Editorial guidelines for a corporate blog

The Corporate Blogger - Building CredibilityTo control the creation of posts for a business blog, editorial guidelines that set the framework for the production of content are necessary to ensure consistency between posts.

Creating these guidelines will ensure that posts:

  • are consistent in their messaging, style and tone, and
  • reflect corporate values.

A good set of editorial guidelines will result in:

  • less editing, rewriting and proof-reading time, as well as
  • better quality content from internal writers and external contributors.

This should give rise to:

  • a growing readership and reputation, along with
  • more leads coming from the blog.

What to include in editorial guidelines

How long is a piece of string? Here are some of the items that should be included in the editorial guidelines:

[1] High ethical standards … are absolutely crucial to protect your brand and reputation. A lack of editorial ethics will give a lie to any corporate values your company professes.

Editorial ethics include being open and honest about your affiliations, avoiding plagiarism, being truthful and factual in all your posts, and correcting errors openly as soon as they become evident.

Because of its importance in preserving your corporate reputation, a list of your editorial ethics should be included as the first item in the editorial guidelines.

[2] Goals and objectives … are of two kinds. Both kinds provide crucial guidance to contributors.

Blog objectives indicate how your blog fits in with your company’s overall marketing strategy and answers questions such as: … Is the blog for generating leads? … Is the goal to drive traffic to other parts of your website? … Is it for gaining more followers on social media?

A clear statement of blog objectives will guide writers as to how they approach their writing task.

Content objectives, the goals of individual posts, are different than the objectives of the blog as a whole. For example, you might want every post to contain actionable advice, ie at least one takeaway that readers can apply. Or you might want each post to contain a call-to-action.

You need to include a list of these content objectives in the guidelines so that your contributors know what they have to insert in their posts besides content relating to the particular topic about which they are writing.

[3] The target audience … needs to be defined so that contributors can tailor content to the specific needs and interests of that audience.

You need to create specific personas that clearly describe the company’s ideal customers … so that writers can visualize those to whom they are speaking as they write their content.

You can do this by posing and answering questions such as:

  • Should the content be addressed to business persons or consumers?
  • Should the content be of interest to executives of large companies or small business owners?
  • Should the content be addressed to people who want step-by-step instructions?
  • Does the audience consist of busy people who just want brief bite-sized content?

[4] Media … such as images and videos are important. It is more than likely that you will require at least one image for each post, so you need to decide whether your contributors should provide the images or videos.

If they are required to provide the images you should tell how to go about it, lay down rules for the use of images, and decide how sources are to be acknowledged.

If you have a subscription to a site for stock photos, you should consider giving the content editor access.

[5] Linking policy … can be tricky.

Your contributors should, of course, link to related content within your blog or website (internal links). They should also link to any sources they recommend or sites with statistics they mention in the post.

External links can be problematic. You need to decide what kinds of external links are allowed and what are not allowed.

Disallowed links would include all forms of self-promotional links to a writer’s own website, business, products and services, as well as affiliate links.

Where external links are allowed, it should be a rule that these open in a separate tab or window to ensure that the reader is not clicking away from your blog or website.

[6] Style, grammar, spelling and formatting guides … are essential to ensure consistency of expression across all posts. If your branding department has its own style book, it should be used for your blog also for the sake of consistency.

There is no need to write your own style book. Instead use the style book of a major international newspaper or journal, such as the Economist or the New York Times … which can usually be downloaded from the publishers websites.

[7] Tone … is also important. Most blogs opt for a somewhat conversational rather than a formal tone.

The degree of formality will depend on the type of products and services your business offers.

[8] Search engine optimisation (SEO) … is very important for ensuring that individual posts rank well in search engine results. Contributors must be required to insert keywords in their copy that are appropriate for the topic they are writing about.

[9] Headlines … are very vital for attracting readers. Great headlines draw more traffic and increase sharing on social media.

The types of headlines that work can vary from industry to industry. Consider including in the guidelines some samples of headlines that work or provide references to the kinds that attract.

[10] Length … is another tricky subject, like linking policy.

The average length of a post is about 500 words plus or minus 20%. But posts can stretch to as much as 5,000 words. The ideal length will depend on the audience and the topic.

For example, you could specify news items could be just 300 or 400 words while instructional material could be at least 1,000 words. Whatever you specify will help contributors gauge how much they should write.

[11] The editorial structure … should be included in the guidelines to make sure that everyone knows what they should be doing and to whom they should be reporting.

Evolving blog guidelines

The above is only a selection of the items that can be included in editorial guidelines.

Other points will surely occur to you as you are creating your guide and should be incorporated.

Running a blog can have legal and marketing implications. Thus the approval process for the editorial guidelines should involve the legal and marketing departments as well as senior management.

As you gain experience in running your blog you will find that additional points will occur to you. This will require the guidelines to be expanded and updated over time.

Once finalized and approved, the guidelines should be given to everyone on the editorial staff, to all the contributors, and be put on a notice-board in the office. You could also publish them on the blog itself.

Changes, additions and updates to the guidelines should also be distributed in the same way.

To find out more about editorial guidelines , or for assistance in planning any aspects your corporate blog: just email us on paul@thecorporateblogger.com or call +353-(0)87-4163688