Authenticity and voice are crucial to the success of your business’s content marketing goals. You’ll hire web designers, graphic artists, and others to help you create the look and feel of your business and website. The freelance writer you hire, however, will help craft the voice of your business.
Unless the freelance writer you hire helped build your company, they’re going to need help figuring out how to create content for you so that it fits with your company goals, brand, and voice. A brand guide not only keeps you and your staff on target with your marketing goals, it also gives your freelance writer a lot of information about you, your company, and your audience. With a brand guide, you’ll see better results from your content marketing strategy and your writer.
Set the Standard
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A brand guide is the document that sets the standard for every part of your marketing. It includes colors, logos, typeface, images, and an explanation of who you are. It should also include in clear terms what tone to take with your audience. Are you going for respectful and friendly? Does friendly fit better? Do you want pop culture references and irreverent language? Is your company tone educational or gossipy? Do you want to be funny or are you a serious business?
With this information, the freelance writer you hire will have a place to begin in their writing. When you look over their work, you’ll can use your brand guide criteria to help judge whether they’re creating content you want. You won’t have to ask, “Is this what I want?” Instead, you can ask, “Does this fit the standard outlined in the guide?” You’ll have a standard by which to judge all the content your freelance writer creates for you.
Image via Flickr by adikos
The truth is you may hire and let go of multiple freelance writers until you find the right one. Your content marketing shouldn’t have to suffer while you go through those cycles, though. With a brand guide, you will receive and can expect consistency in the product, whether it’s a blog post, video script, or sales page copy.
Without the guide, each time you hire a freelance writer, you’re starting from scratch. Not only do you have to explain who you are, what you do, and what you want, you also have to make sure they understand the content you want them to create. A brand guide eliminates most of that confusion, which creates a better experience for customers and your audience as well as you and the freelancer.
Most of a brand guide focuses on the look of your brand which will, over time, make you more recognizable to people. The tone and message part of the guide can do the same for your content marketing. With good, clear, consistent copy, you create an expectation of what information you’re sharing for your followers or visitors to your website.
Ultimately what you want is for your content to be found on social media or through a web search and for a reader to think, “I know who this is! They always have great information!” You also want them to read a few pieces and feel confident that they’ll continue to find the same good, solid content every time. That’s the power of content marketing. With a brand guide, your freelance writer increases your ability to be found, read, and recognized.
Hiring a freelance writer is either a wonderful experience where you find someone who understands deadlines, communicates well, and always delivers excellent content or it’s not when they don’t. When they don’t, you end up with sales copy and blog posts that are haphazard, inconsistent, or nonexistent. This lack of content hurts your content marketing efforts. What you may never know is if the writer was like that with all of their clients or if they were in over their head from the beginning.
With a brand guide, you set the expectations from the start. Send it to a writer and say, “This is what we want and expect. Can you deliver?” A professional freelance writer will be able to take a look at your brand guide and know immediately if they’re capable of meeting (or exceeding) your expectations or not. They’ll say yes or no, and you can move forward.
Ask a freelance writer what makes their job difficult, and it’s typically a lack of understanding of what you, the client, wants. They write content with one understanding and three or a dozen edits later, they realize you want something completely different. It’s frustrating for you and for your freelance writer. Your content marketing suffers, and they wonder how they can resolve the dissonance between what they thought you wanted with what you really want.
A brand guide eliminates all the confusion. You may still need an edit or two on points of fact, word choice, or the purpose of the content; that’s common and your freelancer shouldn’t balk. What you don’t have to do is figure out on the fly what you think your content should be about and what style you want it in. Your freelance writer won’t spend hours creating content that you ultimately reject. Both of you will be happier and find it easier to work together.
A freelance writer is meant to make your life easier. They write blog posts, scripts, whitepapers, sales copy, and plenty of other content for you. You are supposed to use that copy to grow your business, market your services, and build an online following on your website. For many businesses, it doesn’t always happen.
With a brand guide, you will have better experiences with the writers you hire and be able to build long-lasting working relationships with them. In turn, you’ll create a better experience for your readers, your social media followers, and anyone who finds you through search engines. You may think a brand guide is just for your web and graphic designers, but it’s an essential tool for freelance writers, too.