33 Things to Ask Before Hitting Publish
Do you pause before you hit the “publish” button? You should…
One of the most important things I’ve learned as a marketer is the value of a single word or phrase. Sometimes, one word can completely change how your brand is perceived. Every piece of content your company publishes, whether it’s a tweet, blog post, newsletter, webinar, etc., should reinforce, clarify and/or strengthen the message of your brand.
In this post, I’ll give you a close look into the editorial process here at BlueGlass. I’ll share the questions we ask and revisions we make to ensure each piece of content we publish helps strengthen our brand identity.
Generating the right ideas is one of the most challenging aspects of content creation. At BlueGlass, we keep a running list of branded content ideas (all of these ideas are pre-approved by our marketing team). When writing blog posts, our authors can choose from this list or pitch their own idea (which also needs to be approved).
Every idea is considered from a variety of perspectives…
Questions to ask:
- Is this idea relevant to our target audience?
- Does it relate back to one of our service offerings?
- Does this idea add something to the conversation, or merely rehash what’s already been said by others?
- Is this topic relevant to the niche of our current or potential clients?
- Could we share this with our clients (or our team) as a resource?
- How will this idea encourage engagement? Will it get people talking and sharing the content?
- Will this idea lead someone to take an action that brings them closer to our brand (following social networks, subscribing to RSS feed, signing up for email list, etc.)?
- Is this topic too controversial (or could it be perceived as such)?
- Is this topic too dry? Are we being too neutral when taking a position would add interest?
- Is this idea timely? How does this relate to the current trends and the state of our industry?
- Is it too timely — could this be considered insensitive or inappropriate in light of a current event? Is it “too soon” to write about?
Your tone is unavoidable. Whether intentional or not, your writing conveys an attitude toward not only the subject of your content, but toward your audience as well.
Similar to the benefits of using the same design aesthetic across marketing channels, a consistent tone of voice gives the impression of authenticity, trustworthiness, and familiarity. But, it’s not as simple as adopting a single tone of voice and using that same tone in all of your content…
Questions to ask:
- Is the tone consistent throughout the content? Shifting tone in the middle of your content leaves readers unclear on your true attitude toward the topic and your relationship with them.
- Does the tone match this particular audience? You’re not always going to be talking to the same people in the same places. For example, your brand’s tone on social media will be different from your tone in a sales deck, printed brochure, email newsletter, blog post, etc.
- Is this the right level of formality based on this particular relationship? Consider how familiar each audience is with your brand (and how much they already LIKE your brand) based on each touchpoint, and adjust your tone to match that. For example, someone who has subscribed to your newsletter is “closer” to your brand than someone who has landed on your site for the first time (Tip: subscribing to a variety of email newsletters across different industries is a great way to observe and understand the intricacies of tone).
- Are we trying too hard to please everyone? If you try to use a tone and point of view that’s appealing to anyone, you’ll fail to connect deeply with your target audience. Always use a tone that appeals most to your target demographic.
Revising vs. Editing
Revising involves careful review of your words, sentence structure, and paragraph in order to ensure writing is clear, effective, and accurately portrays your brand. This is not the same as editing — the review and correction of grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes.
Yes, grammar still matters (especially if you don’t want a bunch of troll comments). But when it comes to branding, revising is what molds how your content will be perceived by your audience.
Focus on the following when revising…
Are you carefully considering which words you use and how those words may be perceived by your audience? Are you structuring your sentences in a way that makes your message clear? Don’t leave room for people to look for hidden meaning behind your words. Be as deliberate as possible.
With writing, you don’t have the additional help of body language and inflection to help convey meaning. Choose your words carefully — it’s all too easy for your audience take your writing out of context.
Questions to ask:
- What connotations surround this word?
- Could this word or phrase be misconstrued in a different way than intended?
- Might this word or phrase make us appear to take a position on an issue in our industry, even if we don’t have a particular stance?
- Can we eliminate any redundancies? Redundant phrases are common in spoken language, but phrases like “plan ahead,” “advance planning,” and “close proximity” only add clutter to your writing. For more, see this list of common redundancies. (Psst…in certain cases, being redundant is OK!)
- Is the language too technical? Unless you’re writing a technical manual, keep the jargon out. If you must use technical words, be sure to explain what those words mean.
- Can we say the same thing using less words? Watch out for “wordy phrases” — anything that can be cut down to a word or two without losing meaning. For example, “for the purpose of” can be replaced by “for,” and “in order to” can be replaced by “to.”
- Is this language too pretentious? Avoid fluffy or complicated words. This won’t insult your readers’ intelligence, but rather emphasize clarity over formality. Here’s a good list of simple alternatives for complex words.
When it comes to online content, readers prefer skimmable text. Even the way you bold words and transition between paragraphs is acting to either strengthen or dilute your message.
Use formatting to highlight the most important words and phrases within your text, further strengthening your point. As you’re revising, examine each sentence to determine if the right word is being emphasized and not getting buried within the sentence. If you want to emphasize a certain word, rearrange sentences so this word is at the beginning or the end of the sentence.
Questions to ask:
- Are words of importance highlighted in bold or italics?
- Are there headers to breaking up sections of text?
- Is text broken into into short paragraphs (3 sentences per paragraph is a good guideline)?
- Is related text grouped into bulleted or numbered lists?
- Is sentence structure and length varied? This gives your writing a cadence, making it easier to read.
- Are there smooth transitions between paragraphs? Transitional words like “also,” “for example,” and “however,” show the relationship from one paragraph to the next and help direct readers through your content.
Once you’ve found the right words and format, you’ll need to add visuals to break up your text andadd additional context to your words.
The images, videos, and other visual media you choose to associate with your brand are just as important as the words you use. At their best, visuals enhance your content and make it easier to digest. At their worse, visuals will act as speed bumps, either distracting or confusing readers.
Use consistent imagery across all of your content. There’s a reason why companies have logos: they provide instant recognition. We use our mascot, Charlie, in a wide range of our branded content. This helps viewers familiar with BlueGlass immediately make the connection they’re looking at something our brand created.
Ask these questions:
- Will this image confuse the reader?
- Does the image need accompanying text to further explain its purpose?
- Is the image too distracting? Will it keep someone from reading further?
- Is this an image we want associated with our brand? Be aware of how certain icons, symbols and characters may be perceived.
- Are we violating any copyrights?
August 23rd by Kerry Jones