Although Facebook has since changed their internal mantra from the infamous "Move Fast and Break Things" to "Move Fast with Stable Infra," the initial slogan remains pervasive among tech workers, particularly the Silicon Valley set.
Enter content marketing. Even Cisco, a massive company that just experienced a large round of layoffs, is investing in hiring 200 content marketers this year. Brands across the board are beginning to recognize that in a highly competitive attention economy, they're going to win the most eyes and create the deepest engagement with useful, high-quality content.
But as more companies enter the field, many ditch editorial and creative standards, convinced that they need to catch up and create a vast body of online "content" as quickly as they possibly can.
Here at Wistia, one of our core company values is "bias towards action," or "act fast, learn faster." That value is balanced out by "long-term thinking" – how do we invest energy in the actions that will make the best impact over time? How do we balance the ability to take swift action and "fail fast" while still maintaining high quality standards?
Creating trust and empowering experimentation
Here are a few ways that our content teams, across the video and written mediums, work to maintain quality while publishing, learning, and iterating on the regular.
Establish a copy collective
It all started with a glossary.
When Wistia was smaller, it was pretty easy for us to communicate across teams and projects about copy standards. But as our team and our product grew, it became increasingly overwhelming to keep up with capitalization, voice, tone, and more. Emily, the reigning queen of Wistia's Help Pages, decided to create an internal glossary, and when she consulted me and Meryl, the main editorial eyes on the marketing team, the Wistia Copy Collective was born.
Because we don't have a copy team or a content team, it was sometimes unclear who was responsible for the final decision on copy issues. When do we capitalize "Customize"? Do we use the Oxford comma? (Duh.) The Copy Collective now exists to set these standards, and serve as a resource for anyone working on a project that includes outward-facing copy.
Wistia team members can submit copy editing requests via email, or ask quick questions in our #copy-therapy Slack channel. Meanwhile, the Copy Collective, now consisting of 4 people across marketing and customer happiness, constantly communicates about how Wistia approaches different copy situations. We track all of our projects, who edited them, and how long each request took to complete on a Trello board (pictured below). Can you tell we love tools?!
Something like a tiny copy detail may seem small, but if you've ever received an email with a serious typo in the subject line or a sloppy blog post full of grammatical errors, you know how unprofessional it feels and how much it can decrease your trust for an organization.
Make space for small, experimental projects
On average, completing a content project for the Wistia Library takes anywhere from two weeks to two months. That's a hefty turnaround, but this is where our evergreen content lives, and it's many visitors' first touch with our brand, so we believe it's worth the investment.
The architecture of this page makes it super easy for new visitors to navigate to every single piece, no matter when it was published, so we want every single guide or video to be up-to-date, useful, and relevant as a reference for months or years. We spend lots of time on graphics and layout for every piece, and each piece goes through lots of editing and workshopping.
The Library is no place for hasty experimentation.
If our video team wants to try a kooky idea, or someone wants to try writing about a new subject or in a new format or tone, the Library isn't a good fit. But they can try things out on any of our other channels: the blog might be a fun place to try out a new approach to an idea. Instagram and Facebook are great places for silly videos. A supplementary blurb or video that's helping add flavor to a page but not central to understanding is a fun place for experimentation.
We've always been very inspired by MailChimp's Voice & Tone guide, which delineates where it's okay to play around and experiment and where to cut to the chase.
Respect the "trust bank"
When thinking about content, I often turn back to Everybody Writes author Ann Handley's formula: Utility x Inspiration x Empathy = Great Writing. Quality content, and great writing (or video, or whatever your content medium of choice may be) isn't just about attracting new eyes and grabbing attention – it's about building and maintaining trust with your existing audience.
An awe-inspiring, lengthy, in-depth piece is going to help foster lots of trust, while a poor quality piece or something that doesn't meet expectations will leave a negative impression that's difficult to reverse. Brendan, our CTO, uses metaphor that I find myself coming back to all the time: "Positive interactions with your brand are credits, negative interactions are debits. You always want to run a positive balance in your bank!"
A positive interaction, like free, useful, fun content, helps your brand gain trust. Debits aren't limited to bad interactions alone: they can also include interactions where you're asking for something, like a survey completion or a purchase. Between all of these different touches, you should strive for a positive balance in your trust bank.
Content is everywhere: consider your competition
There are so many fun and cool things in this world! Here are less than 1% of the other things that your online content is up against:
- Listening to the latest Reply All or Invisibilia podcast
- Reading the latest issue of Real Life Mag
- Taking an online course with a famous designer
- Deep stalking some QTs on Instagram
- Watching a Netflix original documentary about 3D printing
- Pokémon Go
Pretty intimidating, right? As cultural consumers, we don't separate out our "content marketing browsing time" from any other online activity, whether we're seeking out education or entertainment. It's all coming at us as one stream, and we prioritize accordingly. Which means your brand's content isn't just competing with other brands – it's competing with everything that anyone might conceivably pay attention to.
Elizabeth Spiers in "Why Most Branded Content Sucks, and What to Do About It" offers some excellent advice:
Beyond just grabbing attention, isn't it kind of cool to imagine that brands, who have access to lots of resources, can do something to make the internet a cooler, happier place, instead of just adding clutter? Don't move fast, churn out garbage, and break trust. Push yourself extra hard to create remarkable, useful, beautiful, creative things, and maybe you'll even learn something yourself in the creative process.