Once complete, you will have a dynamic content style guide that will empower all of your marketers and content contributors to put your brand's best foot forward. This guide establishes the rules you must use to develop and edit English web content published on the Canada.ca website. In fact, going back the example from our friends in North Carolina, their voice and writing guide is really short: Their messaging strategy is simple, so it makes sense to have it featured here. Additionally, it’s fairly common with established brands who are pivoting from outbound to inbound marketing for the first time, and they’re not used to having these discussions. Of course, you shouldn’t do that. You’re a content manager who wants to get better work out of your writers and internal contributors in a way that makes creating content easier and more enjoyable for them. It sets out writing rules that are different from practices adapted to print in order to support the writing principles for Canada.ca. Think about the last time you had to speak to a group of people you didn’t know too well. (203) 265-4377. When it comes to “how the sausage gets made” with your style guide, how you pull together your findings into a single, cohesive style guide will depend on two things: Your personal working style and preferences. , we’ll discuss how you pull that part of your style guide together, but there’s no need to dedicate a part of the workshop to grammar rules and formatting conventions. We have made this task easy for you through our free template gallery designed specifically for marketers. (If you're still not convinced, the team at GatherContent does a great job of explaining why style guides are so important to ensuring that consistency.). We have, however, worked with brands where we had to do more heavy-lifting than usual in the drafting phase based on the results of the workshop. Let them know, however, that they don’t have to rank the words. First of all, we need to give credit where credit is due. If your roll-out strategy is “send the style guide as a link in an email,” expect to be underwhelmed by the number of people who save it to read for later… and then never do. No matter how you format this section -- our way isn’t the only way -- your goal is to create a moment where the brand comes to life, as if it were a person, and speaks directly to your team to say, “This is who we are, and this is who we aren’t. And maybe, just maybe, you had a little toothpaste on the corners of your mouth? Available in print and with an online subscription. In that case, ask them what was different for them about “controversial” that led to a negative reaction. We welcome ideas and suggestions for other TechWhirl Templates Library materials. with your team around how your brand should be portrayed and perceived, which means your. (“Don't use big words!”), Basic editorial rules -- grammar, spelling, etc. While it doesn’t need to be fancy, you still need to have a proactive and defined rollout strategy for your style guide that includes trainings and follow-up, as well as a start date of when you will begin using it. Additionally, you should take notes as described in the previous point. The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s brand identity presentation is a great example of what you should do. -- not your team -- because it was developed for them, based on their preferences and what they need. So, I built a template: View the content strategy template. We like to bold key phrases and words that should stick in the memories of those using the style guide, which has the added bonus of making the style guide easy to skim. What Doesn't Go into a Content Style Guide? Of course, as with organizational changes of any kind, that’s easier said than done. A better definition of a content style guide would be to say it’s a document for your content creators and/or employees breaking down who your brand is, and how that is (and isn’t) expressed through copy, both from the 80,000-foot view and a tactical execution level. This is the not-so-fun part, but you should send back work that doesn’t adhere to the new style guide. login credentials for a client’s AP Stylebook subscription (if available); and, At IMPACT, we solved this challenge by developing a. . If you opt to use our tone pillar model, here are the four key components of a tone pillar: A first-person statement that clearly establishes the theme for the pillar’s recommendations and rules; A subtitle that establishes why this is important -- typically, why your audience desires this style; How you effectively craft this tone in your writing; and. (“We’re fun and approachable!”), Brand-specific copy rules, suggestions, and preferences. “Why?” and “What do you mean by that?” are two of our favorites. Typically, a style guide will include the following: Basic editorial rules, such as the spelling out of numerals, how and when you capitalize job titles, rules for abbreviations, how times of day should be expressed, etc. Voice: These are all of the attributes of your brand’s personality; it’s what people should think about your brand as a reflex, without you having to spell it out for them. It’s cost-effective. AP style says only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized in article titles and headlines; exceptions vary wildly, but most use some version of title case is adopted as an exception. In Chapter 4, we’ll discuss how you pull that part of your style guide together, but there’s no need to dedicate a part of the workshop to grammar rules and formatting conventions. A simple list of dos and don’ts will work fine as a first draft. This is the only exercise where participants will answer from their own perspective, rather than trying to step into the shoes of their personas. And finally, what you shouldn’t do in your content. How much work you put into this section is entirely up to you, because there’s good news. For example, the five different chapters of bankruptcy or common baseball terminology. Starting