Staying on the Message: How to Ensure Consistency in Your Content Marketing Efforts
Being on the receiving end of a mixed signal is never easy. You're flirting with someone over text or perhaps you're out on a date and one moment the other party is laughing at your misguided attempts at humor while on the next they're practically freezing you out. We've all been there before and in moments like these, you could never tell whether you should just cut your losses and bail or you should take them as an invitation to proceed further. Mixed signals are always difficult to process, whether when dealing with a person or when dealing with a business.
With so many mediums available for businesses to conduct their content marketing efforts, it's practically a guarantee that your business can be found in more than just a single platform. You can be found in your own website, quite possibly in the various social media platforms available and perhaps in an online marketplace or two. With so many platforms to manage however, sometimes your message might get muddled, resulting in the case of mixed signals I've alluded to above, something that every business should endeavor to avoid.
Staying true to your brand
Earlier this year, the personal care and beauty chain Sephora was forced to close all of their US stores for diversity training in response to a complaint from R&B singer SZA claiming that she was racially profiled as she was shopping at one of their locations. What makes this incredibly ironic is the fact that SZA used to work for Sephora before embarking on a music career and that she was shopping for Fenty, a cosmetic line from fellow musician Rihanna that was started "for women of all shades, personalities, attitudes, cultures, and races" that features SZA as one of their models and was heavily promoted by the US division of Sephora.
The incident with SZA caused quite a bit of an uproar as it exposed an underlying hypocrisy within Sephora. Here's a business that on the surface promotes inclusivity by partnering with a prominent woman of color and releasing her beauty line with a focus on inclusivity but it's clear from the incident that this inclusivity isn't reflected in the attitude of their rank and file staffs. If left unchecked, a lack of consistency in your content marketing efforts could result in a PR fiasco like the one faced in Sephora.
It doesn't matter if you're a multinational business with revenue numbering in the billions like Sephora or a small business serving local customers, you have to ensure consistency in your brand image. Your various online presences should stay consistent with one another and they should always reflect your brand's core identity. The way you conduct your business should also reflect this identity lest you end up like Sephora. In the long term, ensuring consistency in your messaging is important as they're a reflection of your identity, which can be achieved using these steps.
Finding your company's identity
There's a different between being simply consistent and having integrity to go with that consistency. Being consistent for consistency's sake is boring but being consistent with what your business believes in, now that's called integrity. To do this however, you have to have something you actually believe in and that means discovering your company's identity. Find out what separates you from dozens of other similar businesses or if your business doubles as a passion project, simply share with the world what pushed you in this direction in the first place. When you have an identity you could hold on to, everything else would simply fall into place.
Create a brand guideline
Once you've established an identity, the next step is to create a set of guidelines to make sure that everything you and your company does properly represent that identity. For example, I once worked at a company whose guideline was so comprehensive that every employee is required to answer every single call with the company's official greeting, even for intra-company calls. Since this piece focuses on marketing, the important thing here is to ensure that this guideline oversees every public-facing interaction done by your company.
How your business is portrayed in your website, in Instagram, in YouTube and during external marketing events should stay consistent. Your logo or slogan should always be present, the color scheme used should always be the same, your style of speaking and tone of voice should complement your messaging and if possible, the typography used should always be consistent as well. Of course, if you define your brand with a certain social value, like the case of inclusivity with Sephora, you want this value to also be represented in your brand's guideline.
Make sure that your contents and social media posts stay within the guideline
Establishing that guideline is the easy part, the tricky thing lies in trying to enforce them and as can be seen in the Sephora case, this failure could prove to be disastrous. If possible, make sure that every piece of content and social media post is properly reviewed by you or your brand manager before they're published. I realize however, that this can be somewhat impractical so my solution is to implement a peer-review system. Self-review is woefully ineffective because we're always biased when it comes to our own work but by having members of your content and marketing team checking how the others are doing, this bias could be avoided.