What to Do in the Debate Between Employee and Company Voice in Content Marketing

by Marcus Sheridan

writer's voiceAs I was teaching a follow up  content marketing workshop to an HR company near Washington DC last week, I was posed quite an interesting question, one that had come as a result of the company buying in to “insourcing” and having many of their employees produce content based on the questions they received from clients and prospects every day. The question of the employee went like this:

“Marcus, I know you preach a relaxed writing style, but when I try to write like that, it’s just not who I am. And whenever I send my articles in to the editorial team, I feel like they change it so much that it’s really not me on that page.”

Ahh yes, an interesting debate indeed.

The Two Souls of a Business: Company and Writer’s Voice

Just how much should a company’s editorial department change an employee’s “voice” to match that of the company?

At some point or another, every company that is leveraging their employees to produce content has run into this problem, which is exactly why I thought it was so important to address this subject today.

But to understand how to answer this question, it’s critical to realize every business has two “souls”—or identities—that will always be the guiding light to this question.

The first “soul” is that of the company itself. What does the company believe? What is their doctrine? What is their stance on issues, questions, products, methodologies, best practices, etc.? Once all of these questions are answered and understood, they are critical in the makeup of the company’s identity to employees and consumers alike.

The second “soul” is that of the individual employee. As we all know, everyone is different—made with unique voices, styles, skills, etc.

When great content is produced by a business—be it a blog article, video, eBook, etc.—each one of these “souls” should be clear and present.

To give an example of what I’m talking about, my response to the lady in the workshop went like this:

Me: You say you have a more formal communication style, is that correct?

Employee: Yes

Me: And is this the same style you use in face to face conversations with clients? In other words, is it normal for you?

Employee: Yes

Me: If that is the case, as long as you don’t disagree with the company doctrines and philosophies with your content, then I would say they should let your style basically be what it is, without much change and editing.

In this scenario, the reason why this lady’s blog articles and content shouldn’t be completely changed comes down to a critical key:

Her communication style is the same whether face to face with a client or putting words on a screen.

See what I’m saying?

Her voice is her voice, and she was hired to have that voice.

In other words, currently, her company pays her to do a job that includes a whole lot of communication with clients—a communication whose style is acceptable in face to face settings. And because it’s acceptable in face to face settings, the “standards” shouldn’t be changed when it comes to producing content for the company blog, otherwise, she is receiving mixed messages.

Furthermore, a great question any content marketing editor or staff should ask is the following:

If a reader met this article’s author in real life, would the communication “style” of the author match what the reader saw and felt on the screen?

If the answer to this question is “no,” then a change needs to be made.

When it comes down to it, doing content marketing really, really well is all about employee involvement. But in order to have great employee involvement, employees need to have a sense of ownership of the program. They should look at their published content with a smile and sense of pride—knowing it’s not just a reflection of the company, but a reflection of them as well.

Once this is accomplished, some truly amazing things will happen as a clear “culture” of teachers is developed and further leveraged to take the company’s brand and business to new heights of success.

Your Turn:

I’d love to know from readers what you’ve experienced with this topic. How have you balance individual vs. company voice when it comes to content marketing?

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