Stop Uncontrolled Proliferation

Blog post from Nov 14, 2017

It's fall, and the days are getting shorter. Nevertheless, as we approach the usually more peaceful end of the year, there's still a lot of work to do – in the garden at home and at work. Looking at both "landscapes", it becomes clear that both often look rather untidy. Just as the leaves cover the ground and the increasingly bare branches reveal previously concealed weeds, an inspection of the existing corporate content often reveals a lot of uncontrolled proliferation.

Marketing managers, technical writers, and external agencies often cultivate a plethora of content "strains". This includes static information that appears on the website, press information, surveys, white papers, blog articles, newsletters, and social media posts. Moreover, there are various forms of advertising as well as product and service information. Each of the authors exhibits his or her own creative spirit, language style, knowledge level, and ideas, usually without having a perspective of the company as a whole.

Gaining Back Control

The outcome often lacks in harmony. Instead of gentle hues and soft transitions, the content garden is marked by competition and conflict. This is especially evident from contradictory information on various channels and inconsistencies that can have dire consequences. If the website, user manual, and support desk use different designations for products and functions, this can cause confusion that can result in malfunction or accidents. Even apparently minor issues such as spelling and grammar errors can have grave consequences, as they affect the company's image: If a company advertises premium quality but publishes poor communication, its quality proposition will not be very credible. Regardless of whether it poses a risk or merely creates uncertainty, uncontrolled content proliferation can suffocate the brand image and weaken the company.

For this reason, it is important to make use of the opportunity and take systematic measures to regain the control over the content: The first step is to classify content as part of the differentiation strategy. Subsequently, this strategy can be duly shaped. In this context, it is essential to sensitize all who write content to the challenges associated with the creation of a coherent overall picture and to assist them in their work.

The Right Tools and Approaches

Tools help to tackle the challenges. One of these tools is the code of conduct. The code of content contains voluntary behavioral guidelines whose purpose it is to prevent harmful actions. Content governance describes processes and responsibilities with respect to the planning, production, distribution, and monitoring of content. Regulations such as the tone of voice, style guides, and editorial guidelines define in detail how a company addresses customers.

To make sure that editorial manuals, style guides, etc. are not merely printed out and left on the desk but are actually used, all parties involved need to understand their necessity and benefits. Moreover, the overhead associated with the use of the rule sets should be kept as low as possible.

The same goes for the use of software. Like power tools, they can provide valuable assistance in delivering an increasing amount of content in a shorter time and using fewer resources. The tools should be efficient and easy to use and be able to adapt to various circumstances.

Finding an Efficient Author Assistance Tool

A suitable author assistance tool will ensure consistent terminology when composing content. It checks at word level whether the author has used the defined preferred and admitted terms and whether the text contains any deprecated terms for which a different preferred variant exists in the corporate terminology. By means of a style check, complex systems do not merely check the word count, length, and some style details, but also enable the integration of various rule sets. These solutions have spelling and grammar checking functions that go beyond the checking options available in conventional word processing and DTP applications like MS Word or Adobe InDesign and can be tailored to various corporate requirements.

Different rule sets can be implemented for different departments. For example, the passive voice may be prohibited in the technical documentation but permitted in other forms of communication. Good author assistance software provides the possibility of releasing content only once a minimum measure of quality has been achieved and no serious violations have been identified.

The author is free to decide at what stage he or she prefers to use the software: The author can either use the software as a background gatekeeper and check the text for serious defects prior to publication, or he or she can use it within the framework of his preferred editor in order to eliminate errors even while writing. Correction proposals can be applied to the text with a mouse click or manually, or they can be rejected. In this way, the content author remains free to decide as he pleases.

Looking forward to Success

Just as in the garden, regular maintenance of the tools and implements is a must. After all, framework conditions are changing constantly. However, this does not require any rocket science, but merely a good routine. The result: a flourishing, rich landscape in bright colors, which attracts viewers. Thus, harvesting is fun. In other words: By delivering comprehensible, correct, and consistent content, the enterprise creates trust, which has a positive impact on the purchase decision.

tl;dr

A company's content "landscape" resembles an autumnal garden in many ways. Both of them need grooming and proliferation control. For your content "landscape", author assistance tools help to tackle the challenges.