One Surprising Way to Inject More Creativity Into Your Marketing

What are digital standards? What exactly are digital standards? While you might find it helpful to document some standards separately – design standards over here and editorial standards over there, for example – you may want to document some types of standards together. For instance, a taxonomy may need both editorial standards (to help writers determine which terms to use and which to avoid, for example) and standards related to tools and publishing (to help the production team understand how and when to apply categories and tags in the CMS, for example). The car-painting process has been standardized, freeing the designer in you to think creatively where creativity is needed. My organization needs digital standards. To create digital standards that will serve your organization well, follow these steps: Set goals. Determine your organization’s goals related to digital content – what you want your content to help the business achieve. If you don’t have a content management system, consider other ways that you might embed your standards into your tools. Want more on content strategy for marketers?

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Let’s be honest. As a marketer, do you love standards for creating and managing content in the digital world or do you, like many of the people I talk with, consider them an unnecessary hindrance to creativity? If you find yourself in the latter camp or if you’re not sure of the value of digital standards or even what they are, I hope that you’ll read on. When digital standards are positioned correctly within an organization, they not only give your audience better content experiences, but they also boost your team’s creativity.

What are digital standards?

What exactly are digital standards? They’re an organization’s specifications or guidelines for what to do regarding some aspect of digital publication.

If you’re new on the job, if it has been a while since you did a particular content task, or if you disagree (respectfully, of course) with a colleague over some content decision, the digital standards are what you turn to for answers.

In her book, Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design, Lisa Welchman lists four types of digital standards: design, editorial, publishing and development, and network and server infrastructure. I would use slightly different terms, especially for organizations whose content is hosted in the cloud or at least off-premises. Here’s how I think of the types:

type-digital-standard

These four types overlap. They’re not mutually exclusive categories but rather a continuum. While you might find it helpful to document some standards separately – design standards over here and editorial standards over there, for example – you may want to document some types of standards together.

For instance, a taxonomy may need both editorial standards (to help writers determine which terms to use and which to avoid, for example) and standards related to tools and publishing (to help the production team understand how and when to apply categories and tags in the CMS, for example). You might document your editorial standards and your tools-and-publishing standards separately. Alternatively, depending on who’s going to use the standards and how they use them, you might find it handier to put all your taxonomy-related standards in one place.

However you structure your digital standards, what matters is making them clear, concise, and accessible to everyone who needs them.

If digital standards dictate how to do things, how can they enable creativity?

By clarifying the aspects of content that must be consistent, digital standards free us to think innovatively about other aspects of our content. They keep us from wasting energy on decisions that have been made so that we can focus on the creative side of creating content.

Imagine that you’re designing a car. Imagine it red. Now imagine it black. Now make it the color of your dreams, say, satin cashmere. You can paint it any color in your mind’s eye – your creativity can run wild. The whole time, you don’t have to spend one second deciding (and re-deciding and re-deciding) how that paint should be applied to protect the car’s surface and keep it looking good for years to come. The car-painting process has been standardized, freeing the designer in you to think creatively where creativity is needed.

Examples are all around us. Picture all the drinks you might purchase at the store. The sizes and shapes…

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