If you manage a community, you probably realize that you can’t do everything on your own. If you end up in a content potluck situation, which I highly recommend, you end up with multiple contributors to your community. But how do you manage content quality assurance processes?
They should share the following characteristics (see more on this topic, here):
- Show a passion for connecting with customers
- Display deep interest in how our customers experience your product or service.
- They wanted to learn from others as much as they wanted to share information.
- Have empathy for customer problems and a desire to help.
So, now you are armed with an army of authors, both internal and external contributors. How do you make sure that they all produce content that is high quality, on brand, use the same naming conventions, etc? In essence, how do you manage quality assurance processes for a wide content funnel.
I want to share 5 considerations with you today:
Make sure you provide ample training, guidelines and resources to your contributors. I know this sounds like a no brainer, but it is actually pretty tricky. Items you should consider:
- Vocabulary or brand expressions to abide by
- Trademarked or other copyright limitations
- Brand tone of voice guidelines and practice sheets
- Training video (on demand or live) on how to use the publication platform
- Compliance and legal terms that are forbidden in your content ecosystem
- Acronyms and abbreviations to use or NOT use
- Spell check software you recommend installing. Don’t laugh, I swear this is important.
The success of content potluck rests on the concept of having a lot of different experts contribute to your community. But in reality, you don’t get a tidal wave of interest in your first inquiry for new contributors. And that is a good thing. Onboarding new contributors on phases is super helpful for you, for the community and for your new authors. Why? Because you can:
- Spend more time on onboarding and training. Basically Train the trainers for the next wave
- Spend more time working out the kinks of the new process
- Provide more 1:1 coaching to new contributors and build their confidence and promote their content
- You have more control over quality of output.
Community members build trust slowly. If they only have to embrace 1 or 2 new bloggers at the time, it will increase their trust and confidence in them better, than having to split their attention amongst the many.
Establish an on-boarding process. Documentation is great, but practice solidifies what you know, what you do. When you onboard a new author, use expert writers to coach them through the process. We did this in two different scenarios:
1. Tech Writing
For our support community, all new contributors who did not already roll up into the information development team (aka the documentation or tech writing team), had to submit a few sample pieces of content to our lead Tech Writer or Editor after their training. After review and editing, the article was handed back to the original author for learning. Once all cleaned up, it was good to go to the community. We repeat that process, until the head editor gives a green light that the new author got the basics right and we comfortable about the quality of their work.
2. Marketing Writing
Similarly in marketing, we usually permit external experts to deviate from our brand style and guidelines, but internal contributors have to be trained and tested for their content. Using a CMS or Workflow management process, peer reviews, editing and managerial approval is required for each content before it sees the day of light.
Quick note on the tone of voice of content. While I am a firm believer in branding and brand guidelines, the community is an organic and safe space to voice your thoughts and ideas. (At least it should be). Updating contributor’s content for spelling, citation, accuracy etc is one thing. Removing the author’s personal tone of voice or style is not acceptable. To me that is borderline censorship. If you can’t accept differing viewpoints or conversation styles on your community, than you are not a community, you are just a brand communication channel.
But most importantly, relax. The community is a fun and safe space. People will contribute one way or another if your topic draws them in. Don’t try and control people’s tone of voice, let that shine through their content. But give guard rails and templates to manage quality, vocabulary, tone of voice etc.
Some issues will slip through and you need to be prepared to tackle them when they happen. But your community is forgiving (trust me on that one). Seeing that even big brands make mistakes and can correct them and own up to them, makes you more human and garners more loyalty.
Phase – Out
There simply will be people who just don’t get it. Not everyone is born to write. Some think they should write, but just can’t adapt to community’s needs. It’s ok. They won’t be given author permissions to publish. But maybe they can make awesome how-to videos. Or contribute by commenting and sharing ideas in thread, or simply are a great source of inspiration and issue resolution for you as a community manager.
There is a lot of work in managing a community. Every helping hand should be accepted, even if not all of them pen a long article or blog post.
Additional blogs from this series include: