How to Create Editorial Guidelines

Every successful marketing campaign includes great content. And creating editorial guidelines is the first step in producing consistently interesting content that attracts your target audience.

Guidelines help your content creators establish and strengthen your brand voice—and to speak directly to your target audience. In fact, thorough editorial guidelines are one of the most important aspects of your overall marketing strategy.

Importance of editorial guidelines

Editorial guidelines are a roadmap for your entire content marketing strategy. They clearly outline your brand style so that your content creators can easily capture your company voice in each piece of content. If you design your guidelines well, you set up your content creators to produce a steady stream of high-quality content that will attract more customers.

What are editorial guidelines designed to do?

Good editorial guidelines are designed to accomplish several goals. First, they identify your buyer persona. This allows you to tailor your content to your target audience, including what they want to read or see and where they’re going to look for your products and services online.

Second, an editorial style guide provides clear direction for each writer on your content creation team. When your content creators know the style and brand voice you want to use, they can quickly and easily produce high-quality content. This means that each blog post, social media post, and any other marketing content will be consistently high quality.

If your editorial guidelines accomplish those two goals, you should see the benefits in higher SEO ranking, lead generation, and sales.

What are the benefits of having editorial guidelines?

In addition to providing a framework for your content creation, editorial guidelines have another benefit: they establish the roles and responsibilities for each member of your content team.

Maybe you have one writer who excels at social media posts and another who can create an enticing blog post on any topic. Well-crafted, comprehensive guidelines create a clear path for your content creators so they can easily create high-quality content for your target audience.

What can happen if you do not have clear and comprehensive editorial guidelines for your content?

If you don’t have clear and comprehensive editorial guidelines, your content creators will basically be on their own. Each writer will use their own voice and style, and your overall message to the public will be inconsistent and confusing.

Fortunately, you can start creating guidelines with just a few steps!

How to start creating editorial guidelines for your content

Editorial guidelines don’t just help your content creation team understand your brand voice—they help humanize your brand to the public. If your company consistently publishes high-quality content with a clear message, your target audience will take notice. Your SEO rank will increase, and you’ll see a boost in website traffic. To start creating your guidelines, there are a few things to consider.

What do you need to consider about your content before developing editorial guidelines?

Before you start writing your content style guide, ask your management and content marketing teams a few questions:

  • Who is your ideal buyer persona, and where do they search for their products and services? Understanding your target audience and how they’ll find you will help you focus your marketing efforts.
  • What editing styles do you want to use, and which should you avoid?
  • What components and media will your content marketing strategy include?
  • How often should you create and publish content? You’ll need this information to create your editorial calendar and content calendar.
  • Who will make the final editorial decisions? Identify your hierarchy or flow to avoid confusion.

Obtaining answers to these questions is the first step in creating your editorial guidelines!

What are the steps to creating editorial guidelines for your content?

Your team’s feedback regarding buyer persona, editorial style, and other topics lays the groundwork for your editorial guidelines. The next step is to dive into the details!

Pick some buzzwords that you want your content creators to use, as well as some words and phrases they should avoid altogether. The more direction you can provide about your brand voice, the better!

Next, outline the type and length of your various content. For example, maybe you want to publish a blog post of about 2,000 words twice per month, and post on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter a few times per week. Identify the hashtags you want to use—or ask your social media specialist to list trending hashtags every week so you never use an outdated hashtag.

Finally, try to use a variety of media in your content marketing strategy. If your target audience prefers videos, webinars, or infographics, incorporate them into your brand style guide. Determining where to publish your content is an important element in developing your editorial guidelines.

Why is it important to consider where you publish your content when developing editorial guidelines?

Identifying the best places to publish your content is a vital part of your overall content strategy because it helps you attract your target audience. For example, if your ideal customers like to read blogs but you’re trying to reach them on Twitter, they simply won’t find you—and that could mean that you’re wasting marketing dollars.

Another reason to consider where you publish your content is cost. Social media platforms are largely free to post on, and you can purchase paid ads if you want to. If you’re trying out some new media, keep in mind that there can be production fees associated with content like videos and webinars.

Depending on your budget and brand voice, you can include or omit certain topics or media in your editorial guidelines.

What to include in your editorial guidelines

When you create editorial guidelines for your content marketing team, you need to make sure you’re covering your bases. From catering to your target audience all the way through to proofreading each piece of content, your guidelines must be cohesive and easy to understand.

How can you determine what to include in your editorial guidelines?

Start with your brand style when determining what to include in your editorial guidelines. Your company voice needs to speak directly to your target audience. Consider what buzzwords they like and where they look for their products and services. This will give you a solid foundation of what to write, how to write it, and where to publish it.

You’ll also need to take your overall brand style into account. Each blog post and social media campaign must communicate a consistent company voice—and your editorial guidelines need to convey your message and the tact and tone that you want to communicate. In fact, brand style is one of the many components that thorough editorial guidelines must include.

What are the main things that thorough editorial guidelines must include?

As you create your brand style guide, it might be easiest to start with general elements and move on to more specific instructions. Once you have a firm grasp on your company voice and the audience you want to target, you can move on to more specific task-based items.

Here are a few components included in thorough editorial guidelines:

  • A content calendar dictating the type of content and due date. Your editorial team and content creators can help fill in topics and content length suggestions based on your industry’s trends.
  • Instructions on what pitfalls to avoid. For instance, make sure that each blog post headline is straightforward and interesting, and avoid passive voice in your content whenever possible.
  • A content flow, beginning with an idea for new content, the writing and review process, and publishing. Identify who on your team is responsible for each of these tasks.

It’s all right if your editorial policy needs some adjustments. If you feel that the guidelines aren’t meeting your content marketing goals, you can make some changes so they’re more comprehensive.

How do you know that your editorial guidelines are comprehensive enough for your needs?

There are several ways to tell that your editorial guidelines aren’t as comprehensive as they need to be. One of the most obvious red flags will be the feedback from your marketing team. If the people writing, editing, and publishing the content are confused about the messaging, you’ll need to adjust your guidelines to clarify anything they don’t understand.

Another way to tell that you need to alter your brand guidelines is the performance of your published content. If you don’t notice an increase in your SEO ranking or social media engagement, your content isn’t doing a good enough job. In this case, it might be helpful to check out some example templates to revamp your editorial guidelines so that everyone on your team is on the same page.

Example templates for editorial guidelines

It’s always helpful to use examples of other successful marketing campaigns when you’re fine-tuning your own. And that’s also the case for creating your editorial guidelines! When you search for examples and templates, you can start in one of two places. Both work well and can help you establish—and execute—a great marketing strategy based on solid brand guidelines.

One place you can look is at Fortune 500 companies around the world. Think of top brands that you use in your daily life, and research how those corporations have developed their brand voice. Another method is to look at your most successful competitors. How do they communicate their products and services on their website and social media? What are they doing differently from or better than you?

Using these starting points and some online research, you’ll be able to find the best templates for editorial guidelines.

What are the all-around best templates for editorial guidelines?

Although most companies don’t publish their editorial guideline templates, you can usually figure out their strategy with some research. Look at their website, social media content, and any other media they publish. If you find that leaders in your industry are marketing with more complex efforts like a YouTube channel or podcasts, it can’t hurt to try your hand at those too.

Additionally, don’t be scared of a little online research. Log onto your favorite search engine, type in a few industry buzzwords, and see what companies pop up. The internet is a wealth of helpful information and excellent examples of success.

Keep in mind that if you come upon a roadblock in creating your editorial guidelines, you can partner with a content marketing agency. These companies likely already have templates that they can customize for your unique needs so you don’t have to start from scratch.

Why is it a good idea to start with a template for creating editorial guidelines instead of from scratch?

Templates are wonderful. They provide an outline of helpful steps and criteria so you don’t miss any important details.

For example, a good template might include a place for you to create a reference list of websites that your writer can link to. And a great template might explain how to use the editorial process in specific programs like Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. Whatever your needs, you can find templates to fit your business.

What are some examples of specialized templates for different editorial needs?

Your company and brand voice are unique, so your editorial guidelines are subjective based on your company’s needs. Some specialized templates might include how to construct a data chart for industry statistics, and another could focus on broader topics like writing style and the content calendar.

Regardless of your company’s needs, you can build and maintain a successful marketing program. And it begins with great editorial guidelines!

Successful content marketing starts with strong editorial guidelines

You want to take your business communications to the next level. And Elite Editing wants to help!

From crafting editorial guidelines to fit your needs to creating and editing the actual content, our team will help strengthen your brand voice and attract more customers. Visit our website to learn more!

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