Last time I wrote about consistency in online writing. Soon after, I received an email from Leslie Drechsler, a reader in Tustin, CA: "As a Marketing Communications Specialist, I'd love to hear your ideas on how to successfully implement consistency in an established business," she wrote. "I thought developing a company style guide would solve the problem. But perhaps there are other ways to approach it.
"Perhaps this could be the subject of another article."
Here's that article, Leslie.
The Importance of Consistency in All Communications
Coca-Cola, the most recognized brand worldwide, is famous for having designed the Coke bottle so that it could be recognized even in the dark and, if broken, at a glance by a single piece.
What does that have to do with writing or proofreading? Nothing. It has to do with a consistent brand "personality."
Actors call it "staying in character."
"After 'Blood Simple,' everybody thought I was from Texas," said Oscar.-winner Frances McDormand. "After 'Mississippi Burning,' everybody thought I was from Mississippi and uneducated. After 'Fargo,' everybody's going to think I'm from Minnesota, pregnant, and have blonde hair."
In each role, McDormand was convincing because she stayed in character. Likewise, companies that want their brands to be convincing need to stay in character throughout every communication -- online, in email, and in print.
Staying in character means being consistent across media. If you spell "email" without a hyphen on your Web site, don't spell it with a hyphen in print catalogs. If you omit final serial commas in online help, don't include them in emails.
Maintaining this level of consistency calls for a brand or editorial "czar" -- someone ultimately responsible for ensuring consistency of communication -- especially when a company has more than one writer, editor, or marketing communications specialist.
And yes, Leslie, I believe it also calls for a corporate style guide. (Creating a corporate style guide is the subject of an upcoming article.)
Ten Tips for Proofreading Online Writing
Coming up next: scaling down for smaller screens and why short message service (SMS) communication is great training for writers.
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