With companies producing ever-more content, the need for guidelines governing this material is more important than ever.
A greater content output and a higher number of contributors can lead to an increased chance of inconsistencies and a disjointed feel that jars with the reader – things that every brand wants to avoid!
This article looks at how a brand style guide can mitigate these problems and prevent your organisation’s content from becoming an incoherent mess.
So, let’s get started.
What is a brand style guide?
A brand style guide is a comprehensive set of standards defining your organisation’s branding that can be shared amongst your employees and external suppliers. These guidelines cover everything from grammar to brand voice, preferred wording, logo usage, appropriate colours and fonts, visuals and more.
Why use a brand style guide?
A well-designed brand style guide will:
1) Improve your written content’s consistency
2) Improve accuracy (with regard to grammar, punctuation etc.)
3) Ensure your content is written in your organisation’s voice
4) Help your writers to write for your target audience
5) Provide guidance about using and referencing third-party material
6) Help your organisation’s employees and external contributors understand what you’re trying to achieve through your content and act as a touchpoint for any queries they have.
What to include in a brand style guide
The first thing to consider when creating a brand style guide is it needs to be usable! There’s no point in creating something that’s so long it will scare people off. With this in mind, keep things simple and as concise as possible.
Make sure you split your brand style guide into easy-to-use, digestible sections so people can find what they’re looking for quickly. Use examples to illustrate the points you make in each section, particularly when dealing with complex areas such as grammar.
A typical brand style guide structure might look a little like this:
This could include your organisation’s mission statement, a key message from your CEO or a general overview of your brand personality and your main audience(s).
2) How your brand writes
Make sure you include a section covering how your brand communicates, important words associated with your brand and branded visuals.
3) Guidelines for writers
This section should state whether your organisation follows an existing style guide as a reference point for basic grammar and punctuation, such as the Chicago Manual of Style. It should also highlight any exceptions to these rules that commonly arise in your organisation’s content (e.g. concerning capitalisation, use of the Oxford comma and the like).
You might also wish to include a short section on common, troublesome words here, e.g. web page vs webpage, wifi vs Wi-Fi etc. Remember, this section doesn’t need to be vast as you should have a separate editorial style guide to delve into these areas in more detail.
4) Style and tone
Defining your organisation’s tone of voice is a vital part of creating content that users can recognise and identify with. Make sure you include examples here, e.g. if you’re going for a “conversational” or “sophisticated” tone demonstrate what this means!
5) Guidance on visuals
Your organisation should have a separate brand design style guide with detailed information on the visual components of your brand.
However, you should include a short section covering the fundamentals of your brand’s visual elements in your brand style guide. This should encompass aspects such as appropriate fonts, proper use of your logo, details of your brand’s colour palette (including CMYK, RGB codes and pantone numbers), where images can be sourced from and how they should be attributed, and so on.
6) Optional sections
You might also wish to include a short section covering any or all of the following: approved and unapproved content (i.e. sources to use and avoid); sourcing (style to adopt for crediting third-party content); and personas (to help your contributors write for your target audience).
For more inspiration and ideas for your brand style guide, check out the fantastic (and pretty slick) real-world example from Uber. This style guide has it all: it’s clear, user-friendly, interactive and engaging – we love it!
Don’t let your organisation’s content become a runaway train. Get back on track with a brand style guide and reap the rewards of consistent, clear content that reflects your brand.