Anytime you have multiple writers creating content for your organization, it’s important to have content guidelines that keep their writing aligned. Let’s face it, everyone writes differently. One content creator’s natural style or tone of voice will naturally be different from another’s. Plus, writers might punctuate their sentences uniquely, be more or less willing to bend grammar rules, or have opposing ideas about whether or not to include humor.
Of course, the fact that we don’t all write the same can be a problem for companies. They usually want their content to sound similar no matter who’s written it. After all, consistent content reinforces your brand, while inconsistent content can lead to confusion and even brand erosion.
What Are Content Guidelines?
Content guidelines spell out the rules people should follow when they create content for your organization. Part instructions, part advice, they lay out everything you need to know about how to create consistent content at your company. Be sure yours include information about your company’s:
- Brand. How should your brand show itself in your content? Maybe there’s a specific way you talk about your company or the products and services it offers. Getting that information right is critical to making sure you’re representing the business correctly.
- Target audience. Who are you writing for and what considerations do you need to take into account to make sure your content resonates with them? Good content guidelines will provide an overview of your target audience. That includes listing out any related details about how to create content that will actually work for them.
- Tone of voice. Your tone of voice isn’t about what you say, but rather how you say it. Your company’s content guidelines should outline what makes your organization’s tone of voice unique. They should also give strong, relevant examples of what your tone of voice sounds like, to help bring it to life.
- Stylistic preferences. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel. Great style guides like the MLA Handbook and The Chicago Manual of Style already exist. Pick one to align your content guidelines with and be sure to note that choice in your document. Since navigating those guides can be a challenge, consider calling out some of the most important and relevant points in your content guidelines to give writers a jump start.
- Terminology. Large enterprises can have anywhere from dozens to many thousands of unique, company-specific terms. Your content guidelines should document these, so that writers can be sure they’re always using the right terms to describe the many aspects of your business.
- Do’s and don’ts. Sometimes there are unique, company-specific things that writers should or shouldn’t do, and that don’t fall neatly in any other bucket. Examples might include noting whether writers should or shouldn’t use contractions or whether they should write out the full company name every time it’s mentioned, or only on first use. Documenting all of these rules in a logical order will help make sure your content guidelines become a useful reference tool.
- Content creation and review processes. One of the things that separates content guidelines from an editorial style guide is the inclusion of information around processes. You’ll want to document how content gets created, the reviews and approvals it needs to go through, and how long each of those steps is supposed to take. Having this information as a reference point will make it easier to hold everyone accountable.
The Truth About Content Guidelines
There’s no question that content guidelines are important. They play a critical role in making sure that everyone who creates content in your organization is working toward the same standard. The problem is getting people to follow them. Documents like these tend to be popular when they’re first published, but then waste away on people’s shelves or hard drives.
A better solution is to digitize your content guidelines and make sure they’re getting applied every time your writers create content. That’s where a platform like Acrolinx comes in. Our AI-powered content governance solution captures your content guidelines and helps writers align with them as they’re writing, in whatever content authoring tool they happen to use. The result is content that’s accurate, consistent, and 100 percent aligned to your brand — the first time it’s written.
For large organizations with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of content creators, it’s the best way to produce better content, faster.
To learn more about Acrolinx, watch our short demo video. And for more on content guidelines, check out the webinar below.