Because the reach of content and digital marketing is as vast as the Internet, the quality and style of your brand’s content are more important than ever. It’s now easier than ever to have an international workforce of both internal content creators and external contract workers that come from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. Diversity is great, but it is also important to have guidelines for your branding so you can maintain a consistent voice, tone, and personality as a company.
This is why many businesses now have published guidelines for marketing and social media content. How can you create or update your company’s content guidelines to fit your values and standards?
Why are Published Guidelines Important?
If you are marketing for a small business, say, of less than 500 employees, you may not need to have a published set of guidelines. After all, in small businesses, there may only be one or two people responsible for making and posting content to represent your company. If what your employees say about your business on their personal social network accounts is off-message, however, having a frank, company-wide discussion would be valuable.
As a company grows, the importance of guidelines becomes more clear.
In large corporations, for example, there may be content in the form of blog posts, emails, advertising, social media posts, podcasts, press releases, etc., which could all be created and posted by different people or teams of people.
In fact, different divisions inside the same company may have their own social media channels or online content platforms. The TV channel AMC is an excellent example. They maintain multiple social media accounts, including separate accounts for their most popular television series, like The Walking Dead.
If guidelines are not made available to all those content marketers and creators, the company can lose its unified voice and brand. And as people become more aware of your brand, what your other employees say becomes more visible. Any employee could be mistaken as an official representative of your company, and they might, even accidentally, damage your brand’s reputation.
So what things should you keep in mind when creating or updating your content guidelines? First, you need to think about how extensive your guidelines need to be.
How Extensive Should Content Marketing Guidelines Be?
The number of rules you include in your guidelines may differ depending on the nature of your business.
Coca-Cola, for example, has a very simple set of guidelines. As you read through them, you get the idea that Coca-Cola wants their employees to be responsible and sensible when using social media. But specific do’s and don’ts? There are very few.
The US Army, on the other hand, has a much more extensive set of guidelines. This is reasonable because, when soldiers are overseas or in the middle of a mission, tweeting the wrong thing could get people killed. Many soldiers, of all ranks, may deal with top-secret information from time to time. Exposing that information when very specific permission has not been given would not only be dangerous; it would be illegal.
Naturally, these are two extremes, but they illustrate what such a document can cover. What if you currently don’t have guidelines and need to compose some for your company? In that case, you have two options: start from scratch or use existing guidelines as a template.
Get Inspired or Start from Scratch?
Writing a set of content guidelines from scratch can be a mountain of a chore, something that few marketers or executives often feel up to doing. If you find yourself feeling that way, there is an option that can help you. You can look to other companies for example guidelines.
This article can show you a few recommended guidelines from established companies. As you look through their guidelines, you have two options.
The first is to use any public set of guidelines as a template, make any needed changes, and post the new set of rules as your own. If the changes you made were few and minor, you should give credit to the company you used as inspiration.
If you are determined to start from scratch, you can still study guidelines of similar companies to your own to get ideas. The guidelines of companies like Mailchimp or Coca-Cola reflect careful thought, input from experienced executives, and trial and error. You can certainly benefit from their expertise.
When it come to making your own guidelines, what points do you want to include?
Deciding what you should directly mention in your company’s content guidelines is no easy task. Here are a few pointers of things you may want to include:
- A distinction between marketers’ guidelines and employees guidelines. You may have a separate set of standards for those that post content directly representing your brand and those that work for your company that might also have a personal blog or social media account. Your guidelines for both groups may be different. You’ll probably be much more specific when it comes to marketers representing the company online.
- Rules regarding what can be talked about and what can’t. You certainly don’t want trade secrets, closed-room negotiations, or future product launches to get out to the public at the wrong time.
- Guidelines regarding grammar and tone of voice. You want your company to have a single, unique, unified voice. Laying out what qualities that voice should have is something you can’t afford to leave out. And, while it may seem too simple to include, but you may want to talk about grammar and spelling, especially with company terms and names.
- Political and moral limits and standards. There are certain topics that are probably too sticky for most companies to participate in, such as political and social issues. Also, there should be some guide as to adult language and adult themes, such as crude or sexual humour. If you don’t mention these things, you may get blindsided by consequences of one tweet that crosses a very specific line.
- How to handle trolls, critics, and customer complaints. You probably have a customer services department to handle this, but even a company employee could be hit with questions or complaints, and if that employee doesn’t know what he or she should do, they could end up making trouble for your brand. Having a plan in place to deal with negative comments online is necessary, since such comments don’t always go directly to those that are trained to handle them tactfully.
Overall, having a set of content guidelines is a necessity for most companies. Whether you use a template to get going or chose to make your own set of rules, those guidelines will only do you good if they are published and made available to everyone in your company or organisation. All that work may not seem necessary now, but you’ll be glad when your guidelines help your company avoid dangerous marketing landmines in the future.
Following a content guideline is very important but this can also dissuade you from writing the content you desire due to fears of damaging the brand. In our eBook, ‘The Six Fears of Content Marketing’, we address the main challenges content marketers face and how to overcome these. To download your free copy, just click on the link below: