There aren’t many people who discuss content standards while body surfing at the Jersey Shore. But I am one of them. Sad but true, my sister and I spent one beautiful afternoon in the ocean debating the proper punctuation of the bulleted list. I guess that puts me into the category of the grammatical-standards nutcase.
There are plenty of people like me out there. People who care about making sure that their corporate messaging is clear, concise and above all consistent. Many of our Information Mapping customers are among them. But there is also a much larger group of business communications professionals that are not yet indoctrinated. Today, larger and larger groups of employees are becoming responsible for writing content, business communications and policies and procedures. So how do we get them to join in understanding the need for standards?
There are a few simple arguments that can help get the point across:
Lack of a corporate standard wastes time and money.
I still remember years ago sitting in a room with a writer who was punctuating bulleted points as he wrote. He was putting in spaces, colons, semicolons and indents like a madman as he typed away. On the other side of the room I was editing the copy he was putting in. I was busily taking out and changing everything he was doing so it would match the rest of the material in the book. What a waste! Multiply that waste by hundreds of employees every week and you have an enormous cost. Setting a content standard just makes sense. It saves extraordinary amounts of time and money when everyone knows what the plan is. Simple, consistent rules save time arguing over what is right, what is wrong, and redoing other people’s work.
A content standard makes information easier to reuse.
Content is king today. Everyone writes, whether you are in marketing creating web content or in HR writing policies and procedures. A content standard helps everyone create information that is reusable across the organization without major rewriting. Policies written by HR can be picked up and put onto the Intranet for online viewing. Technical documentation can be put into a call center reference portal. Content becomes modularized for repurposing, saving time and money across the organization.
Clear documentation reduces corporate risk.
We have all seen it. The corporate nightmares played out on the five o’clock news. Procedures not followed resulting in oil spills. Cruise ships in chaos and staff unclear on the proper procedures. Clear, simple documentation is paramount to ensure that staff knows what they are supposed to do in these situations. In the end it not only saves money for the organization, it can also save lives.
Over the next few weeks we will be exploring the corporate content standard. What exactly is it? How do you begin to develop one? What does it look like when you have one in place? We don’t expect everyone to become a grammatical nutcase like me, debating punctuation on the beach. But setting a benchmark for everyone in your organization to strive towards just makes good sense. Hopefully some of what you learn here will help you convince your organization of the importance of setting a corporate content standard.