What is the tone of your publication? If you don’t immediately know the answer, then you probably don’t have a defined tone. Why does that matter, and why should you audit your content for editorial tone? We’ll tell you.
Developing an editorial tone of voice is one of the first steps that publishers take when developing their publications. Editorial tone dictates how the publication chooses to communicate with readers. Although tone can change somewhat based on the topic or the content structure, it generally defines the publication’s overall personality.
An editorial tone should address what your publication “sounds” like to readers. Having a defined tone of voice helps build a connection with your audience and encourages readers to interact. It can also create a more memorable impression of your publication, similar to a distinctive website design or logo.
Although there is no single editorial position that specializes in developing a publication’s tone, this is usually a job for a managing editor. A managing editor should have the experience and the authority to develop an editorial tone based on the publication’s mission or goals.
Developing an editorial tone begins with understanding who your readers are and then choosing the right language to engage those readers. Is your tone casual or formal? Humorous or serious? If you’re not quite sure, it’s worth taking a look at your editorial mission statement for guidance. Defining these elements will help you set a clear editorial tone, along with related guidelines for writers and editors to follow.
If you’re really having trouble developing an editorial tone, consider surveying your existing readers and asking what they think. Do readers describe your publication as serious or funny? Irreverent or respectful? How do your readers’ opinions align with your own perceptions?
How can you tell whether the content that’s already been published on your website meets these guidelines? That’s where an editorial audit comes into play.
Audit Your Content for Tone
Plenty of publishers audit their websites for search engine optimization (SEO). Deciding to audit your content for editorial tone isn’t too dissimilar. Auditing your existing content is the best way to see whether the content you’ve published previously lives up to the quality and the tone that you’re looking for today.
A website audit is a foundational activity for digital publishers. When you decide to audit your content for editorial tone, you’re getting a data-based view of the articles on your website and you’re able to see directly how your content is being perceived. The content you’ve published previously is what potential advertisers are going to see when they evaluate your website, so it’s important that all of your most prominent pieces make a good impression.
With an editorial mission statement written out, it’s easier to agree on the criteria for your website audit before you begin. In addition to considering voice and tone, an editorial content audit can be used to evaluate whether older content is still accurate and complete. Articles that are clearly out of date, or factually incorrect, should be updated when possible.
If this is the first time you’re conducting this type of content audit, we recommend following these steps:
Step 1: Make a list of the top-performing articles on your website, based on Google Analytics data and reader engagement.
Step 2: Create a spreadsheet that lists each of the articles you’ve selected.
Step 3: For each of those articles, as yourself:
- Does this article fit the publication’s values?
- What tone of voice is the article written in?
- Does the article format correspond with the editorial tone?
- Is this an article I would be proud to show advertisers?
- Does this article reflect the publication’s editorial mission statement?
Step 4: As you evaluate each article, jot down your thoughts in the spreadsheet you created.
The Nielsen Norman Group has identified four dimensions of tone of voice, which can be helpful to consider as you analyze the tone on your website. These dimensions are:
- Enthusiastic vs. matter-of-fact
- Funny vs. serious
- Respectful vs. irreverent
- Formal vs. casual
If you’re going to audit your content for editorial tone, you should evaluate content quality at the same time. You may have older articles that no longer meet your expectations as far as journalistic quality or vision. Updating those articles serves the dual purpose of helping to boost SEO and also improving the editorial quality of your publication.
If you’d like one-on-one assistance in optimizing your website and growing your digital publishing business, Web Publisher PRO can help. Reach out to our editorial team today.