“Too many cooks spoil the
There is a reason you give “compliments to the chef,” and not to the cooks: there is a team in the kitchen preparing your meal, but it’s done with the creative guidance and final approval of the chef. He determines, and oversees the execution of, the vision. He ensures consistency.
But what if your kitchen is a blog? Helping to run this humble blog and working on another for a small company, I started to wonder how much harder it must be operate a blog for a larger company where you have even more writers, even more editors, and even more political agendas to juggle. Is it possible to maintain a consistent brand voice, and if so, how do you do it? What are best practices for delivering the right content at the right time?
My mind immediately turned to one of my best friends, Emily, who manages global communications and public affairs at a very public company. I caught up with her on an unusual day where there had been a service disruption that she and the blog team had to respond to, so her first rule was an exception: prepare for the unknown and be ready to break guidelines if the situation demands it.
That said, she had some enlightening bits of advice for starting and managing a blog. Implementing these steps will help if and when the blog gets to a size that demands consistency while being produced by a large number of cooks.
1) Know who you are.
Who are you as a company? What is its voice, its tone, its personality? Is it playful yet informative? Snarky but serious? Empathetic and nurturing? Create a list of at least 3-5 adjectives (or more) to define your desired identity, then be vigilant in hewing to them when writing your blog. Think of the blog as your outward representation of that personality, and let it shine.
2) Know what you are doing.
Clearly define the story you want to tell, why you want to tell it, and what you stand for. Think like a storyteller. Even if your topic happens to be highly technical, never forget that you’re a human writing to other humans. If you make it relatable and accessible, you’re halfway there. Be in the business of communicating, not dictating.
3) Know how you want to say it.
Establishing an editorial calendar to include regular features (interviews, trends, how-tos, etc.) will not only help ensure periodic postings, but it will help ground the blog and generate some thematic consistency and balance across it. Moreover, be sure to create a style guide to focus the look and tone of the blog, and stick to it. Making every blog post sound the same can be tricky, but a style guide can make sure they look the same. Surely it’s not just writer coöperation that ensures The New Yorker always has a diaeresis on redundant vowels in all their pieces.
Following these guidelines will help you have a sound framework in place when building your blog to lay a solidly consistent foundation, whether it’s big or small.
In addition to these rules, Emily had some additional tips that were great.
* Use a single byline on posts: This helps lend an air of greater authority from the author and increases the likelihood that the post will be quoted by the media.
* Get the details right: Sometimes too many cooks can be an impediment, but they might also be a great resource in helping to ensure you don’t publish something under your name that contains factual inaccuracies.
* Have a set of instructions and procedures for posting: If you are managing a large blog team, this will help triage incoming blog suggestions. Include a centralized way to track date, time, contact, topic, and a justification for why the post belongs on the company’s blog. Answering this last question can really help distill the purpose and goals of the blog.
Operating a personal blog is obviously different than managing one for a large corporation, but if consistency is important to you, the same building blocks apply.
What aspects of your favorite blogs do you regularly notice?