The wild world of social media has altered many previously-held perceptions about content writing. Back in the day, a company would create a carefully-crafted press release; now, however, they can reach ten times as many people with a quick Tweet. Firms used to employ professional writers who knew what "the passive voice" meant; now, anyone within a company can fire off a 250-word blog post.
It's an exciting time, but marketing managers should also proceed with caution. That's because for businesses — particularly solar firms — who wish to convey a sense of professionalism and competence, this new landscape can actually hurt your brand: without crisp, compelling, and consistent marketing content you'll look amateurish and inexperienced.
Therefore, we recommend solar firms create solar style guides to provide some structure around content creation and marketing. Solar style guides should include the following:
1. Clearly stated objectives. First and foremost, your guide must acknowledge who, precisely, you'll be writing for. To do this, solar firms will need to articulate their various buyer personas across the solar sales funnel. For example, at the top of the funnel, there's the young family in the East Bay who is mildly intrigued by solar power but confused about costs and financing. You'll address their concerns through things like FAQs and white papers; make sure the author of these documents spells out their concerns in understandable, real-world language.
2. Useful reference points. In order to create sense of standardization across your content marketing approach, you'll want to agree upon certain phrases and elements that all writers should embrace. This includes things like cheat sheets with style "do's and don'ts," proper rules about punctuation, and "problem words" that tend to scare away prospects.
3. Uniform in-house verbiage. Make sure key marketing phrases and product names are consistent across the guide. For example, your blog posts may end with a call to action. Identify what CTAs work the best ("Click here for a free, risk-free solar consultation") and stick with it.
4. A definitive source. Style guides should ultimately align with widely recognized sources, be it the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style. Pick one to fall back on whenever questions arise. (Click here to see what other firms include in their style guides.)
5. A flair for individuality. Even though writers need to adhere to a solar style guide, they can still insert their own personal touches. Encourage them to do so by providing lists or bullet points for tips like including customer photos, talking from personal experience, or yes, every now and then, alluding a YouTube video or a slice of pop culture to lighten the mood.
Lastly, educate your team around the guide. In doing so, make sure people who don't consider themselves "writers" in the traditional sense can nonetheless use and appreciate the guide for what it is: a framework for creating interesting solar content.
Now we'd like your thoughts. Has your firm established a solar style guide? What's the most important component? Anything missing from our list?