Template or Freeform: Which is Better?

When it comes to your promotional materials, there’s always a tug-of-war between marketers who prefer to use templates, to ensure a consistent look across each type of document and those who prefer a more freeform approach.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each. That’s why we always try to stake out sort of a middle ground when we work with clients on case studies, marketing sheets, news releases, and other materials.

The advantage to a template approach, in which all documents have the same structure and format is that it does allow a consistent, easily identifiable look to all of your materials. The disadvantages are that this approach can get stale over time and doesn’t always fit well with some of the information that you need to present.

The advantage to a freeform style is that it allows you to better tell a story and let the information flow in a way that really fits the narrative that you are seeking with a case study, for example. The disadvantage is that it can get unwieldy and a little too unstructured if you don’t have some parameters around the way you present your information.

One consideration for a company doing all of its marketing in-house is the quality of the writing that it can generate. Freeform materials require strong writers who can craft the information concisely and crisply and deliver a certain level of consistency across documents. If your in-house writing isn’t that strong, templates are usually your better choice, since it gives you a more concrete structure, into which you can plug in information.

With our middle-of-the-road approach, we tend to encourage clients to be more freeform with materials such as named-client case studies and news releases, where creativity and a strong narrative can be allowed to flourish. Then with product documents and similar materials, a bit more of a template approach can be applied.

There is no 100 percent right or wrong answer to the template vs. freeform question. It will always depend on the information that you have available to present. The more thorough and compelling the information, the more you can lean toward freeform, to allow the story to tell itself in a little less restrictive way.

The important thing is that you tell your story in the most effective way possible, to ensure that your clients and customers know your strengths and capabilities and are encouraged to do business with you.