Why Clear Brand Guidelines Are The Foundation Of Good Content Marketing
If you don’t enjoy producing content for your business (and think that people should judge you solely on the quality and value of your products and/or services), this is a difficult time for you.
Why? Because content marketing has long since transitioned from being an optional extra to being a fundamental staple of the online marketing world. You don’t really get to ignore it. Sorry.
There are simply too many decent brands out there for yours to have a good chance of standing out through its fundamental value proposition alone. And if we say for the sake of argument that there is something exceptional about your business that makes it better than the alternatives, then you can rely to some extent on repeat custom and referrals… but why wouldn’t you take every opportunity to publicise that superiority?
In short, good content marketing allows you to play to your strengths, mitigate your limitations, and find ways to set your business apart when it would otherwise appear damagingly generic.
So what does it require? Well, the foundation of good content marketing is having clear brand guidelines — and in this post, we’re going to look at why this is the case. Let’s get started.
Consistency is essential for your reputation
Building up a memorable brand is a lengthy process. It isn’t as simple as dazzling someone with one piece of top-quality content — that will get you noticed, but if there’s no follow-up then your association with it will be forgotten (or simply disregarded as a fluke, just as a band can be written off as a one-hit wonder). You need to show that you can be trusted to deliver great content time and time again — only then will people eagerly pursue your content in particular.
Now imagine that you’ve spent a few months releasing weekly content, all to a particular standard that’s showcasing your expertise, but you don’t seem to be making much progress. People aren’t talking about your brand — even those who are sharing some of your pieces aren’t mentioning you specifically. What’s going wrong?
Well, there’s an excellent chance that you’ve failed to brand your content consistently.
Perhaps you’ve shown one version of your brand logo on some pieces, another version on some other pieces, and no logo at all on the rest. Maybe you’ve mixed up the fonts, switched up the colours, and used a different structure for each piece.
The quality is there, but it isn’t clear to the readers that every piece comes from the same brand. Maybe the name of your company is at the bottom of each page, but most people aren’t going to pore through the small print for attribution. And yes, your domain will be in each URL… but do you remember the URL of every piece of content you share? Probably not.
Having clear brand guidelines allows you to carefully guide every piece of content you produce, ensuring that your minimum viable brand elements — your logo, your slogan, your color scheme, your use of shapes, etc. — are the same everywhere. Those brand elements will then become memorable to the readers, and eventually be considered indicators of quality.
Varied production requires a varied team
Putting all your eggs into one basket is rarely a good idea, and that’s certainly applicable in the content marketing world where there are plenty of routes to take. You can focus on being informative, impressive, or entertaining. You can write articles, produce videos, record podcasts, create infographics … formats abound, allowing different skills to come to the fore.
While you can’t commit to using every viable content type, you should spread your efforts to some extent because relying on just one format is extremely risky. If that format falls out of favour for whatever reason, you’ll be left in a difficult position. And when you’re attempting to vary your content output, you need a varied team — the skills needed to produce a great video don’t necessarily overlap heavily with the skills needed to write a high-quality article.
The difficulty inherent to assembling a large content-production team is that it gets much harder to keep everything in line — working towards the same goals, and meeting the same standards. Having brand guidelines that can be applied to all types of content is a practical necessity. Ensure that every creative knows to draw from them and you’ll see solid results.
The social media spotlight is brutally harsh
This point harkens back to the earlier explanation concerning brand reputation, except it’s considerably more pressin — it takes consistent effort to build a positive reputation, but you can damage a brand reputation in one fell swoop if you do something particularly ill-advised.
Central to this threat is the harsh social media spotlight, driven by the surge in consumer eagerness to support only those brands that come across as likeable and have consistent values.
Alongside the basic brand elements we already noted, a good set of modern brand guidelines will factor in ethical policies and limitations concerning comments on contentious matters such as politics or religion. As important as it is to be active on social media, a single post that attracts the ire of the baying mob can send you into full-force damage control (here are some examples of instances in which social media activity has gone very wrong).
While you should always focus on the positive, then, you must never forget the risk you take whenever you produce a piece of content — regardless of whether it’s lengthy and important or succinct and frivolous.
Putting strict requirements into place will slow down your production process and sometimes prove irritating, but if it serves to protect your reputation, it’ll be worth it.
It takes time and creative effort to build a strong set of clear brand guidelines, and that’s enough to dissuade many brands from bothering with it — but as with so many things in business, it’s about making an upfront investment that will pay off hugely over time. The faster you get your content in line, the more memorable your brand will be (and the less vulnerable to criticism). Make it a priority.