Have you ever had a simply fantastic experience with a brand, or learned of a company with a truly inspiring idea, and then felt disappointed upon seeing their website?
The key to creating a successful brand experience is keeping that story straight through every interaction you have with your audience. From the way you talk with your supporters in person to the Tweets you share with your followers, to, yes, the design of your crowdfunding website, you should aim for a level of consistency that your audiences can rely on.
But how can you keep your voice consistent when you have a team of people (with very distinct styles) sharing on your behalf? Here are some tips for keeping your story straight across your many channels:
Know Your Narrative: Create a Content Strategy
If you don’t understand your overall narrative, your storytelling will struggle to be consistent. A content strategy will organize your mission, your goals, your work, and the things you want people to know into a narrative – a steady thread that unites every word you share.
Think of content strategy as the storytelling that engages your audiences and the process that supports that storytelling. Ultimately, you want to know what your story is and how you will tell it along the way. Then you’ll want to set up processes that communicate that story as consistently as possible.
Know Your Style: Develop a Style Guide
There are about as many kinds of style guides out there as there are companies who create them. A style guide needs to work for the people within a company, to keep staff united, and to support an organization’s main mission and goals. It’s a document that is very personal to an organization. So before you sit down to create (or update) your style guide, first take time to consider what you need from it.
When it comes to your story, what do you most need to guide? If you aren’t sure, here are a few places to start:
- Voice: When you picture your organization as a person, is that person-friendly and approachable? Authoritative and informed? Sophisticated and polished? How you describe your organization leads to your voice.
- Voice across channels: Your voice will be slightly different on Twitter than on your main website, different on Facebook than in your email newsletters, but your audiences should always be able to tell that it’s you. So document what is universal about your voice as well as how that voice translates across multiple mediums.
- Language / Terms: Create a list of words you use and don’t use, document accepted spellings, and create a glossary for your organization. Regardless of how many different people speak for your organization, your organization should always sound like one entity.
- Style: You don’t necessarily need to adopt a formal style such as APA or MLA, but you do need to document style-related elements such as how you punctuate and abbreviate.
Knowing your voice, or being able to easily access its key tenets, will help you to quickly respond to a trend or news story without losing your brand in the process
Know Your Options: Hold Regular Editorial Meetings
A content strategy and a style guide will help keep the people who will tell your story on a regular basis united. But nothing beats face-to-face meetings and conversation. In an editorial meeting, you’ll unite the team of people who speak on your behalf to talk about the stories you’re telling, potential opportunities to tell more stories and engage more people, and you’ll review the results of stories you’ve told recently.
Regular editorial meetings don’t need to happen often (try once every other week, depending on your publishing frequency). They also don’t need to be long—a half hour at most should do it. But you should pull your team together on a regular basis to talk about your story and how you’re telling it.
Not sure where to start? A useful organizing principle for editorial meetings is to ask everyone on the team to bring a story—be it something specific about your organization, a great case study of your work, or something in the news that is sparking interest. Then spend time talking about how and when you could best tell that story across your various channels.
There are a million ways to tell your story and engage audiences in your mission and the amazing work you do every day. By creating a content strategy, adhering to a thoughtfully developed style guide, and uniting your team in regular editorial meetings, you’ll be able to draw a clear narrative throughout every story you tell and make an incredible impact with your work.