By Lynn Slobogian
Lisa Manfield is a writer, editor, and content strategist. She has developed print and online content, marketing collateral, and courseware for small businesses, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and educational institutions. Currently a digital writer at tech start-up Chimp, she has also been the editor of bcliving.ca, managing editor at orato.com, and marketing manager at thetyee.ca. She also teaches Writing and Editing for the Web at Simon Fraser University.
Lisa will be leading Editors BC’s September seminar, Creating Compelling Web Content, on September 26. Here, she talks with professional development chair Lynn Slobogian about her career path and the evolving world of online content.
Which came first for you, Lisa: writing, editing, or content strategy? And what inspired you originally?
Informally, writing came first. I’ve been writing since I was very young. But my first “real” job was as an editorial assistant for a youth magazine—and that got my editing career started. I somehow always knew I wanted to be a writer and editor—I was one of those lucky people in university who was very focused. I did my degree in communications with a specialization in publishing, and I was lucky enough to land a job in magazine publishing right after that. And that’s how I got my start. Content strategy came much more recently, and it has allowed me to use my editorial skills in a sector where there is lots of demand and growth right now.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for writers and editors transitioning to online content?
I would say that is twofold: first, understanding online readers and how the reading experience is so vastly different online than it is in print, and second, understanding their own communication process and switching their mindset to cater to online readers as opposed to thinking about the way they want to tell their story. Online readers are impatient and want to get to the crux of the info fast, and that requires a different way of writing and editing.
What should editors be preparing for in the next five years of online content and technology changes?
That is a very good question! Right now, it’s all about the mobile experience, and we’re only just starting to see data about the mobile reading experience and what that means for content. Content is definitely getting shorter and shorter, but navigating via mobile devices means having a better understanding of other components of the reading experience as well. We’ll also definitely see an evolution in search-engine behaviour that will affect content. Search is becoming more semantic in nature. What that means for editors, though, remains to be seen!
Tell us one of your personal and professional goals for the next year.
Well, the personal front is about to take over for the next year, as I’m expecting a baby next month. I have all sorts of ideas about projects I’d like to get done while I’m on mat leave, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I may be a little unrealistic about how much free time I’ll actually have! As of right now, I am hoping to continue freelancing as much as I can while I’m home with baby.
What’s one of the best pieces of advice you’ve been given?
I’m not sure it’s advice as much as something I’ve learned the hard way over the years. And it’s advice I definitely do give to others: don’t get too attached to your words. Writers have a tendency to do that, and it can make the writer–editor relationship difficult. As someone who has spent time on both sides of the divide, it’s definitely easiest when the emotional attachment to the words is low—because there’s always someone who wants to come and change them!
Lynn Slobogian plunged into full-time freelance editing in 2014 after 15 years in international development. She is the professional development chair of Editors BC and co-chair of the 2016 Editors Canada conference, along with Amy Haagsma. She has been a student member of Editors Canada since 2012.