Need content? You could ask a Slackbot

slackbotStyle guides and enterprise software. Is there a connection between the two? For us there is. They’re digital resources that only help a business if they’re widely used. But how do you encourage people to use a new voice, tone and style guide? Or a CRM? How do you get people beyond the stage where they stop using something because they can’t see the benefits, or it doesn’t chime with legacy processes? If you’re onboarding employees to a new piece of software or a digital resource, how do you support training over time?

For us, the answer is a Slackbot.

Slackbot and the style guide

Slack is something that’s become key to how we communicate internally – about clients, projects and puns. It’s more than just an intranet alternative – it’s a communication platform that’s been integrated into our working processes and our culture.

We wanted to create a way for people to access the information they need directly through the channel they communicated through the most. So we integrated our voice, tone and style guide with a Slackbot.

This has made the guide more accessible. The team can find what they need straight away by asking the Slackbot specific questions about style, grammar, voice or tone. No more time spent searching through the entire guide. No more waiting for one of the content team to respond to your email. Just ask your friendly neighbourhood Slackbot.

Here’s how we did it

Most of our team is familiar with slash commands in Slack, so it made sense for us to allow them to query the voice, tone and style guide using this functionality. They can do this by typing “/words” and the query into any channel on Slack.


Slack /words

Slash commands need a public URL to post the user’s command to, so we created a folder on one of our external servers. Once the command reaches this public URL, we needed to work out what to do with it. We wanted a lightweight reusable script with minimal set-up, so we went with the server-side language PHP to process requests.

The script reads the text sent with the slash command and cross-references this against the headings in our voice, tone and style guide wiki article. If a match is found, it returns the content associated with that heading to Slack.

Slack /words

The response from our Slackbot is always private, but when the query returns no results, we create a public response, tagging in the relevant people who may be able to help answer the query. For this we allow an incoming webhook in to Slack from our script.

All the queries are stored, so we can analyse the data and find out what people are asking the Slackbot and what we can do to help.

What this means for the future

Communications plans should be built around messaging hierarchies and content. Building them around channels isn’t a future-proof solution. Integrating our Slackbot with the voice, tone and style guide helps us work towards a create once, publish everywhere solution.

But it also does more than that. The content isn’t just being pushed out to people – it’s being pulled out too. The team is asking for specific content and it’s being delivered to them in the right place, at the right time. This has helped us to move beyond publishing, to allowing people to have a dynamic contextual, conversational relationship with any given piece of content.

For us, integrating the voice, tone and style guide with a Slackbot is just the start. It’s a prototype. We’ve now got a method of giving people content on demand. And we’re going to use it to support people with ongoing training, idea generation and more. If someone wants to find out how to do something in a CRM – like Sprinklr or Percolate – just ask the Slackbot. If someone needs to know best practices for publishing on any given social media channel, just ask the Slackbot. If someone needs to find the right response when moderating a social media channel, just ask the Slackbot.

Get in touch to talk to us about your content challenges.