Why Your Brand Needs a Style Guide


You’re able to publish a white paper, however a debate about tips on how to cite your sources has introduced the approval course of to a halt.

You spend an absurd period of time including Oxford commas to the drafts you get out of your freelancers.

An inside subject material knowledgeable submits a weblog that’s uptight and exhausting to comply with, nothing just like the blogs that come from the advertising and marketing crew.

Your intern takes “interesting” inventive liberties with the infographic copy you assigned her.

Sound acquainted?

They’re all signs of a lack of a content material model information.

Creating one is a essential step that’s straightforward to miss within the rush to get content material in entrance of eyeballs.

But it’s completely value your time.

Presenting your model constantly can improve income by 33%.

And model consistency isn’t nearly logos and colours; it’s additionally in regards to the picture and character you convey in your content material.

If you don’t have a model information already, don’t beat your self up.

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Lots of corporations begin producing content material earlier than organising a information. I’ll stroll you thru the steps to create one on this weblog.

But first, let’s break down what a model information is, and why you want one.

What Is a Content Style Guide & Why Is it Important?

A content material model information is a doc – it may be a PDF, webpage, slide deck, or phrase doc – that breaks down the dos and don’ts of growing content material to your model.

Think of it like this:

Your content material technique particulars what varieties of content material you’ll create, and when.

Your content material model information offers with the nuts and bolts of making that content material.

It provides your content material creators particular instructions on tips on how to create on-brand content material.

A mode information additionally units the foundations for extra sensible issues of writing:

  • Is it a white paper or a whitepaper?
  • Which phrases do you capitalize in headers?
  • Is your tone relatable and enjoyable or authoritative and academic?

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A mode information retains everybody on the identical web page.

It’s typically overshadowed by its flashier, sexier sibling, the visible model information.

Some corporations mix their content material information into their total branding information.

But others make it its personal separate entity.

Depending on how concerned your content material information is, you may select what works finest for you.

Why You Need a Style Guide

Everyone creates content material today: salespeople, executives, subject material specialists, and so forth.

You want one rulebook to maintain you all marching to the beat of the identical drummer.

Without a model information, the content material made by completely different creators is in all places.

There’s no technique to implement the foundations in the event that they aren’t documented.

And whenever you begin scaling your content material manufacturing, issues can actually get uncontrolled.

Planning, creating, and distributing content material takes up a lot of time.

A mode information acts as your gutter guards by holding your content material in the fitting lane.

So let’s deal with tips on how to create one now.

How to Write a Content Style Guide

1. Start by Swiping

There isn’t any cause to create your model information from scratch.

You can begin with previous trustworthy matriarchs of favor, reminiscent of AP Style or The Chicago Manual of Style.

Or you may go along with one of many newer guides which can be obtainable on-line, like Mailchimp’s or Mozilla’s.

The key to this step is the swiping. Swipe away.

2. Define Your Content Mission

Why do you create content material?

Look at your objectives to your content material advertising and marketing program and work backward from there.

Having a documented mission retains you sincere as you develop each bit of content material.

Take a while to think about the aim of your content material.

Is it to enlighten? To entertain? To clarify complicated points?

Document what you need your content material to do and be to your viewers.

Mailchimp‘s method is a good instance to comply with:

mailchimp-content-mission-example

three. Set Your Voice & Tone

This is the actually trendy a part of the model information.

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This part of your information ought to describe how your content material comes throughout to your viewers.

Your voice and tone ought to line up along with your model’s picture.

The happy-go-lucky appeal of Target doesn’t work for the intense, caring picture of a youngsters’s hospital.

Google’s developer model information provides a Goldilocks-style desk illustrating tips on how to get their voice and tone juuuuust proper:

Google’s developer style guide

four. Lay the Ground Rules for the Basics

Now’s your likelihood to place your foot down.

  • Will you utilize the Oxford comma?
  • When do you utilize numerals or write numbers out?
  • To emoji or to not emoji?