with the very basics, a useful writing style guide for blog contributors will detail specific, desired formatting information. Setting the tone of your visuals from the … Put another way, your style is the packaging and polish you put on your strategic messages, not the strategic messages themselves. Again, you might not run into any of these issues -- that’s also okay. Your tone is how you deliver on the promise of your voice. . There is no right way to synthesize the data, so do it in a way that makes the most sense for you. This kind of thinking results in content style guides people will never want to use. As a result, they try to over-engineer the final product by making it longer, because they equate complexity and length with importance. But the purpose of this guide is to teach you how to create your content style guide 100% on your own, without having to hire an agency. The easy path here is to assemble a group of all marketers or all executives -- or perhaps some combination of the two. You’ll be that guy at the party last night who everybody liked, but no one can remember his name or anything about him. Your content’s style isn’t your blogging strategy. To gather the intelligence you’ll need to inform your choices in building the style guide; and. The style guide features updated direction and new guidance for subjects that weren't around when the last edition was released. No problem, save time by asking subsequent participants (usually starting with the third participant) only to explain their answers for the words that were either unique to them or if they chose the same word as someone else, but for which they had an opposite reaction.For example, one person might say “controversial” is good, and then later, someone else says it’s bad. What a content strategy should look like. An annual, one-user online subscription is $35, usually with a 20% discount offered for automatic renewal options. In reality, HubSpot is only the latter. That said, it’s our experience that developing your messaging strategy in advance makes developing your content style so much easier, since they build on each other. Because, while there are a lot of. Because, while there are a lot of great copywriting books out there to help you level-up your marketing writing game, you still need a foundational style guide. Here’s an example of a tone pillar set, heavily altered for confidentiality purposes: Your tone pillars should not only be a seamless, natural extension of your brand voice, they should also complement each other. Let’s be honest. The better you organize your voice and tone guidance, and create connections for them, the more likely that will be. That means this template is not meant to be gospel. To create an initial shared understanding of your brand’s personality and style between the participants. Either they want to be able to select more than five or fewer. Then, you will recite the following instructions, which are (again) identical for both the voice and tone exercises: “On the following slide there will be a word cloud -- put yourself in the shoes of your ideal buyers and choose the five words you like the least and the five words you like the most, in relation to your brand.”, Bring up the word cloud on the next slide of the presentation deck…. Allow other participants to respond first to the answers of others -- that dialogue can be really helpful for extracting the unfiltered, unguarded intelligence you need. Simply fill out the form to get your free Content Style Guide Template now. , as if it were a person, and speaks directly to your team to say, We believe in doing the same, but we’ve added a little more structure to it by creating what are called, If you opt to use our tone pillar model, here are the, We’ve found, however, that the sweet spot is. Download our FREE brand voice and style guide template. It’s how you deliver on the promise of your voice. Or Han Solo and Chewbacca. We use a structured facilitation presentation deck with a set agenda to facilitate our workshops. If you build out more than four tone pillars, you’ll create confusion. Brand Style Guide. We adapted this from a brand personality quiz originally developed by, This manifests itself when one or more people have their. Additionally, it’s fairly common with established brands who are pivoting from outbound to inbound marketing for the first time, and they’re not used to having these discussions. (You can read the full guide without giving us your email -- keep scrolling!). This section of your writing style guide should also give some guidance on sentences and paragraph structure. If someone is being shy, invite them to participate by asking them after someone else gives an opinion, “What do you think about that?”. The style guide process and template we’ve built here at IMPACT -- the very same that gets us the best results for our clients -- has three distinct parts: Voice, tone, and style each serve a particular purpose for your brand, but they are all very much dependent on each other to create the full effect of … If you’re using our workshop presentation deck, only show one question at a time. If you think this will not be an issue for your team, still, do not skip this exercise. Style: Finally, there’s your style. That said, it’s our experience that developing your messaging strategy in advance makes developing your content style so much easier, since they build on each other. only difference between the above worksheet and the one for tone, These are all of the attributes of your brand’s personality; it’s what people should. No matter what it looks like, your content style guide should be presented in such a way where the important stuff -- voice and tone attributes, style notes, etc. Either they want to be able to select more than five or fewer. You’ll find that you’ll need to spend your time with your notes to prioritize the right ideas with the correct wording. That’s a bad thing. This is where the magic happens -- the words on the page prompt participants