Monitor and Improve Editorial Travel with Formal Analysis
Many editors probably need to do a much better job of documenting return on travel investment. A periodic editorial travel analysis is extremely valuable if you have a generous field-trip budget and expect a return on it.
A good frequency for a formal analysis is every six months. Your finished report should show total travel days for each magazine’s staff and the average number of travel days per staff member. I would strongly recommend that you categorize your entries to compare the percentage of days attending trade shows to the percentage spent visiting readers at their places of business. In my view, many editors spend far too little time at their industry’s grass-roots level.
Be sure to test your data against minimum editorial staff travel guidelines. I encourage top editors to be in the field at least three to five days a month. Junior editors should hit the road an average of two days a month. Your analysis should tell you whether you are actually attaining such goals.
Your analysis should also aim to verify that editorial travel is producing a sufficient amount of editorial coverage. You can make this aspect of the analysis easier for yourself if all travel expense vouchers that editors submit include an estimate of the number of pages the trip yielded.
As part of the analysis, don’t forget to identify and examine chief editor activity. You want to ensure that he or she is living up to commitments to be in the field. At the same time, however, you should confirm that other staff members receive periodic field trip assignments as well, rather than being buried year-round in the office.
During time spent with a B2B multi-title publisher, I learned that travel management efficiency improved if some assignments were handled by full-time field editors. At its peak, my field editor team included reporters in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, and New York. Each field editor was assigned to work with one or more specific publications.
Because field editors usually were senior level, I felt that I should be supervising them in a way that would not interfere with existing field editor/editor-in-chief relationships. The vehicle for doing so was that field personnel would submit copies of all finished assignments to me for critique. I conveyed the results of my reviews during quarterly meetings with my field team.
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