Many of the most successful products and services are largely recognized and respected because of their brand. Companies including Tide detergent, Coca-Cola, or Google all convey a positive method through their brand. Customers or potential customers all have certain expectations from these companies because they have consistently presented themselves as representatives of quality and reliability.
But when you develop a brand you don’t just make a promise to the world, you make a promise to yourself. Companies such as Clemson University, and mozilla.org take their syle and branding strategies very seriously and have very comprehensive in-house style guides. Others hire a communications specialist, such as Rubenstein.com, which has a style guide they use throughout their client base, including St. Jude’s Children’s Research Center, Major League Baseball, and Pfizer, Inc. Even the smallest entities need help sometimes, and large corporations may have thousands making a pitch for the brand. Developing a style guide is one way to get everyone on the same page.
What is a Style Guide, and Why is it Important?
A style guide takes on many different purposes, including building a brand. By providing a style guide a company reinforces its identity and helps assure consistency of their messge.
A properly constructed style guide effectively outlines standards and expectations of a company, increases the likelihood of receiving quality content, and saves time due to a reduced need for revisions. This is especially true when working with freelance writers who may be given limited information about your company. A style guide lends direction while allowing writers the freedom to create the best quality content they can for your company.
What Should I Include in a Style Guide?
Deciding what tone your company takes is a good first step to developing a style guide. Are you a formal or relaxed and approachable? Do you cater your products or services to people of a certain age, potical set, or economic standing? Identifying these factors help writers produce quality content directed towards your customers.
A great example comes in mozilla.org. The company presents itself as “The People’s Internet.” It’s a company largely built by its volunteer network under a no-nonsense approach, and its style guide reflects that.
Defining your grammatical expectations is also important. Do you want writers to use a strict 3rd person formalized tone, an easy-going 2nd person voice, or emerge themselves in the point-of-view of the “company we?” These guidelines not only let writers know who they are trying to sell to, but also who they are trying to represent.
Styles can vary greatly and almost any style can produce quality content if applied correctly. However, even with the most casual styles grammar and usage should not be forgotten. If some leeway is to be granted, such as permitting an occassional fragment or sentence ending in a preposition, a style guide is a good place to convey this information. What seems like common sense to you, but may be confusing to a freelance writer who is not living and breathing your business. Remember, too much information rarely happens and most writers appreciate any clarification they can get.
Reaffirm Your Brand
Reciting the same company mantra day after day can get stale. The process of creating a style guide lays out who you are and what you stand for as a company, your mission, and can bring about newfound enthusiasm for the products or services you provide. It can also serve as a reality check as to whether you are keeping your promises to yourself and your customers. Either way, the result is likely to be a stronger business model as well as higher quality content for your blogs, webpages, or anywhere else with your marketing plan.