to share their real feelings. This article addresses why your organization needs a style guide, details what to include in your style guide, and gives examples of top-notch style guides to ensure streamlined external communications. New Haven, CT, 06513 Your brand is always sending messages and communicating with your audience about who you are and what you value, even when you’re not explicitly saying something. for them about “controversial” that led to a negative reaction. They can’t, they have to choose five for each, and you can’t have multiple words tie for a particular spot. If tone pillars seem too complex, don’t panic. Not only do they allow you to keep everyone on track (no one forgets the headline when there’s a required field for it in your system or a box for it in your text document), but they can also help your team think strategically and holistically about the content they’re creating for each page. How to run a content style guide workshop with your team. And we’re now going to teach you how to facilitate it on your own! You have three minutes.”. Ours is a little simpler, and its purpose for the workshop is slightly different -- we’ll explain how in a moment. Wrong. Honestly, people post about it on our Facebook … Was this niche previously ignored or underserved? After you get to a point where you know they should be accountable, just send the work back and circle what’s not up to style and have them correct it. If one or more people fall into the “playing it safe” trap described above, gently point out why that’s an issue. Additional guidance that’s often used by journalists on media law, social media use, data reporting, etc. While your contributors may often be responsible for choosing images for their own work -- we do that at IMPACT for our blog -- notes about visual preferences (like natural photography with bright colors or no text on featured images for blogs) should live in a visual style guide. A content style guide is a documented set of guidelines and rules that break down your brand personality, and how it is (and isn’t) expressed through your content. To use the template, click the File tab in the top left corner of your browser, then select Make a copy from the drop-down menu. It’s kind of like that old saying -- “It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.”. Your content style guide should be as long as it needs to be -- no more, no less. Just like your organization, content style guides are not static. Whether it’s via email, Slack, smoke signal, carrier pigeon, training, or company meeting, let people know when things change and why. Additionally, if you’re the facilitator, you should probably also be the one to create the style guide documentation. You may experience some pushback, but that’s okay. Place an X on the line for each where you think it best represents how your brand should be received to the public. Let’s go back to that moment in time where you had to present in front of a bunch of people, and you wanted the audience to think you were the bee’s knees. Yes, clients hire us to do this for them. This exercise creates an opportunity for the group to see that they don’t always have shared definitions of the same words; something that’s critical for the voice and tone exercises. We have, however, worked with brands where we had to do more heavy-lifting than usual in the drafting phase based on the results of the workshop. If that won’t be the case, you should record the audio of your workshop (not video, it can make people nervous), take lots of notes, and work very closely with the individual who will. think about your brand as a reflex, without you having to spell it out for them. But the purpose of this guide is to teach you how to create your content style guide 100% on your own, without having to hire an agency. Yes, clients hire us to do this for them. To your participants, it’s obvious -- you’re getting their ideas about what their brand’s voice and tone should be. However, if you have rigorous rules like, “paragraphs should never exceed X sentences,” or “We only use bullets for lists, never numbers,” you would put them into a content style guide. If you do download our content style guide template, we encourage you to adapt it and make it your own. There’s a good chance people will pick opposing answers for certain scales even though they agree; find ways to guide them to that realization, although they’ll usually get there on their own. Sometimes brands bundle this kind of information together along with visual notes like the ones mentioned above, but sometimes they’re separate. With those two caveats in mind -- whether you’re working with our workshop toolkit and content style guide template or building your own from scratch -- let’s dive in. Listen for key phrases (beyond the ones on the page) that stand out to you or ideas where there’s a lot of consensus. Also, note any consensus around negative words and the why behind them. Even the best writers can use reminders on … Since it is designed for journalists, it’s not only versatile and neutral, it’s always being updated in real-time -- you don't need to wait for new editions -- based on current events. Technically, you could do this afterward if you really need some sort of style guide right now, while you’re making larger decisions for your business. Here are four simple steps to get you on your way. You should include specific notes on positive and negative voice attributes that will allow your team to adopt the right mental posture with your brand’s content. If you’ve ever seen a brand’s social feed and it looks and feels like it’s managed by 10 different people, chances are they don’t have a style guide in place. What needs to change about how we’re communicating? In fact, we’ve tweaked those word clouds numerous times over the years, sprinkling in and testing different words to ensure we’re creating opportunities for honest discussion and to allow authentic, unfiltered feelings to take center stage. But obvious best