I just spent six hours in a meeting with internal communication managers trying to find a define content for their internal media.
They switched from general rules to detailed content and back, reinvented everything, broke every agreement they achieved in the meeting and then agreed on it again – so it was quite an ordinary meeting.
But I had a few ideas on what are basic guidelines for content sourcing and defining contentguidelines, be it for print, online or audiovidual media.
Guideline #1: It does not really matter what you do. You will never come to an end if you try to define topics, typical stories, and content areas. It’s more a matter of how you do it: You can put everything in your media, as long as you do it in a way that attracts your audience and suits your company.
Guideline #2: It’s people who sell. You need faces, lives, quotes, emotions, personal experience, personal power. Build your content around people, use people as the main ingredient. Don’t say anything, let people say everything.
Guideline #3: Do tell stories. That corresponds directly to #2. Facts are ok, but only if they can be told, if the narrative dimension is ok too. And a narration is only worth reading,if it’s about people.
Guideline #4: Don’t worry too much about what you what to tell. Nobody cares about that. Do worry more about what your audience wants to read, and, foremost, why they should read your stuff at all. That depends on your audience and on the type of media.
Today’s discussion was about employee magazines. Employees expect benefit from their employers; they work for money, so they want get something out if they out something in. You can write about whatever you want; as long as people understand it as something they can do too, something they should not do, an offer or a rule, something that can push their career or facilitate their lives, they will read it.
It helps, if you think about content examples, but you will never have a complete listing, probably not even an inspiring one. Actually, the more precision you try to bring into these lists, the more boring they get.
If you focus on the kind of service you want to deliver, you can probably describe it in three lines. It will help you find new contents, it will help your audience understand your media, and it will create additional value that is obvious and understandable for everybody.
That’s why I call it SOCS – the Service Oriented Content Sourcing approach. No matter what you what to publish – focus on how you want to publish it, how you want to tell it and want service you want to deliver to your users.
That also reveals the sad side of it: You have to know your business. You can talk, negotiate, define for ages - if you don’t have the experience and the feeling for what makes a great story, then you need professional help.
You can learn to write, you can learn to take pictures and you can also learn how to find, invent, describe or tell great stories - but you need to be aware that this is a discipline on it’s own.
Every successfull media have their guidelines, sometimes they are explicitly written, sometimes they are part of general guidelines, sometimes they are just there.
Some samples for SOCS-Guidelines:
Every story in xxxxx Magazine is there to activate our employees. Its tells them what they can do and how they can start it.
We always present the full view. Our readers are able to participate in any discussion with colleagues or customers, and they will always be well informed, they will not be surprised by anything.
We don’t have managers talking. It’s always employees who tell the story.
And, as an example from a more general perpective:
We tell dramatic stories from all over the world - but we always look for a connection to our country.