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Die on that hill. And the information will again you up for the remainder of time (or till you alter it).

Even if you happen to select to comply with the foundations from a widespread model information, it’s a good concept to stipulate frequent utilization practices and supply examples.

See how Canada Post eliminates confusion round generally used phrases:

canadapost-style-guide-vocabulary-example

5. Address Specific Types of Content

Different varieties of content material might require you to modify up your tone or voice.

This can also be a likelihood to stipulate finest practices for the varieties of content material that you just create.

For instance, your subject material specialists might not notice that blogs should be scannable for folks to really learn them. That’s how you find yourself with a four-page phrase wall that you just’re anticipated to add on the location as-is.

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You might know the significance of headers and brief paragraphs, however they don’t.

Document these particulars within the model information.

Take a take a look at how Mailchimp provides steerage on the sorts of blogs it creates:

mailchimp-blog-style-example

And then they provide tips for the writing model to make use of of their blogs:

mailchimp-blog-guidelines-example

6. Document Your Rules for Graphics

While your visible model information goes in-depth on tips on how to use logos, pictures, and visible design parts, your content material model information ought to embrace some steerage on pictures, too.

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Your design crew might not contact each weblog or content material piece you produce.

Should pictures be left, proper, or center-aligned? Are there sure varieties of pictures to keep away from?

Put these guidelines within the information to guard model consistency.

See how Search Engine Journal does it in our editorial tips:

search-engine-journal-image-rules

5 Examples of Content Style Guides

Now that the entire steps it is advisable to take to develop your information, I’m positive you’ve received a lot of questions on tips on how to construction it.

Fortunately, there are many current examples to drag from.

So, within the spirit of swiping, take some inspiration from these guides as you develop yours.

Mozilla’s Guide for Firefox

mozilla-style-guide-example

Key Takeaway

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By being as prescriptive as doable, Mozilla leaves no room for confusion.

The fast parenthetical explanations be sure that everybody (bear in mind, everybody’s creating content material) is obvious on the subjective stuff.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

uncch-style-guide-example

Key Takeaway

These straightforward questions drive everybody writing content material for UNC Chapel Hill to examine their content material towards the model’s content material mission.

Mailchimp

mailchimp-style-guide-example

Key Takeaway

Mailchimp avoids offensive faux-pas by outlining tips on how to discuss gender, disabilities, sexuality, and ethnicity.

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Even well-meaning content material creators can step on a banana peel in these areas.

Their information retains everybody conscious and heading in the right direction.

Spotify

Spotify-partner-messaging-guide-example

Key Takeaway

This excerpt from Spotify’s Partner Messaging Guide exhibits how a model information can anticipate customers’ wants.

The different instance right here provides Spotify’s companions a little flexibility and retains them from going off the ranch when speaking about their catalog.

Atlassian

atlassian-style-guide-example

Key Takeaway

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Atlassian’s easy-to-navigate desk of contents makes the model information tremendous straightforward for customers.

Even if you happen to don’t have the instruments to construct a subtle web site to your model information, a clickable desk of contents can go a good distance.

A Final Final Style Guide Tips

Now what a content material model information is, why you want one, and tips on how to do it.

Now it’s time so that you can begin constructing your information.

And bear in mind, the information is just nearly as good as your skill to implement it.

Here are some suggestions that can assist you in that course of:

  • Make it simply accessible to your content material creators. Whether it’s on the net or a shared folder, this isn’t one thing to maintain tucked away.
  • Refer to it when giving suggestions. Adopting your model requirements can take time. Keep nudging your creators to have a look at it so the rules can actually sink in.
  • Make it straightforward to learn. A mode information may be a monster of a doc. Take a cue from the Atlassian instance above and break it into chunks that customers can simply perceive.

When completed nicely, a content material model information may be a key step in the direction of producing content material that makes a lasting impression along with your viewers.

So go forth and conquer!

Draw your strains within the sand, put your foot down, doc all of it, and don’t neglect to swipe from current guides.

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Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots taken by creator



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