At Percolate, we’ve developed a framework called the content building blocks – key objectives and elements that should be addressed in every piece of marketing content. One of those building blocks is Brand.

Marketing content from brands must ultimately connect back to the company. In the past, companies could take their time and carefully review everything that went out, but we’ve moved from a world where brands created 3-4 commercials a year to a world where they create 3-4 pieces of content per day across multiple channels, target audiences, and geographies. Staying on brand has become much harder.

Consistency is one of the top three challenges for today’s marketers and at Percolate, we spend a great deal of time working to solve this problem for our clients. Here are five effective methods we advocate:

1) Have Crisp Brand Tenets

Planet Fitness is very clear about its “no lunks” policy – if a member drops weights, grunts while lifting, or judges other members, an alarm goes off and they are escorted out of the building. The idea was to create an atmosphere free of loud, aggressive, beefy gym-goers who can make working out an intimidating affair. While this policy has certainly made some enemies for the franchise, by sticking to its guns and offering a clear point of differentiation, Planet Fitness now boasts 5 million members and claims to be the fastest growing gym franchise in America.

A brand exists to tell a story – about itself, and about the customers it serves. The strongest brands make it very clear what they stand for, and that’s the first step to ensuring that your marketing content stays on brand.

2) Communicate Brand Values

Even when a brand has strong and clear tenets, it still needs to ensure that they are properly communicated across the organization and to all stakeholders who might represent the brand, including agency partners, third party vendors, affiliates, etc. This often means creating resources, running training sessions and alerting stakeholders to any changes or updates.

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Mailchimp is one of the most respected email marketing products on the web, and certainly has one of the strongest brands. Their distinctive voice is documented and preserved through their comprehensive Voice and Tone website, which covers everything from their blog writing, to webinars, to app copy, to social media and more.

3) Use a Brand Checklist

Even with proper and consistent training, it can still be challenging to keep everything about your brand in mind as you, your team, and your partners sit down to create content. One way to do that is with something very basic: a checklist. Physician and best-selling author Atul Gawande found that when the rate of deaths and complications dropped by 35% when surgeons implemented a basic two-minute checklist.

Within Percolate, we’ve built a feature called “brand prompts“, which present a series of questions the content creator must answer before they’re allowed to publish a piece of content. These questions capture what’s important and compliant for the brand like: “Does this picture show our company as a fun place to work?”, ensuring that marketers get one final chance to think about their content before pushing it out.

4) Set Up (Painless) Approvals

Sometimes a checklist is enough of a safety net for brands, but other times, something more heavy duty is necessary. Many financial companies have to go through multi-step approval processes that pass through social and brand teams, through to legal and compliance, and over to regulatory bodies before getting complete sign off. Avoiding the disaster of long email chains holding multiple copies of a Microsoft Word Doc that’s tracking changes is a must.

After speaking with many clients, we carefully designed an approval process at Percolate that gets out of your way and speeds up the process of getting content out the door without losing the security of a multi-stage review process.

5) Simplicity Wins

As Steve Jobs once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication“. Apple made its massive comeback in the early naughts by offering carefully crafted and surprisingly simple products and services that were often better known for what features they were missing (copy&paste, FM radio) than what features they actually had.

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When speed and volume are primary factors, having a quick toolkit of pre-approved logos, product images, colors, and fonts make developing on-brand content much easier. In Percolate, these brand elements are programmed into the system from Day One so social teams and agency partners can quickly create visual content in our image editor that aligns with the brand.

At the end of the day, a brand embodies a collection of values, ideas, design patterns and associations that form a concrete identity. In the rush for speed and relevance marketers can’t sacrifice brand voice – they need more robust strategies and tools to ensure consistency.

Brand is one of several key objectives and strategies that emerge from the challenges that content marketers face. For a free, comprehensive report on this topic, download our free white paper: The Building Blocks of Content