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November 1, 2016 (Updated: March 2, 2020)
A style guide is one of the least discussed elements of a content marketing campaign. After all, a style guide doesn’t drive traffic or build links, and it certainly doesn’t have a measurable return on investment (ROI). But your team shouldn’t be without one. Departments without style guides end up losing time, frustrating contractors, and creating inferior products that they could have otherwise hit out of the park. Your style guide may not be loud, but it certainly makes a big impact.
In order to highlight the value that comes from a well-crafted style guide, we created a white paper: “The Importance of a Style Guide and How to Create One.” Throughout the content, we discussed who would benefit from a unified style guide and the necessary steps to create and maintain one.
Many companies have style guides that they developed years ago that are rarely updated and hardly use. If this situation is the case for you, dust off your guide and start getting some use out of it.
Here’s what you can expect from our white paper as you uncover the path toward launching one.
Our latest white paper is available for free download in our Resource section, or you can simply follow the link in this paragraph to get your copy. If you like our white paper, share it with your peers. We’re creating a hub of expert articles, tutorials, and guides that content teams and marketing departments can use to learn and enhance their digital strategies.
Image via Flickr by sidewalk flying
The first section of our white paper discusses the types of employees who will benefit from an explicit style guide. The first group is new employees who are trying to familiarize themselves with your company and content expectations. While more senior members of the team might live the brand, new employees are still learning what tone is acceptable and how to discuss certain issues. This process can also be taxing on managers who must explain every step.
Like new employees, vendors and contractors also benefit from clear style guides. Smart vendors will ask their clients to schedule an interview specifically to review the style guide and address any questions and concerns from various sections. Personally, we recommend sending a style guide to any new clients and vendors before this call so that they can review the content as their homework before dialing in to your call.
Regardless of your industry, your business can benefit from a set style guide. This document ensures that you’re creating a unified front and conveying on-brand messaging through every channel. From your sales team presenting at trade shows to your customer service members taking calls from customers, a set style guide gives your team the language and the tone of your brand.
After describing who will benefit from a style guide and how brands can take advantage of this content tool, we dive into the process of creating a guide that your team will continue to use and develop.
Many companies divide their style guides into three sections: the written elements, the design elements, and the brand elements.
The written elements cover grammar rules and words that might differentiate from styles such as AP Style. Was your company founded by a person? Does it use the apostrophe in all writing and signage? While this section might seem like a basic section to include, you would be surprised how many people write the word McDonald’s without the apostrophe.
Design elements serve to define your brand. Any person who touches your logo or works on content elements for your company should be aware of the colors, size requirements, and use cases for your brand. Without a style guide, your logo could get stretched and abused by multiple departments outside of your design team.
Finally, we review the brand representation section. This section works to answer the soft questions and offer an introduction to your company and its values. Some brands include their mission statement, vision, goals, and licensing agreements in this section to make sure whoever reads it is clear about what the company hopes to do and how employees can work to meet that goal.
Every company’s style guide is distinctive because some elements are more pronounced and problematic than others. For the first few months, your style guide might experience a trial-and-error period as your document evolves.
A style guide is often called a living document because it’s continually changing. Even the most detailed style guide can become outdated with the rise of a popular new word or social media site. Further, companies are constantly evolving. Whether they’re changing the font on a logo or adding a new product, when changes take place, a need to adjust a style guide arises.
We recommend quarterly or biannual meetings to review changes to the style guide. Your team should have a committee of members, such as designers, sales representatives, and content marketers, to review changes and offer instructions for passing the information to other teams. This way, the style guide maintenance responsibilities doesn’t fall on one person, and the guide won’t get ignored if that person leaves your company.
We love feedback from our readers about what we’re doing right and what needs to be improved. Is there a section that needed more detail? Can you think of other topics that you’re interested in learning about that we’re not covering? Let us know. We like getting ideas from our readers, and that feedback helps us create a better resource section that more people can use.
Throughout the year, we cover a variety of topics about digital media, content creation, infographic design, sales, and outreach strategies. Our goal is to give you the tools to create a successful marketing campaign from idea to evaluation. We hope you enjoy this white paper. Keep checking back to see what we’re writing about next.
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