Why You Need a Style Guide and How to Make One

Marketing is about clear communication and consequent engagement. Bad grammar, embarrassing misspellings and careless typos all erode credibility and even damage brand reputation.

Unfortunately, another enemy of effective communication often goes overlooked: inconsistency. Just as a brand needs consistency in terms of messaging, look and feel, written words – the “voice” of an organization – need to be presented in a uniform manner.

In many cases, the organization may have certain ways web and published copy is written. And a lot of the time, only the primary communicators know those styles. It’s something they keep in their heads.

Just like the copy itself, these style guidelines need to be written down.

Not only does it keep the entire staff in the know, it also helps to have a reference readily available to the main authors within the organization.

There’s no need for anything fancy: A simple Word doc should do. But, it does need to be carefully followed to ensure your voice consistently comes through no matter who has the proverbial microphone.

So, where to start?

First, familiarize yourself with the AP Stylebook, which is essentially the media industry’s bible. Organized by words and topics A-Z, it’s the spiral-bound standby for a surprisingly wide number of inquiries.

Because it is so widely accepted – most prominently by newspapers and sites – it’s a good foundation for consistency.

From there, you can dig into those quirks and preferences for your organization.

Start with Your Own Name

When crafting style guides for clients, we often start here. How will you refer to yourself on first reference? Is it a Co., Inc., or LLC? Do you tend to keep that off? And what about subsequent references? Will you always spell it out or just use the one word after the first reference? Any kind of inconsistency will disrupt your reader, so decide how you want to do it and get it on paper.

Trademarks

If your products or services are trademarked, create a rule for when those little ™s and ®s will be used. Will you use it in every reference? Only the first? What about headlines? As with all these self-determined rules, there’s no right or wrong way. It’s just important to pick a direction and stick with it.

Industry Terms

Do you spell out acronyms on first reference or are they widely known by your audience? Are there certain terms that are universally or nearly always capped? Identify what those words are and get them down.

Commas

Yes, commas. There’s the Oxford camp and everyone else. Choose a side.

Format

The most common is time/date/place. Or is it place/date/time? This is one of those style gray areas where there is no established format, but you should have one. Same goes for headlines or titles: some capitalize every word, some ignore articles and/or prepositions, some lowercase two-letter words. There’s no official rule, so go with what you’re comfortable with.

Caps

Often times this will relate to job titles. Is Chief Officer always capitalized, or only before a name? If there’s no name at all, is it still capped? Do you always capitalize a certain service or department from within your organization?

Tags

This is an important place to be consistent in terms of SEO and the style guide is a great place to put them so they are always at the ready for blogs and YouTube videos. Get together a list of the keywords relevant to your business or product and create an entry in the guide. Tip: If you put these in sentence form using one long list with commas, you can cut and paste right into the post or video description!

These are just a few of many considerations to get the consistency wheels turning. Style guides are living documents that can be added to as issues arise (or before they do). Does your organization have a style guide? Any basic entries I missed? Oxford comma or no? Weigh in with a comment below!


How to Impress Friends and Influence Millennials

I feel like ever since I have entered the advertising world, a common question I am always hearing is “How can we grab the attention of millennials?”

We (myself included) are the generation du jour. We’re tech-savvy. We’re influencers. We’re the target audience that marketers want to speak to, but can’t always find the most effective ways of doing so.

Speaking as a millennial, there is so much more to it than social media and digital marketing.

While these are two major ingredients to cooking up an effective marketing strategy, they’re really only the icing on the cake.

Take these four helpful millennial marketing lessons (from a millennial) into consideration for the next time you want to capture the attention of this younger demographic.

Be Bold

One way to implement a successful marketing strategy that targets millennials is by pushing the envelope a little bit. Sometimes it is okay to take risks and see what happens.

By playing it safe, you can never truly see a notable change in results. By pushing boundaries, you may find that results can be groundbreaking.

Being over-the-top and yet still relatable is something that can capture viewers’ attention – especially millennials.

For example, the McKenzie Institute® USA wanted to raise awareness of its unique method of physical therapy through a campaign that would draw aspiring PTs and recent grads to their online resources.

The creative team at ABC then started to cook up ideas of how we can address this young audience and cover the spectrum with ads that will draw students and recent grads just getting started in the industry.

How did we achieve this? We made a bold statement. We showcased McKenzie in a way that would attract their targeted audience by showing them how they are different.

