What to consider when creating editorial guidelines
By Alicia Mollbrink
Your content marketing strategy functions as a foundation when creating content. By setting up editorial guidelines and a calendar, you will also gain a strategy overview and instructions on how to proceed.
We've previously discussed ways to start planning your editorial calendar. In this post, we are going to offer you some advice on how to create editorial guidelines to drive your content.
What do your target audiences expect from you?
Target groups expectations are based on the frequency and quality of what you publish. If you frequently update your website, blog, LinkedIn or Instagram with high quality content, people will expect you to maintain that standard. This is great! If your content is consistent and relevant, people will feel the urge to read because they will begin associating your brand with quality. However, if your updates are irregular and of varying quality (or even plain bad), your audience will also learn to expect this from you. People will just scroll down or click somewhere else when noticing your posts because they have not learned to associate your brand with something valuable. And no one wants that, do they?To ensure that you are always able to provide your audience with quality articles, blog posts, social media updates or similar, you have to create editorial guidelines to define your brand voice and tone.
Before writing your editorial guidelines, do some research and ask yourself some questions:
What works? Look back on what you’ve published so far and check for items that did well in terms of your KPIs. Break these down to their base elements if you have to. Were they long or short pieces? Did you use infographics or pictures to convey information? What tone did you employ? And so on. Analyse your best content and set your guidelines while keeping these elements in mind. You can also refer to your best performing post in your guidelines.
Purpose and business goals
What does your company want to accomplish and how can your content help achieve this? What business goal is the driving force behind different types of content, as well as specific blog posts, articles, newsletters, etc.
Competitors and trends
Look at what your competitors do. Take inspiration from what they do best, but also try to do something that they’re not doing! Keep track of trends, but be true to your brand and core values and make an effort to do something unique.
The pros of using editorial guidelines
Setting a standard for how you write will make things easier for everyone. This is your opportunity to let your writers and editors know everything important before they even start writing.
No matter what the purpose of your content is, the purpose of editorial guidelines is to set the identity and personality of your brand.
So, what are the pros of editorial guidelines?
- Makes things easier for your in-house writers
- Helps new hires/team members get on board faster
- Great if you need to use freelancers as it reduces the time spent briefing them
- It will become easier for you to produce content with consistent quality, which will improve the way your brand is perceived
What to consider when creating your editorial guidelines
- Make a document that is available for everyone who might need it
- Different businesses and different channels require different editorial guidelines
- Keywords: decide on some key words for your company. They should relate to your company's values and strategic plan
- Tone of voice: what does your company sound like when it speaks? Does it speak differently depending on the audience or is consistent throughout?
- Tips regarding formatting and style: how should you creators write? Do they use short sentences or long sentences? D you want to use long, complicated words and jargon or do you want to be more accessible and easy to read?
- The process: provide an outline of the workflow. Include information on proofreading, fact checking, etc - who will do what and what does the process look like? Do you work with any special tools or software?
- Example posts: pick some of your best posts to showcase. These should make it easy for writers to understand what the ideal content looks like
This will not only make work easier for your writers and editors, but will also contribute to the quality of your brand. Start with evaluating your content and thinking about the way it can or should connect to your business goals. Once you have a clear answer to this question, it will be easy to write your editorial guidelines.