Beverley Brown • 3 minutes
How do you approach the challenge of enforcing the consistent use of words and phrases in your content if you are a business with disparate content creators and multiple distribution channels?
This is something that is faced by the majority of medium and large organisations and can be addressed by developing a solution which can be shared widely throughout the company.
This case study is based on a recent project, following the process of creating a managed terminology initiative from the business case and ideation, through workshops and training, to the creation, testing and deployment of an in-house term base, or searchable database, which contains a list of approved words and phrases and rules associated with their usage.
- Business need: the organisation was looking for increased consistency, as it sought to enhance its presence as a fully multi-channel business
- Existing resources: existing tone of voice and content guidelines provided limited support and guidance. In many cases the information was outdated and difficult to find
- Challenges: working across functions, for example content, product, brand, marketing, customer support, SEO and external agencies, to gather and disseminate glossary data as effectively as possible
Does it matter?
There is plenty of research available to support the business case and to demonstrate the viability of an enterprise-level terminology database. Broadly this brings two benefits to the organisation, the first of which is the consistency of the terms being used. For example 85% of employees use terms which differ from those used by their colleagues for the same concept, and up to 70% of errors in tech documents are due to the use of bad terminology. The other benefit is productivity, as up to 40% more time is required to produce content if a term base is not used and a time saving of up to nine minutes per term query can be achieved by using a term base as a resource.
In this example, the intentions of the project were to:
- Create a single point of reference to connect teams across the organisation
- Standardise the most important terms, to avoid distracting customers with a number of different terms
- Strengthen the brand’s identity by presenting a unified tone of voice across all content types
The terms being considered for inclusion included not only company product names and taglines but commonly misused terms, industry-relevant terms, acronyms and made-up words.
Capitalisation and spelling are some of the most frequent inconsistencies with capitalisation leading the pack as the most common consistency error appearing in 79% of documents and spelling in 22% of cases. Hyphenation, number format and table layouts are also a cause for concern.
The benefits to the business of having a managed terminology initiative are many, and top of the list is the focus on creating an exceptional customer experience and engagement through the use of consistent, unambiguous, accurate and precise terminology which protects the integrity of its content. This manifests itself in several ways:
- Improved readability and comprehension for end-users
- Increased clarity and reduction in reliance on contact with support teams
- An improvement in both the quality of content and speed of delivery
- Increased comprehension for customers who may have English as a second language
There are also benefits for the organisation itself including intra-departmental cooperation and collaboration as a result of facilitating the sharing of skills and knowledge, investment in staff by offering new skills training and positioning the content team as a centre of excellence.
In many organisations, improving the quality of the source content prior to translation is the justification for the creation of a term base as this reduces translation costs. However, in this case, the term base was to be used solely as an English language glossary bringing demonstrable results for the business.
How to …
From a practical point of view the development of the initiative followed three phases:
1. The Workshop
Stakeholders from across the business, and those with a vested interest in improving terminology, were invited to a workshop which was developed to introduce the concept of managed terminology using real content and to show the needs and benefits of terminology management for customer engagement.
2. Workflow Design
The second phase of the project included those who would be involved in the creation and management of the glossary. They considered the tool to be used, version control, distribution, lifecycle, resourcing, approval and validation, governance, goals and engagement.
3. Term Administration
Finally, training was given on the theory of how to structure the chosen glossary type and leverage the in-house workflow. This included data architecture, term identification and hierarchies, entry structure and status. In this case study we were fortunate to have the support of a Terminologist to guide us through the process.
The term base was set up in-house in a simple database format on the existing CMS so that it was easily accessible to content professionals within the organisation and downloadable for use by external agencies. ‘Terms champions’ were able to contribute to the glossary and one of the writers took on the responsibilities of Lead Terminologist, not too onerous a task as the majority of term bases contain fewer than 1,000 frequently used words and phrases.
What does success look like?
The final output of the project is the term base itself – a glossary which can be shared throughout the organisation and is easy to access and to maintain. Anyone involved in the creation or editing of content has a quick and intuitive way of finding the words and phrases they need and the customer enjoys a consistent experience across all channels.