs weren’t so hard to find, and weren’t changing so rapidly, this blind spot wasn’t a big issue. But these days, if you don’t think explicitly and consistently about your career while still employed, you’re heading for trouble. Don’t let your job be the enemy of your career.

So if you’re currently employed, ask yourself who’s in control: you or your job? The fact is, before you can master your career, you have to master your job. To put your job in the proper perspective, and to give your career its due, I suggest the following three tactics:

Triage, baby, triage. Frankly, most of what you do in your job doesn’t matter.That may sound harsh, but for most editors, busywork is a major job component. Add to that the ill-advised projects and misguided digital initiatives that tend to increase in scope and number as advertising declines, and you may find that a majority of your time is spent on fruitless tasks.

Even in the best situations, the Pareto principle, or 80/20 rule, tells us that 80% of your achievement as an editor will come from 20% of your work. By prioritizing — triaging, really — you can focus your best efforts on the parts of your job that matter most. Both your employer and your career will benefit.

Nurture your inner freelancer. Chances are, at some point in the past you were a freelancer, and you found out just how hard it is to make a living that way. So when you got your job, you may well have said good riddance to your freelancing ways.

Bad move. I don’t so much mean that you should keep taking freelance assignments — although if you can, more power to you. More important is the freelancing attitude. If you think of your job as a long-haul freelance gig, you’ll have more control over both it and the direction of your career. As Seth Godin has pointed out, all of us are already self-employed. We just need to start acting like it.

Be a blockhead: write for free. It’s one thing to freelance when you’re getting paid. But why would you do it for free? In effect, you’re extending your working day by many hours for no monetary return. As Samuel Johnson said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” But sometimes, being a blockhead pays off in other ways.

Don’t get me wrong: at some point, you have to be paid in cold, hard cash for your writing and editing work. But there are other reasons than money to write, such as building your reputation, developing new contacts, and sharpening your skills. Your job often provides too small a canvas to allow you to show what you can do and to make the most of your talents and interests. So offer to write a guest post on one of your favorite blogs (such as the ASBPE National Blog, of course), or create and write for your own blog — or better yet, both. Who knows? At some point your unpaid sideline may turn into a whole new career.

As professor Whitaker suggests, the day may come when there are no more jobs, only careers. If you have a job now, great. But your job is fickle. Don’t let it distract you from developing something you can count on: your career.

By John Bethune

John Bethune is an editorial consultant and the publisher of the B2B Memes website, which focuses on how new and social media are transforming the B2B publishing business. Previously he was vice president for content at Canon Communications, where he oversaw both print and online publications. John’s ASBPE involvement includes ethics committee membership and Azbee Awards judging. You can reach him at john [dot] bethune [at] or follow him on Twitter at @johnbethune.

My Job Search: Considering Options, Keeping an Open Mind

By Anne Sedjo

If you’re reading this to learn how my informational interviews or my social networking are going, you may want to keep browsing. When asked to write this blog, I had to say to myself, how do I put a positive spin on my job search?

Even as I sit here, another news segment about the slow-moving employment front is on my television. But I’m going to forge ahead, with this blog and otherwise.

My recent position was a senior associate editor at a B2B for pet-product retailers. Just to give some history, I started out as a copy editor at a daily, was assistant editor at a B2B for the underground construction industry and then stayed in legal publishing for a few years. I also freelanced for a health and wellness site.

I must be doing something right. I’ve had a few interviews (mostly journalism-related; two were not). But it’s hard to keep going sometimes because just a couple of years ago (OK, so three) I would normally have some job offers after a couple of interviews.

Here are some difficult opinions I’ve gathered from my personal job search: It’s better out there for editors at the associate level. It’s better if you have substantial amounts of Web or digital experience, including (but definitely not all-inclusive) content management system updating, video editing and e-newsletter experience.

Let me explain. I’ve applied for associate-level jobs. (There seem to be more of these at this point in time, which makes sense. Again, this is just my opinion.) You know it may not go well (i.e., you may not end up with the position) when the editor says to you on the phone, “You understand the salary is associate-level pay.” You try to convince her that you are OK with that and just want to get in with a good company in an interesting position, but that hasn’t quite cut it in my experience so far.

I really was disappointed earlier this year when I learned I did not get a Web editor position with a great company. I interviewed with many people, and it seemed to go well. The editor was kind enough to explain to me that, while I do have some CMS uploading and even XML coding experience, they went with someone who had more well-rounded digital experience coming in the door.