By creating meme-like messages focused on digital resources, ABC created content that pushed the envelope a bit. One of these messages was ‘Wanna Hook Up?’ While potentially crass, we took the chance on selling a message that we knew would capture the attention of this younger demographic while still selling McKenzie and highlighting their program.

Age Is Just a Number

Though we’re all lumped together under one category, millennials don’t necessarily want to be classified as one entity. When selling to millennials, it works best when you pinpoint unique needs and desires as opposed to age demographics.

Growing up with the web has allowed us to discover and form communities around infinite different interests. Well, that’s because when you focus on individuality, you can appeal to specific people. When you focus on conformity, you’re speaking to the masses.

It’s best to narrow down your audience as best you can to make it sound like you’re having a conversation with one person specifically.

This way, millennial’s feel as though they’re being spoken to directly. This appeals to millennial’s because we admittedly like to feel special. Particular niches within this generation can make your brand come off as more reliable, relatable, trustworthy and, well, cool!

Dove’s “Choose Beautiful” campaign joined an ongoing national dialogue with a creatively interpreted true story. The video shows women in five global cities being offered the option to enter a building through one of two doors labeled “beautiful” or “average.”

Though the video starts off with most women choosing the “average” door, it continues on to show women beaming with confidence and inspiring possibilities for women to choose beautiful instead.

It shows real women in real life, all while having an inspiring and uplifting message that really speaks to its audience – millennials who gravitate toward content and storytelling as opposed to ads.

Speak Up!

Word-of-mouth marketing is something that oftentimes flies under the radar. Seems old-fashioned, right? However, the power of word-of-mouth marketing is highly underrated when it comes to marketing toward millennials.

Millennials are more likely to engage with a brand and find it trustworthy if they learned about it or heard about it from someone close to them – so add your voice to that conversation.

Statistics show that only 6 percent of millennials consider online advertising to be credible, while 95 percent say their friends are the most reliable source for recommendations.

Owning the brand, standing up for something and breaking norms are all potentially risky moves, but worth trying. Figuring out how to engage with this age bracket can be difficult, but these approaches can increase your potential of reaching them in the way you want to.

And, Yeah, Social Media

Like I said earlier, social media and digital marketing is the first place your mind goes when you think of marketing to millennials – and it should be. This is where that word of mouth is at its loudest.

According to the Pew Research Center of online millennials from the ages 18-29 in the U.S., 82% are on Facebook, 55 percent are on Instagram, 32 percent are on Twitter and 37 percent  are on Pinterest.

With these stats in mind, it is imperative that marketers understand just how powerful digital marketing can be. It’s important to take full advantage of the ease and exposure of these mediums.

But, don’t just insert your voice in a social community just for the sake of it. Millennial marketing is really niche marketing within a niche. So, you want to use the social formats that engage your subgenre of millennials the most.

When it comes down to it, it’s not just about breaking it down by the year someone was born. There are so many subcategories that one needs to take into consideration when marketing to millennials.

It’s not just about staying up to date with social media or knowing the latest trends.

It has to be relevant to your brand and the individual you’re speaking to. It’s about being willing to take risks, standing out, sharing your voice and engaging with individual niches hidden under the general millennial umbrella.


Amazing Online Video Statistics That Will Make You Want to Do Video Marketing Today

As the internet becomes a bigger part of our everyday lives, people go online for their information, shopping, entertainment, and to connect with likeminded people. Smart marketers are already using digital and content assets to reach people online. A lot of this takes the form of blogs, resource articles, presentations and social media. But what about video?

Online video, if embraced, looks to be a huge opportunity for many.

It only makes sense. We see YouTube usage increasing. People use services like Netflix, Hulu and Roku more than ever. If you aren’t convinced that video could be a difference maker for some marketers, take a look at these statistics.

Study by Cisco: By 2019, 80 Percent of World’s Internet Traffic Will Be Video

Some may find themselves reading that twice. A study by Cisco, a worldwide network hardware provider, points out that 80 percent of the world’s traffic will be video. As networks improve and speeds increase, it’s anticipated video usage will as well. Current statistics back this up.

YouTube Has Over a Billion Users

“YouTube has over a billion users – almost a third of all people on the internet – and every day, people watch hundreds of millions of hours of YouTube videos and generate billions of views.”Youtube_Icon_Transparent

Think that is impressive?  Go look at some of the other stats on YouTube.

How about this statistic?

“YouTube overall, and even YouTube on mobile alone, reaches more 18-34 and 18-49-year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.”

Still don’t think the online video train is picking up steam?

