When creating engaging content, following brand procedures and style doesn’t have to be a chore. A simple set of brand guidelines can make developing content an easy, efficient and creative experience. However, brand guidelines are not only important for making content creation easier. More often than not, massive news-worthy brand fails are due to the lack of a clear style guide within the company. If you want to avoid any embarrassing mistakes you should create a set of brand guidelines.
What are brand guidelines?
Brand guidelines, or a style guide, is a document available to everybody in, or producing work for, your company. It outlines the key aims, the tone of voice and image of your company for any distributed content created. This could be content for web, social media, or printed merchandise and banners.
The guide doesn’t always have to be long-winded, some consist of just four to six concise and clearly laid out pages. Larger corporations, however, have been known to produce documents of up to 100 or more pages. This way your employees can easily find what they need to know about the brand quickly, without hindering their creative content flow.
Importance of brand guidelines
It may seem self-explanatory, but without brand guidelines, the voice of your brand can become lost. This leaves your clients confused and unsure as to how your brand can help them, or even what your brand stands for.
A style guide is incredibly important as it clearly lays out how information should be presented about your company. Thus, leaving no room for confusion or little mistakes that may affect the public image of your brand.
How to write brand guidelines?
It can seem like a daunting task but the following steps will help break down your style guide and make sure that nothing is left out.
Start off your guide with a brief mission statement or overall point/aim that you want all your content to achieve or stick to. It helps if this statement is written in the way that your guideline outlines future content should be written. Therefore, if your style guide suggests conversational language in your social media posts, a formally written mission statement is going to contradict this. Make sure that your mission statement fits your themes and ensures that your tone of voice is clearly set out right from the beginning.
It is also important to include a table of contents in your introduction, so employees can quickly find what they need to post content that they’re confident will fit in with the brand guidelines.
Did you know that 45% of your customer’s perception of your brand is down to the tone of voice used? Therefore, it is very important that this section clearly defines how written content is created to accurately reflects your brand.
As well as the general tone consider minor details that are important to your brand such as whether you write ‘and’ or use ‘&’ so this is used consistently. These minor details may seem trivial but they will ensure a clear voice that becomes trustworthy for your clients. This consistent use of words and phrases will create a coherent voice and, thus, a credible image for your company.
Some other things you could consider detailing in this section are;
– Use of the Oxford Comma?
– Emojis? – Do you use them and where should they be used?
– Formatting of bullet points or lists?
– Tone and voice e.g. playful, casual, formal, legal or a mix of two?
– Any words or terminology to avoid?
– Is your company name always capitalised or Italicised and does format differ in different types of documents? etc.
3. Visual Image
Once you’ve established your voice you must consider the visual image you want to present to your clients. This includes your logo, typeface, and even colour scheme, to ensure that all printed and digital content is consistent with your brand.
Consider the following prompts when writing this section;
– Formats – what formats of content are you consistently using e.g. infographics, videos, motion graphics etc. And, is there anything to avoid i.e. gifs?
– Colours- what palette of colours reflect your brand. Include Pantone references to ensure all printin and merchandise is the same colour.
– Logo – do you have different versions of your logo, is there an elongated version for letterheads or one with a slogan underneath for different purposes. To make sure that all areas are covered include any old logos here under a ‘Do Not Use’ list to make sure that employees always have a reference to use the latest logos and branding.
– Fonts – your brand should have a font that is consistently used across all documentation, so its name and examples of italicised, bold and header options.
– Presentation format – Do you have a specific background or border used for letters or presentation slideshows? Include a link to them here, or if not, suggest a basic background or outline for each format.
If you’re still unsure about what to include look at other brands in and outside your industry.
Innocent Fruit Smoothies are a great example of a brand that has a consistent voice. This company ensures that their colloquial and fun tone of voice is consistent. From product labels to social media this brand’s voice is instantly recognisable.
MailChimp also have a fun persona, however they are very good at not crossing a line to being unprofessional or untrustworthy. MailChimp’s style guide has an added section to help clearly explain all of its style choices. They think of their voice in comparison of what it isn’t e.g. it’s fun but not silly, it’s confident but not cocky, it’s expert but not bossy. This might be a good way to clearly define your style guide.
Now you’re all set to create branded content
Once you’ve created your guide you’ve got to put it out there to all members of staff. Try and get as many people as possible involved in content creating. However, you must ensure that they use the guide and are aware of the brand expectations. This way, although many are contributing, your audience should still only see one clear voice attributed to your company.
If you want to learn more about how we can help create a style guide for your brand, or run your social media to maximise your digital footprint, then get in touch with the team at Image Matters.