A style guide creates and defines the standards for your company’s internal and external written communications. From emails, newsletters, blog posts and social media content to formal corporate documents, a style guide helps ensure your brand communication is consistent and correct.
A style guide serves as a centralized resource and training tool for everyone on your team and provides many important benefits:
✔ You’ll Send a Consistent Message.
A style guide promotes consistency among all written communications by providing the same roadmap for everyone to work from. It’s an essential part of your marketing strategy.
✔ You’ll Save Time.
A single resource that provides all the pertinent information, you can streamline your content development process and significantly reduce the time required to create new content.
✔ You’ll Save Money.
When you save time, you also save money. A style guide helps both internal and external writers spend fewer hours writing, reviewing, and correcting their work.
What Does a Style Guide Include?
A style guide can take many forms. It can be as simple as a one-page reference sheet, a full-fledged comprehensive reference manual, or somewhere in between. Following are some of the key topics that all good style guides include:
- Brand voice
- Style preferences (AP or CMOS), punctuation and formatting
- Industry terminology
- SEO terms
- Reading level and linguistic preferences
This month, we’ll be covering each of these in a weekly blog post.
What is brand voice? Why is it Important?
Brand voice is the expression of a company’s core values, attitude, and messages through the consistent use of words and styles. It is a written representation of the brand attributes you wish to convey when addressing your audience. Without defining your brand voice, it is hard–if not impossible–to act on your marketing strategy.
Establishing a brand voice and communicating in a consistent way helps your audience easily identify, recognize, and relate to your brand, which ultimately builds trust and loyalty.
Without a defined brand voice, messaging becomes inconsistent and diluted, making it difficult for your audience to authentically engage and build a relationship with your brand.
When I was working at Starbucks, I experienced firsthand the importance of brand voice. When it came to marketing, everyone knew the voice had to be consistent. One misstep in your brand voice can damage your brand image and alienate customers.
3 Examples of a Strong Brand Voice
That’s what brand voice is in theory, but how does it sound in practice? Once you start paying attention to brand voice, you’ll find examples everywhere. Here are three examples of a strong brand voice to get you started:
IKEA – Ikea defines its brand voice by identifying nine individual IKEA personality characteristics that form the foundation for all communications.
Virgin Mobile – Outlining what their brand tone of voice is, as well as what it is not, provides a clear roadmap for Virgin Mobile’s brand messaging.
The University of Washington – In addition to 7 brand traits, the UW provides tips for writing on brand to ensure that all communications are “personable, engaging and clear.” (Go, Dawgs!)
Establishing Your Brand Voice
When working to establish your brand voice, it’s helpful to use what I call the 3-D approach to brand voice. Define, differentiate, and then describe your brand by answering the following questions:
- Define. What does your company do? What is your mission? What does your company represent?
- Differentiate. What do you offer that others don’t? What sets you apart from the competition and makes your company unique?
- Describe. What are the qualities your brand possesses? What emotions do you want your brand to evoke?
Defining and following a brand voice helps everyone in your company communicate with consistency and clarity. It helps drive your marketing strategy forward. And when your company is speaking with one voice, your audience can trust that you’ll be delivering the message they expect.
Tune in next week for topic #2: Style Preferences!