Courting Consistency: How to Stick to a Style Guide
If you work for a large content marketing agency, you probably love having a roster of quality content writers at your fingertips and a staff of editors ready to manage their workflow and generate quality campaigns for your clients. But the challenges of managing a creative staff are no laughing matter, and a large pool of editors tasked with managing dozens of writers may suffer without some clear, consistent editorial policies. So, how do you calibrate your editorial vision and translate those standards to a pool of content writers?
All Hail the Style Guide…
Creating a strong, consistent style guide for each of your major clients is key to keeping your editors and writers on track with the client’s vision. Your style guide should capture the general tone that writers should take, as well as nitty gritty details about the number of expected sources and the formatting required to credit those sources within the content. For an even stronger style guide, consider including concrete examples of what to do, and what not to do. This will give editors a clear rubric to use when assigning and assessing contents, as well as provide writers with a guess-free guide to producing the best possible work with minimal revisions.
…Then Actually USE the Style Guide!
Ok, so you’ve got a great style guide. What’s next? Actually using the thing! Different projects will require different instructions, so make crystal clear to your editors that they shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel when it comes to their instructions. No content writer wants to read a long page of boilerplate style tips followed by paraphrased instructions from the editor that essentially deliver the same message. This is how instructions get glazed over and important details get missed. Work to ensure that your editors know exactly what’s in the guide and are empowered to make clear decisions around what to share with writers and what to rephrase or make more explicit for each assignment.
Maximize Your Troubleshooting Resources
If, despite your best efforts, you’re finding that content is still inconsistent, try soliciting feedback from both editors and writers about what can make the process more smooth. While agencies are often encouraged to get feedback from the clients they serve, it’s rare that they ask for comments from the freelance writers who supply them with content. If you have a number of writers with whom your agency works closely, reach out to them to see if they understand the style your agency is shooting for. Direct communication is often the best way to deal with a muddled situation, and your writers will likely appreciate being asked about areas of confusion in your instruction and style guide.
By working together to provide clear models for the finished product and building in checks along the way to ensure everyone’s on the same page, you can work to turn out consistent, quality content for your clients.
Caitlin C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.