Well, I took some time to ask myself, “Where do I go from here?” I’m sure this is a big question for many people right now. It’s a sad state of affairs, but it does help to keep that in mind. For me, that meant looking into graduate school. Some Northwestern University professors took some time near the end of the quarter to talk to me, and I also attended an informational session. While that would be a dream come true, I am trying to get myself out of a financial situation and have decided I should not pursue that option at this time.

Option No. 2 related to journalism: Take some community college or other such classes to “up” my digital skills on my resume. I do believe this is the best choice for me right now, but I have not taken steps yet. I listened to an ASBPE Webinar on “Bridging the Digital Skills Training Gap.” That had some great information for some starting points.

Option No. 3 not related to journalism: I love animals. That is part of why I went to work for a pet-product B2B. Perhaps I should take steps to become a vet tech or something similar where I can work with animals (and people). After all, I used to be a phlebotomist at a plasma donation center in college. To combine that kind of work with animals would make me happy.

But journalism is still in my heart. So the revisited “where do I go from here” at this time: Keep applying. Take some classes. And, work on actually contacting people in my LinkedIn network and maybe scheduling some informational interviews.

Anne Sedjo is an editor/writer based in Chicago.

20 High-Value Blog Posts Offer 143 IdeasYou Can Use

By Tonie Auer

  • How can your publication succeed online?
  • What points should a social media policy address?
  • What challenges will face us as we convert our magazine from print to digital only?

Answers to these questions — and quite a few others — are in these 20 high-value posts from the ASBPE National Blog.

We combed through posts from the blog’s three-plus years of existence to compile some of the best. In choosing these posts, we had specific criteria in mind. We wanted to highlight posts that provide actionable, “how-to” material in an easy-to-use format (blogs with bullet lists and checklists were favored). We also wanted the posts, as a group, to cover a variety of topics.

With those considerations in mind, here are 20 of the best ASBPE National Blog posts, roughly in reverse chronological order.

The ASBPE National Blog’s value never stops. We have ongoing discussions scheduled on plenty of hot topics. And take advantage of the opportunity to express your own view via a follow-up post. Email me at

I Never Thought It Would Happen To Me

Photo: Tonie AuerBy Tonie Auer
DFW Chapter President

While I don’t mean the blog post title to be too suggestive, I really never thought I’d see the benefits of social media professionally. It was in the summer of 2008 at the ASBPE national convention in Kansas City that I started truly hearing the praises of social media.

Paul Conley told those in attendance that if they didn’t join the 21st century, they’d be left behind. The curmudgeonly reporter in me listened, but with the disdain of an old-timer who still remembers pasting up galleys and working on VDTs (for you young’uns, feel free to email me and I’ll tell you what those things are.) I’ve called my cell phone an ‘electronic leash’ and have resisted mobile Internet connectivity. But, I’m teetering on the ledge now.

At the insistence of the ASBPE board members, I joined LinkedIn. Then, I started to Twitter (but just a little), and Facebook came next. What has been the biggest surprise to me is how beneficial these things have been. I have had a few job leads come from LinkedIn and several bona fide jobs result from Facebook.

But, one of the greatest pluses I’ve found has been sources via Facebook. People see my status updates for articles I’m writing and they send leads my way. Truly, verily I say to thee: get off your duff and give it a try. Promote your publications, too, while you’re at it. I just took a full-time job as a writer for Bisnow on Business ( and while launching the product expansion into the Dallas-Fort Worth market, I’ve gained more readers for the news site/e-newsletter and I’ve had story leads sent my way.

So, now I’m a believer. And, Paul Conley and the ASBPE professional development planted the seed. With that said, don’t forget our Digital Symposium in San Francisco this week on Friday Nov. 6. You can still register and improve your skills, too.

Facebook Mania

By Elena Gontar

When I first heard of Facebook I thought it was a social network website to communicate with friends and connect with long lost acquaintances. I thought it would be primarily for people who want to reach out to those they know. And apparently that was the idea a few years ago, when Facebook was first invented. It was initially restricted to college and high school kids to chat and swap photos with friends. But all that changed a couple of years later, when more and more people joined Facebook.

