For anyone in the business of giving advice on creative elements, gaining credibility with the decision makers is a big deal. In editing, this can mean trusting that the editor knows the style guide and grammar points. It can also mean trusting the editor to adjust the voice of the writing either to suit the audience or to polish the VIP’s image—or both.
When a writer hands over their sweat and tears in the form of a manuscript to someone who will toy with their work for weeks, maybe, they’re displaying an enormous amount of trust. When the manuscript comes back, covered in a sea of red marks, it requires even more trust to accept the criticisms and work with the suggested changes.
So, how do we build that trust? How do we gain credibility for the job we are hired to do?
At the IABC conference in Montréal, Canada, in June 2018, credibility and trust came up in a few sessions. As communicators, members of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) are tasked with representing their respective companies through their writing and creative efforts. Michael Grant and Cathy Bouwers shared their story of gaining trust to take the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) into innovative areas a self-promotion. We editors can learn from their story.
How to get a longer leash
In a nutshell, change management is at the core of their advice. Involve key stakeholders in creating a shared vision for editorial:
Video promotion is the story that Grant and Bouwers shared. The evolution of their “lab week” videos over five years are worth a look. The trust that they gained through the points above took them from producing the staid stock videos to one that pushes the boundaries of the brand into a new identity.
As an editor, this sort of growth is something I encounter often when experts ask me to take their PhD-level writing and make it enticing and accessible to the general audience—or to kids. Even though they request this change, the change is painful and usually met with resistance.
To build confidence that you are guiding the writing in the right direction, Grant and Bouwers advise (with a little adaptation for editors) that you make sure your work
Along the way, you will face controversy and pushback, they say. Prepare to respond. And when you experience success (i.e., a product has a positive impact), be sure to celebrate that with the writer and with the bosses. Apply for awards. When they feel they are part of the win, they’ll be more likely to have your back when you push the standards a little further. Growth is an evolution, not a revolution, Grant and Bouwers say.
This article was originally posted on the Copyediting website, June 18, 2018.