Governance, Guidelines, SEO, and Your Nonprofit
Governance doesn’t sound very fun, and for most people, it’s not. But there are some people who thrive on the fine points of grammar and silently correct people in their heads all day long. If you know someone like that at your nonprofit, you may want to enlist their help with this. It’s also a very good idea to engage a professional brand consultant to help develop your brand guidelines.
We happen to know someone that fits the bill. Check out ArcStone’s services here.
The rules that you set up for your content will determine how your brand and nonprofit is perceived by the world. As you create content and build your nonprofit’s team, precision and certainty about your brand guidelines will be more important than they have been in the past.
Some considerations include:
This is where you commit to a certain font or group of fonts and define how and when they are used. How big should your headings be? Should you publish blog headings with H2 or H3 style, and what is the difference? Are there certain topics or representations that you don’t want on your site? Are there rules about what type of images and videos can and can’t be used?
Start to formalize some of these guidelines. Brand guidelines should be a living document; they will be updated and added to many times over, and everyone should be able to contribute and flag questions. Google Docs works well for this. If your site is in WordPress, you may even want to create a private page that houses your guidelines. It’s best to designate one grammar stickler to have the ultimate decision on updates.
Style and voice guide.
Consider your target audience. Are they highly educated and well-read? Are they conversational and pragmatic? Do they like the trustworthiness and formality of academic studies or do they prefer a concise, easy-to-read format? Your audience should influence your style.
The AP Style Guide is a good default style guide that is widely used by organizations for style issues that aren’t otherwise addressed. But you will also want to develop your own corporate lexicon. For example, you must take a position on the Oxford comma. And perhaps you never, ever, want to see anyone at your organization use an ampersand even on social media because you hate how it looks (which is like this: &). Make note of that. Use this blog post for a number of style guide examples so that you can get a feel for how you want yours to look.
Writing for the web.
Writing for the web is different from other content you may be used to writing, like annual reports and grant writing. When writing online, keep your paragraphs really short, use bullets and sub-headers and images to break up the copy so that it is not visually overwhelming. If it is too dense no one will want to read it.
Here are a few best practices:
- Editorial calendar. Never underestimate good planning; a great piece of content should be upcycled in different formats (not verbatim, but in different variations). Related blog topics can potentially be stacked and recombined into offers like eBooks and other formats that provide value for your target audience.
There are a lot of moving parts, and it can be hard to stay on task and keep everything consistent with your content strategy, so an editorial calendar is mandatory. There are many editorial calendars available, including one in Hubspot and Google Calendar. We like using Trello as an editorial calendar. You may pick and choose which elements work well for your needs and create a custom editorial calendar that works for your specific needs.
- Use contractions
- Write with simple language
- Use the active voice
- Be clear and concise
- Use short sentences and short paragraphs
- Cut fluffy words and jargon
- Use your style guide
- Write to your reader, using “you” and “your”
When you write online, your headline and topic should be strategic, to align with your topic cluster and serve your target audience. Part of content governance is making sure that details like metadata and title tags are addressed with appropriate language to support SEO goals. There are great tools like Yoast SEO plugin that help you see where you have overlooked an SEO consideration and make improvements.
If you need help with your content strategy, contact the team at ArcStone.