practices like, “Don’t make your content look like a massive word wall; break up your text with headings, lists, etc.,” don’t really belong in a style guide. Style guidelines and references for general fashion, food, religion, sports and business knowledge. Just let whomever will be reviewing a draft of your style guide know they will have a chance to review a base editorial style section and make change requests. What Else Shouldn't Go in Your Style Guide? They can only use the words presented to them, as-is, but they are encouraged to expand upon their thinking when it’s their turn to share their answers. You might prefer to rely on your notes exclusively or you may be someone who will want to listen to the audio recording again, before you start pulling your style guide together. Styleguide Toolbox - Templates, UI Kits, Tools & Generators It’s not a sign of failure if you don’t push anyone’s buttons. In addition to two slides covering positive and negative voice attributes, and two to four slides defining what we call “tone pillars,” IMPACT content style guides include the following: Messaging overview and a link to the messaging strategy (if applicable); Formatting rules, which covers capitalization for titles, headings, and subheadings, as well as lists; How words are visually emphasized using bold or italics; Brand-specific copywriting preferences or quirks everyone should follow; Exceptions to traditional AP Stylebook rules; Common AP Stylebook rules and login credentials for a client’s AP Stylebook subscription (if available); and. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s MailChimp’s content style guide. (Review Chapter 1 of this guide, if you need a refresher! Has your group has chosen a lot of the same words for the same reasons? They cannot arrive late or leave early, and they cannot use their phone or other electronics during the workshop. (Who can forget the great “Internet vs. internet” shift of 2016?). Your tone will be situational and should be adapted to accommodate different scenarios. Next, you’ll want to approach your voice and tone. For example, one person might say “controversial” is good, and then later, someone else says it’s bad. For example, at IMPACT, we do include a slide with a. primer within the content style guides we create for clients: As you can see in the image above, this is merely an excerpt that links out to a. , which is a massive document all by itself. A simple content style guide template will be different for each organization, depending on your needs, the content you want to produce and your target audience. -- but if your audience ever believes that about you, it’ll be because you proved it to them time, not because you told them to believe it. If you’re performing this workshop remotely, record all of the answers on a single set of scales, so you can easily spot patterns. But this content piece we’re focusing on in this guide is what we want you to see differently. There’s a good chance people will pick opposing answers for certain scales even though they agree; find ways to guide them to that realization, although they’ll usually get there on their own. Plus, you’ll run the risk of people tossing your style guide to the side in frustration, because you’re giving them way too much to consider. Establish your brand's promise and key differentiators, Define the voice and tone parameters that will govern your content, Set your brand's style and grammar "rules of the road", Beat your competitors with content that resonates with prospects, © 2021 IMPACT, All Rights Reserved. Do not define any words for them. A style guide also can be a way to foster content authenticity by containing instructions for all parties creating content for your company. to walk-through it with your writers and marketers, so you can ensure they understand it, and you can address any questions or concerns that may come out of that discussion. Next, you’ll remind them of the definition for voice and tone ahead of each exercise: Voice: These are all of the attributes of your brand’s personality; it’s what people should always think about your brand as a reflex, without you having to spell it out for them. The benefits of this simple approach speak for themselves: By design, your content style will prioritize what your ideal customers want -- not your team -- because it was developed for them, based on their preferences and what they need. These are all of the attributes of your brand’s personality; it’s what people should think about your brand as a reflex, without you having to spell it out for them. Pushback, in this case, is not a negative; it’s by design. -- can be. Obviously, style guides are dense. And we’re now going to teach you how to facilitate it on your own! Use it to create clear and consistent content that meets the needs of users. Use Style Manual when creating Australian Government content. Before you get your hopes up, this chapter will not be as instructive or hand-holding as the previous one. The content managers will then be able to drastically reduce the amount of time they spend editing the content to match company style. Given that a content style guide is essentially a tactical, instructive manual of how to write like a particular brand, it can be tempting to put everything in there. Use this free style guide template layout to create a custom brand manual for your startup, small or large company. That sounds straightforward enough, right? Your audience will fall in love with your brand, but only if what you want to say and what you’re communicating are aligned. We think templates are essential to the content process, especially if you have more than one cook in the content kitchen. It should be used by anyone on your team -- or freelancers who work with you -- who will be creating content for your brand. How well are we communicating the answers to those questions right now? This is a dynamic element. What you choose will depend on your industry. 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