“The number of people watching YouTube each day has increased by 40 percent, year over year since March 2014.”

Facebook Video Is Growing Rapidly

As of November 4, 2015, Facebook was averaging 8 billion daily video views from about 500 million users. People often ask how they can improve results on Facebook. Maybe you should give video a try.

Mobile Video Is on the Rise Too

Look around. It almost doesn’t matter where you are. People are on their mobile devices. In fact, people are on their mobile devices so much it has given comedians a mountain of material. Governments are creating policy because mobile users don’t know when to put their devices down, even at the risk of personal injury.

50 percent of all online video views will be happening on mobile devices in 2016.”

Is This Just the Tip of the Video Iceberg?

That’s a great question. The stats seem to point that way. What does that mean for you?

Are you someone who doesn’t see the value in content marketing as a way to engage people in your target audience, attract more quality website traffic, generate more leads and attract more customers? You might see this as no big deal.  However, what if you are wrong?

What if strategic and authentic content marketing does all those great things for your organization? The answer is simple. Video becomes a highly effective way to reach new people in a new and very targeted way. It also provides a way to help you earn more organic search traffic. Plus, video tends to be a shareable medium.  How many times have you heard someone say they saw a video online and just had to share it?

Maybe the idea of using video for marketing is a bit scary. You might not know a whole lot about creating quality videos or how to use them in your marketing. That’s alright. If you don’t have the time, resources or knowledge, there are people who do. The only question is whether or not you want to invest in building your content marketing using video. That decision is up to you.


Who’s This Third-Party Person They Keep Talking About?

Everywhere you look in the marketing world, they talk about third-party content generation or content curation. You may be asking, “Who is this third person at the party anyway?”

It is actually pretty simple. When someone else writes something about you, it has more credibility than when you write something about yourself.

Makes total sense, right? Then why do we not all do it?

writing We all know someone that can write something great about us … well, at least we think we do. As most of us go on the hunt to look for that perfect person that has credibility and notoriety in the industry, our lists get shorter. We may find ourselves with no one on the list as we pare it down. But, have no fear; the industry has created something called “paid content generation.”

You can pay someone to write something great about your company. You can even tell them what to say. How much easier could that be?

Well, it is not quite that simple. You need to do your due diligence to make sure the person writing is credible, has a influential voice and is a great writer. You don’t want this opportunity to backfire on you.

Many companies don’t have the resources to create content for all of today’s platforms: social media, blogs, infographics, etc. So, this third-party content generation can also help them with their overall content strategy.

But, all postings are not created equal. For example, a common strategy on Twitter is to create some original content with other people’s content mixed in by way of retweeting.

This combination works, but make sure your original content is sprinkled in as much as possible. You want to be seen as an expert in your industry; not just someone who reposts other companies’ stuff. Always make sure you are building your brand, not someone else’s.

Now, let’s add the third-party content developer to the picture. This adds another voice to your brand. This person (or publication) is seen as unbiased and trustworthy because “What do they have to gain by pushing this brand so heavily?”

You know it is because they were paid to do it … but, no one else needs to know that. A good third-party content writer will make that part of the equation invisible. And the best content developers will make it something the audience actually wants to read, regardless of the source. That quality is essential to your investment.

Sometimes the idea of it being paid content is unavoidable. For example, most industry publications bank on their unbiased and editorial trust, so the idea of getting paid to write content is not acceptable. Therefore, it may state that the content is paid or an “advertorial.” That is OK – don’t run away from these opportunities.

These publications tend to be the most trusted and well read. Many people won’t notice the subtle paid content message and even if they do, you still get the SEO benefit of being mentioned someplace else other than by your company.

So, let’s talk SEO and how this content can benefit you there as well. Google has crazy algorithms they create so no one can even figure out the system and win the rankings game. For the past couple of updates, content generation has been the most important element in a ranking strategy. Third-party content is a big part of that.

The digital world makes the linking from site to site easy and research has shown that when there is a link present from an outside site, clicks increase by 33 percent versus links posted on your own site. We tend to trust this content four to seven times as much as internally created content.

Google sees it as credible and the companies that have it will rank higher (assuming the rest of their site isn’t a disaster). Google doesn’t have the ability to know it is paid content, so you get the same benefit as traditional coverage.

Where do you find these people to invite to the party? An agency with proven content marketing services is a great place to start. In addition to staff, an agency can use established connections and technology to get the right message in a quality article that’s expertly placed in front of the right audience.