Your Brand Isn’t Just a Logo
I’m sure most of us can identify a company’s logo without too much difficulty. Some logos are so iconic that just a shape or a color is all we need to identify the company. A swoosh. A yellow and green deer. A rainbow-hued peacock. Five interlocking circles. Golden arches.
But that easily identifiable logo is not the sum total of a company’s brand. A good brand evokes a visceral, emotional response in its fans. A good brand is the company’s voice, its attitude, its website, its documentation, its community involvement, its products, and its logo.
As technical writers, we command another powerful portion of our company’s brand – its technical publications, which are often our customers’ only contact with our company after they purchase our products.
How we write influences how our customers feel about our company.
Is our writing so formal and complicated that it’s off-putting? Do we leave our customers thinking that no one but a PhD could understand and deploy the product? Or is our writing so simplistic that we can’t describe complicated architecture or we risk insulting our readers’ intelligence. We have to know our readers and write for them in a voice that is not only consistent with the products we are selling, but also promotes the products we are selling.
Our voice should be engaging enough that it encourages our readers to not only return to our documentation and our products, but to recommend our documentation and products.
Consistency in our style involves not just content but titles and formats and naming conventions. Inconsistency in how we write can leave readers wondering whether the content can be trusted.
Imagine new customers visiting our website for documentation. They easily find the documentation page, but are met by a dizzying array of titles: Provisioning Guide, Configuration Guide, Maintain and Operate Guide. What’s the difference, really, in the content in all of those guides? And how are our new readers supposed to figure it out? And why should they have to? That’s our job, isn’t it?
Or, perhaps our documentation includes guides and runbooks and white papers, different formats that mean something to insiders but not much to readers outside of the company. Or, our upgrade guide offers an impressive, but random, sprinkling of the terms ‘upgrade’ and ‘migrate’ and ‘install’ without an explanation of the difference.
Inconsistency in how content is offered or how processes are explained can leave readers frustrated and confused, which translates to frustration and confusion with our company’s brand.
Consistency breeds trust. And our writing standards and styles should promote and enforce consistency.
Grammar and Spelling
OK, not everyone is a grammar nerd. Those of us who are (raise your hands with me!) wear the badge proudly. But it doesn’t take an English major to notice misspellings and incomplete sentences. And those errors raise doubts in the minds of our readers. If the quality of the documentation is this bad, how good can the product be?
We all have authoring tools to help enforce grammar and spelling rules. Use them. Proofread your work. Have someone else proofread your work. There’s no shame in getting a second pair of eyes to read what you’ve written. And the extra time it takes is well worth the outcome.
There’s a reason that companies trademark their product names. The name is what customers buy and is an integral component of the company brand.
Unless our company has agreed otherwise, do not publish content that refers to our product by a nickname that employees use. Every time we don’t use a product’s correct name, we diminish the brand in the eyes of our readers. If our company had wanted to promote the nickname, it would have trademarked the nickname.
Embrace your product’s name and proudly use it correctly in your writing.
Our writing is often the first thing a customer reads about our product, and often the only thing a customer reads after buying our product. Our writing style and standards should not only reflect the styles and standards of our company, but also promote and define our company’s brand.