We made a promise when we launched the Storytelling Studio that we would be educators. As such, these are our guiding principles for what makes for a good blog post for our Storytelling blog. The audience for this guide is primarily our own team, but we are making it public for others to refer to as well.
The purpose of the Storytelling Blog is to serve as an educational resource for ourselves and the larger community of storytellers trying to solve the same problems in the world. It’s a good use of our time to write down what we learn because it helps us refine our own vision and reflect on our process.
- Humble: We are not self-congratulatory. We are not know-it-alls.
- Honest: We are comfortable with failing in public and talking about what we learn.
- Educational: We focus on sharing and teaching.
- Accessible: We don’t write with insider language and jargon. We explain phrases that others might not know, and give context on situations that are internal to Vox Media.
- Human: We are not robots. We are people who are exploring interesting and complex problems. We don’t write, “We did X, then we did Y, In conclusion Z” — we tell a story that is full of color and feeling and purpose.
- Editorial: When talking about our colleagues who write and edit, we try avoid calling them “editorial.” They are our team; we are their team. We embed in different ways on different types of projects, but there is no divide between what is “editorial” and what is “Storytelling Studio.”
- Stakeholders: We will avoid using this word as much as we can. We have collaborators, we work with editors, we work with revenue, we work with colleagues who have real names. Don’t use “stakeholder” as a blanket phrase to represent people we work with; be descriptive.
- “Storytelling Studio”: We refer to ourselves as the Storytelling Studio, not The Storytelling Studio or Storytelling Team. After first reference, we can refer to ourselves as the Studio.
- “Vox Media”: When referring to our company, we say Vox Media, not Vox, not VOX, not VOX Media.
- “Vox”: When referring to our news brand, we say Vox, not Vox.com.
- Imagery: Use compelling compositions for the lead image. When writing about process, share key screenshots of in-progress work. Don’t share every screenshot at every phase of the project.
- Typography hierarchy: We use H2s for second-level headings, and H3s for subcategories nested within. We do not use H3s or H4s if there are no H2s.
- Formatting: We don’t bold section headers (see section above). We don’t overuse bolding and italicizing to emphasize points (If everything is emphasized, nothing is). If there is an exceptionally text-heavy post, consider calling out important (and short!) takeaways with pull quotes.
Topics we cover
Something we learned
- Do: Focus on the takeaway! Write about something small, like a cool new plugin for testing color accessibility. Or something big, like the secret to collaboration across departments.
- Don’t: Make it too personal or niche. Remember our audience — people in the industry who are doing this work and want to learn something.
- Examples: How to check for contrast and legibility (Vox Product Blog), 8 Tips on Starting a Data News Team (ProPublica Nerd Blog)
- Do: Outline the key phases of the project, specifically highlighting a major takeaway for each phase.
- Don’t: Give people a play-by-play of exactly what went down.
- Examples: How We Made Hell and High Water (ProPublica Nerd Blog), Under the Hood of BuzzBot (Buzzfeed Open Lab), Behind the Scenes of the HRC interview (Storytelling Studio)
Process deep dives
- Do: Dive into the how. Write about better ways of doing something. Touch on how decisions are made, and how the user plays into the process. Write about failures.
- Don’t: Give people a play-by-play of chronological details.
- Examples: A better way to track listening (NPR Visuals Team)
- Do: Let people know when we’re going to a conference, hosting an event, hiring! Give people a way to take action. Be inclusive and encouraging.
- Don’t: Tell people we’ll be somewhere if we don’t anticipate having time to meet up and talk with folks.
Before someone starts to write a full blog post, they will get their rough thematic outline peer-reviewed.
After the first full draft, the post must be be peer-reviewed by at least one member of the team.
A second team member must review the post, with an emphasis on copy editing.
When we write about a collaboration with another team, a representative from the other group(s) will be involved in writing and/or editing.
We aim to publish once a week, with a healthy combination of all of the aforementioned categories.
We will publish something about every project we launch, even if it’s just a screenshot and a few quick points.
We will regularly update this list of guidelines, and add a last-modified time when we republish.