Kate the Content Manager can’t believe it! She’s looking at five new assets – created by a team of SMEs, freelancers and agencies – and they’re all consistent with the company’s brand voice and editorial standards. The copy walks the perfect line between buttoned up and casual, all the acronyms are treated the same and there isn’t a stray serial comma anywhere to be found. This has never happened before, and Kate’s loving it.
In our content-driven age it’s not unusual for companies to define their own tone of voice and writing guidelines – in fact, it’s advisable. These facets of the verbal brand are a great complement to their visual branding counterparts such as colors, fonts, image styles and textures. When they work together, a company’s visual and verbal brand can help create powerful connections and lasting impressions among its key constituents. But developing standards only gets you halfway to the kind of consistency Kate adores.
Executing and enforcing consistency in your content can be tricky. That’s because content development is typically a team effort involving multiple resources, both inside and outside an organization’s walls. Each employee, freelancer or agency often brings a unique writing style to the table, treats acronyms differently and prefers either the n-dash or the m-dash. To get your resources on the same page, you need to educate them about your standards and provide the right feedback on every piece of content so they know when they’ve hit the mark.
All it takes is a little diligence – and if you invest some time up front, consistency will start to become nearly automatic. Here are a few tips to help get you started:
- Create a style guide – It can be as simple as a link to the AP Stylebook or as exhaustive as a fully customized rule book and glossary of terms. The most practical approach tends to be somewhere in between the two.
- Specify your brand voice – This one’s all about providing clear, tangible guidance on your preferred writing style, so include specifics about how casual or formal the copy should be – and use plenty of examples.
- Leverage technology – Automated grammar checkers can go a long way toward improving consistency. Just be sure to understand their limitations and recognize they’re not ready to fully replace a professional proofreader quite yet.
- Standardize your reviews – When you follow the same steps in your final review process and keep your feedback consistent, your extended content team is likely to pick up on your standards and adjust quickly to your needs.
- Build a set of templates – Think about your content operation as a factory. If you spend some time creating a quality mold, your product will roll off the line more consistently (and efficiently) than ever. When you’re ready to take your templates to the next level, ask us about content blueprints.
- Limit your content “menu” – This one may not sound like fun, but it can really help. The fewer content types you have to manage, the less time it will take to educate your team and enforce your standards.
- Designate a content manager – If your organization doesn’t have a point person to coordinate and manage content development, it’s probably time. This can be an internal person, a contractor or even an agency resource like ours.
While managing all these little details may sound like a lot of work, it’s totally worth it. After all, you’ve only got a few opportunities to make an impression on a potential customer, partner or investor – so it’s pretty important that your content is uniquely you. It’s also a great opportunity to demonstrate your company’s attention to detail and avoid the perception of sloppy work.
We’ve got more tips to help you improve the consistency, quality and scalability of your content in our eBook “5 Steps to Tame Content Chaos.” It also breaks down the symptoms and causes behind some the greatest challenges in B2B content creation. It’s a quick read, but it’s loaded with practical advice.