Call me Ed(itor)

In the ever-changing world of working at a research hospital, I’ve recently taken over as the editor of the hospital’s monthly patient education newsletter. I couldn’t be more excited.

A bit of background on the newsletter:  It’s a 4-page monthly publication for patients of the hospital and their family members.  Clinical staff, members of community organizations, former patients and members of the Patient Education team regularly contribute articles on a variety of cancer topics, including stories from survivors, tips on how to cope with side effects, and lists of resources that are available through our patient library and in the community.

My predecessors have done a wonderful job crafting high quality editions each month, sourcing out knowledgeable contributors to write informative and relevant articles in plain language.  I hope to maintain the level of quality they have worked so hard to achieve, but I also see several opportunities to push the newsletter to the next level.

Since taking over, I have:

  1. Created a catalogue of the articles we have published.  In a simple spreadsheet, I’ve recorded information on each article that has been published in the newsletter.  I’ve included the title, author, type of cancer discussed, topic of the article (for example, nutrition, survivor’s story, resources available, etc.), month and year of publication.  This database will give me and future editors a quick snapshot of what has been published before and, more importantly, what has been missing.
  2. Started developing a mini strategic plan.  Like that famous quote by Abe Lincoln, I am a strong believer in sharpening the axe properly before chopping down the tree.  Putting in the energy to develop a solid plan for the newsletter will reduce the amount of time spent in the future while maximizing the impact it will make.  Though it’s not necessary to develop a full-blown strategic plan, getting the basics of what I want to achieve and how I plan to do it will keep me focused and reduce inefficiencies in the process.

My future plans for the newsletter include:

  1. Transferring all of our articles onto a blog,  both our new articles and our back catalogue.  Currently, we publish the PDF “print” version of each newsletter onto the web, making it impossible for someone to search out information on a specific theme or topic.  Transferring the articles and tagging them each with appropriate themes just makes sense.  Moving to a blog format online will also increase our reach; as it currently stands, our readership is pretty much limited to patients (or former patients) of our hospital, yet the information in our newsletter is applicable to anyone who is living with cancer across Canada, if not across the globe.  Having our patient education articles available online will help solidify the hospital’s foothold as one of the leading cancer institutions in the world.
  2. Conducting a short reader-feedback survey.  Although the hospital has been publishing the newsletter for several years, we have no way of assessing which articles readers like the most and which they like the least.  Publishing the articles in a blog will certainly help, however asking for feedback from our readers will give us a clearer picture on where we should focus future articles.  I can’t help but think back on my experience as the e-newsletter editor for a natural living website and the lesson I learned from tracking readership and click-through rates.  After tracking the stats for just a few months, it became clear that our readers (typically women in the 30 – 50 age range) did NOT want to read about dieting and weight loss – consistently, these were the articles that were clicked the least – despite the assumption we made about our readers given their demographic profile.  We can’t assume we know what people want to read based on their demographics.  Lesson learned!
  3. Formalize the relationship with contributors who submit on a regular basis.  We publish articles from a wide range of authors who are experts in their fields, some of whom contribute on a regular basis.  Since most of these authors submit articles on a quarterly basis anyway, I see benefit in formalizing their role and working with them to create a submission schedule that fits around their other responsibilities.  The authors get credit as regular contributors to the newsletter and I have fewer articles to seek out throughout the year.

I’ll share insights on this project as I make progress in creating a web 2.0-friendly newsletter in the months to come.

Have any comments, suggestions, or questions? Leave a comment!

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