Every day for work, I wear a suit and tie with a pocket square. Over the last few years, this has become a sort of trademark among people that know me. But, for me, it isn’t just a style choice – when I’m wearing these clothes, I feel like I’m ready to take on anything that comes my way. Batman has his cowl, Superman has his cape and I have my pocket square! Ok, a bit much? Bear with me…
The way we present ourselves, sends out a clear message to the world. What do you want that message to be? For me, it is about demonstrating effort, professionalism and attentiveness. Whether I’m meeting clients, colleagues or rivals, I want them to know I’m there with full commitment and strong conviction.
Whether we are meeting customers at the cash register or speaking with them through our content, the way we present ourselves will dramatically influence perceptions of our brand.
I’m not suggesting we make all of our content overly formal like my clothes, but we do need to let an air of quality and reliability permeate everything we do.
VOLUME & VELOCITY RISKS
It’s easy to get carried away with the idea of filling space and pumping out masses of content in all different formats, across a range of platforms. But, the more content we are producing at pace, the more quality and consistency comes under threat, particularly if we’re stretching limited resources.
Consider the ‘Speed – Quality – Cost Triangle’. For every piece of content we create, there is a trade-off between the speed we can deliver it, the production cost and the quality of the end result. It’s not possible to have more than two of these factors working in our favour at any one time. For example, if we’re looking to deliver the content quickly to a high quality, it will be expensive to produce; if we want it to be high quality and inexpensive to produce, it will not be delivered quickly. The final option is the one we’re to avoid at all costs: delivering quickly, but inexpensively – this is where quality fails.
Problems with our content reflect badly on our brand; if customers spot quality flaws, they will expect the same sloppy effort from us when it comes to our products and services.
We can mitigate these risks by complementing our style guide with a quality assurance framework that all work must pass through before it is published.
The process can be as simple as a manual checklist, or it can involve automated devices or sophisticated checking systems. In all cases, there are some crucial factors to consider before we hit the little red publish button.
The most obvious and easy way to manage quality checks are for spelling, grammar, punctuation and language, yet these are some of the most common content flaws.
No matter how compelling our content, simple typos and grammatical errors will immediately create the perception that it is low value and less authoritative.
Just as these errors are easy for us to check, they are also very easy for audiences to pick up on. It is beneficial to set up a process for checking the basics, making full use of the tools built-into our text editing programs as well as human proof reading.
Multimedia like videos, slideshows, photos, playlists, audio and photography can be highly engaging, but only if it is produced to an appropriate quality.
We might not need every piece of content to be top notch, but we do need to make a judgement call on whether or not the media is appropriate quality for the context it’s used and the target audience.
Lower-quality multimedia might be acceptable if it’s user-generated, deliberately ‘home-made’, or it fits into the context of its channel, such as Vine or Periscope. But in some cases, the context of the content will call for higher, even professional-quality media. For example, if we’re recording a podcast series, we’re probably going to want the content to be as professional as possible.
One aspect we can never compromise on, however, is the quality of the message. Whatever context, regardless of the audience, the message is the purpose of the content. What do we want it to say? What statement do we want to make? Is this clear enough?
When producing anything that has a visual element, use a professional graphic designer or the best in-house resource. Whether it’s a flyer, an infographic or a web element, try and not be tempted to do it without the right skills or experience. Not only will an inferior attempt be less likely to get used or shared, there is also a chance it will damage perceptions of our brand. Is our business slapdash, unprofessional or dated like that homemade infographic?
The layout of the content will affect its usability, so we must ensure we deliver the best possible experience by presenting the content in a logical format. Huge blocks of text are difficult to negotiate, especially online, and could cause your audience to skim read.
If we are not thinking about our audience’s needs when creating our content, they simply will not use it.
DON’T GET STUFFED (WITH KEYWORDS)
Let’s acknowledge for a moment that we have an ulterior motive at play. Although we’re working really hard to create content that our audiences will find useful, interesting or entertaining, we are doing this because we want something: a place in our target customers’ minds.
Naturally, in our quest to get our content out there to as many of the right people as possible, we’ll want to search engine optimise it with relevant keywords. But be careful not to diminish the overall quality and readability of the piece with unnatural keyword stuffing or phrase manipulation. Our audience won’t like it and, actually, neither will the search engines.
Your brand may not be the biggest or most influential in the marketplace, but what makes you the BEST in your niche area? Is it your unique relationship with customers? Or, perhaps your passion for the topic? Whatever the proposition, the clarity of your voice and the quality of its delivery will define your customers’ perceptions.
Next time you’re about to hit the publish button, stop for a moment. How much do you believe in this piece of content? Do you genuinely see where it delivers value? Don’t allow things like the pressures of a publishing schedule or a rapidly emerging opportunity to cloud your judgement. Quality concerns should trump all other commitments!
Remember, delivering quality content is your obligation, your privilege, your raison d’être.
by Dane Brookes, Director at Group Dane & Author of Content Marketing Revolution, Giant Leap Media, 2015.