If you’re fortunate enough to have an in-house editorial team polish your content and save you from embarrassing (and potentially credibility-weakening) errors, your content comes even closer to achieving its purpose of positioning you as a reputable thought leader.
But great content doesn’t simply follow the golden rules of grammar; it also addresses style issues and complies with internal and external publication guidelines to give it that brand stamp of approval and an appearance that readers and other editors can depend on.
Content marketing is all about consistency. Quality consistency builds credibility and instills reader confidence in your expertise. Consistent publishing helps you stay relevant and top of mind with consumers and other professionals in your industry. Editorial consistency gives your content that polished, uniform look that helps readers recognize your content regardless of the platform.
Although it might seem far-fetched to think irregular font sizes and minor grammar woes could affect readers’ trust in your content, overlooking editorial consistency can make your content appear sloppy and disorganized. And this could compromise your content’s credibility as well as your own.
Consistency is also critical when pitching your content to editors. I can absolutely say the publications we have relationships with value our content above other contributors not only for our expert insights, but also because they’re confident our content will consistently be presented in the same error-free, systematic way. When they open one of our experts’ contributed articles, they know it’s an Influence & Co. article and associate it with the credibility we’ve established.
The first step in accomplishing consistency is creating editorial guidelines for each individual article your company creates — whether it’s contributed or internal content.
These specifications help guide writers and editors and ensure each article has your company’s distinctive mark. You should also have a more detailed and comprehensive stylebook to guide your in-house editorial team (but I’ll get to that later).
These basic guidelines will get you on track to producing streamlined, quality content that radiates professionalism. But as an editor, achieving long-term consistency requires larger-scale efforts.
Helping your team members sharpen their writing and editing skills will shine through in the high-quality content your company produces and the credibility that follows.
Here’s how our editorial team has made high-quality content and good writing skills a company-wide priority:
1. Hold grammar bootcamps. At these events, the entire company — from sales to account strategy — engages in a workshop to improve our content.
Every employee should be an advocate for your business. You never know who will engage with a potential lead, a current client, or a referral. That’s why it’s so important for the whole company to use good grammar in all written communication.
2. Share valuable articles. By regularly sharing educational and informative articles via email, you can expose team members to high-quality content, point out the aspects that make them compelling, and get employees thinking about ways to improve company content.
3. Organize “book clubs.” Sharing educational content is great, but it’s easy to scan these emails and move on to the hundreds of more pressing ones we receive each day. To get employees engaged with industry articles and news, various departments hold “book clubs” to discuss ways to improve quality standards and productivity. By actively discussing articles, you begin to think more critically about each piece and find ways to apply these ideas to your content strategy.
4. Choose a style, and stick to it. Should you use “e-mail” or “email”? Although you may feel indifferent, these are the details stylebooks pay attention to that can give your content a consistent, polished look if followed closely.
At Influence & Co., we comply with “The Associated Press Stylebook” in our writing but make some exceptions to fit prevailing standards at online publications. The editorial world generally chooses between AP style and Chicago style, but AP style is commonly used for news and marketing professionals, though this isn’t a hard rule. Your company should choose a side and refer to it for any style questions.
5. Draft a team style guide. Our editorial team created a comprehensive style guide for the entire department to use as the last word in any editing conundrum. This stylebook ensures we’re consistent with our usage of the Oxford comma, but it also deals with confusing aspects of grammar, common industry terms, and sourcing. Having a go-to resource for all stylistic choices in content makes editing much more efficient.
Our style guide is a searchable living document that changes as we learn new things or reach new stylistic decisions. Oxford Dictionaries Online adds about 1,000 new words to its online dictionary each year, so constantly updating your style guide and keeping team members up to speed is a must with online content.
6. Set in-house formatting guidelines. We also set formatting guidelines to ensure every single piece of content we produce looks the same when we send it to a publication’s editor. For example, we always use Times New Roman, 12-point font. We love single spacing after sentences and between lines and always left-justify paragraphs. These may seem like small things, but they help us create a uniform brand.
It’s the details that make your brand stand out from the rest, and the same idea applies to your content. Maintaining a consistent style, tone, and appearance can give your content that dependable, refreshing look that will win editors’ hearts and keep readers coming back for more.