Web Writing: 5 Things your Digital Writing Team Needs
Working with a distributed writing workforce is a reality for most organizations and content professionals; a challenge you must manage on a daily basis.
If you’re a content professional responsible for managing writers, as well as CMS authors, it’s a good idea to fill their toolboxes with tools they can use daily.
While style guides help everyone, they can be long and unwieldy. At Aha Media, we’ve found that truncating style guides and providing checklists can make distributed content workforces work much more efficiently. Plus, they help to eliminate mistakes and maintain brand consistency, which is so important in today’s day of 24/7 digital conversations.
Here are five tools we suggest you put inside your content workforces toolbox immediately:
1. Page Tables (Templates): We work with a page template with each and every client. That way our senior editor edits a document that looks the same every single time. Often, we have more than one writer assigned to a project. They need to work off the same guidelines.
We think you should apply the same principles in your organization. If you’re managing a distributed workforce, or a group of freelance writers, create page templates that give exact directions in each of the fields. As structured content becomes the norm, these page templates will become even more important, particularly for capturing metadata and writing effective meta descriptions.
2. Checklists:We’ve found that checklists are inherently critical to giving writers the ability to apply a final coat of polish. Whatever their content, checklists help ensure consistency and eliminate mistakes. Learn more about the Creating Valuable Content Checklist.
3. Truncated Style Guides: Style guides are fabulous tools. Do you have one? Learn how to create a great style guide in our 10 Essential Elements of Style Guides.
If you do have a style guide, chances are it runs at least 25 pages, if it contains all the information writers need to know about your brand guidelines for digital content. So consider creating a two-pager that covers the basics in bullet form. Ensure the writers read the entire guide from beginning to end, but cover the highlights so they can refer to that when they have a question. Cross-reference with page numbers so the content creator can find and review the guideline more carefully if there are still questions. When you do this you have the content strategy equivalent of a pocketknife—a tool that will get you out of any mess.
4. Voice and Tone Guidelines: We have seen so many voice and tone guidelines that are ambiguous. Don’t tell your writers that you are academic, but not preachy, or compassionate but not authoritative.
Give examples of what you expect and what you don’t like. Writers need examples to fully capture voice and tone. And, make sure you doublecheck with the content reviewers before you commit to voice and tone. You can read why that’s an excellent idea here, in a blog post where we discuss voice and tone for mobile apps, and how easy it is to misinterpret words like “fun” and “conversational”.
5. Training and Review Periods: How on earth do you expect a distributed content workforce to work without regular training and review periods? Depending on how much content they produce, make sure you’re checking in at least once a month or once a quarter to review your last couple of projects. You’ll learn so much about how to communicate better for the future.
How about you? What tools do you use to keep your distributed content workforce pumping out amazing, consistent, viral content?