But lately I was surprised to find out that mid- and large-size businesses use Facebook to promote their organizations and/or their company’s missions and goals. It’s amazing. I find it incredible that Facebook not only helps people find each other, but also assists companies in advancing their businesses. I’ve been on a few job interviews in the last few months and Facebook has been mentioned almost every time.
I personally joined Facebook a few months ago to network with my former co-workers and to find out what happened to people I haven’t heard from in years. Facebook keeps you up to date with your friends/colleagues and you don’t have to go far to connect with someone. Some people are more open than others. While some might basically keep a journal on Facebook for everyone to read, others don’t display much information about themselves. For instance, I personally don’t write much about myself on Facebook – I’ve always been sort of a private person – but I just love to read what others write.
So, if you are not on Facebook yet, what are you waiting for? Join now. I think it’s addictive. And if you are looking for a job, like me, you’ll find it that almost every business is on Facebook . So, you’d better be prepared and explore it now…

Elena Gontar is a real estate writer in Brooklyn. She can be reached at

Unemployed? Here’s a Tip

The headline says it all: “ to Laid-Off Journalists: ‘We’ve Got Your Back’ ”

Looks like hopes to get in the good graces of laid off journalists, so when they go back to work, they’ll sing their praises.

According to a news release,, a remote technology service company, recognizes the contributions of journalists to the American way of life and is offering unemployed members of the media across the U.S. three free months of remote PC service to ensure they can maintain the tools of their trade as they look for new jobs or set up freelance work.

To take advantage of this offer, unemployed journalists should e-mail a link of a recent clip to between now and August 31, 2009, to get a code good for three free months of services. The code may be redeemed at

What in the World is a Magazine Editor?

Photo: Tonie AuerBy Tonie Auer
DFW Chapter President

A day in the life of a journalist is seldom routine or boring. I find myself switching gears from covering the construction industry in Texas to commercial real estate nationwide. And, then there is the occasional challenge of engaging children and telling them what it is like to be a B2B magazine writer and editor.

I spoke to the fourth-grade classes at my children’s elementary school as part of career week in May. They always seem amazed at what goes into being a writer and editor and I’m always thrilled to share about what I do.

I have done career-day talks at elementary and junior high school campuses for almost as long as I’ve been a journalist. For teachers, they can be a wonderful asset to support many of the things they want to teach children, from the importance of deadlines to good grammar. These are skills students need for the classroom — but really, in almost any profession that they choose.

A valuable asset I have found that helped prepare for career day talks is a short presentation ASBPE board members put together several years ago. I keep a copy printed out in my files for easy reference. The What in the World is a Magazine Editor? presentation is simple and can be used with an overhead projector or distributed to the teacher to use for a classroom aid later in teaching about writing and editing. There is also a PowerPoint version. The final page of the presentation has an outline for what to take and tips for engaging students. This has been a great resource in helping to prepare for these talks. I’ve always managed to keep children interested easily for 30-60 minutes following this career day outline.

B2B Writing in a Crummy Economy

Photo: Tonie AuerBy Tonie Auer
DFW Chapter President

Just last week I was part of a conference call informing me that the publication I’ve been writing for since October 2005 has virtually eliminated all of its editorial staff. Now, what had been handled by more than a dozen staff writers and editors along with a stable of freelancers is down to two editors and three freelancers.

I managed to dodge the bullet – again. This was the second round of layoffs since October. A few months ago, several editors I’ve worked with since 2001 were laid off, as well. And, just a few weeks ago, a regional business journal eliminated its staff and expanded the duties for existing editorial staff at a sister publication.

I’m wondering how thin can editorial staffs be stretched before the end-product is done irreparable harm. There are only so many hours in the day to complete the work. Yes, most of these publications are cutting back and the issues are much thinner than they’ve ever been. At what point will readers simply say, why bother?

In a time when we’re all competing for the all-mighty dollar, what will keep these readers from deciding their subscription money is better used in some other fashion? We’re already seeing this when it comes to various meetings. I, for one, have cut back on my professional development to save a few bucks.

What are editorial staffs doing with reduced manpower, fewer trips to trade shows and smaller budgets to continue putting out quality products that readers want to read? To borrow a phrase, inquiring minds want to know. If you have a few comments, feel free to post them here. If you have advice to share and want to create a blog post, email me at B2B publishing plays an important role in helping those industries we support and I don’t want to see it become another casualty of this economy.