Style guide essentials dress your brand for success

By Lyn Engle

Got style? Sync up your brand content with a style guide

 If content is king in your organization, a style guide is an essential for all seasons.

An up-to-date style guide is the starting point for creating consistent, on-brand content that resonates. It makes the lives of content creators, editors, designers and developers easier. Even better, it strengthens perceptions of your brand as cohesive and consistent. Over time, those perceptions translate into trust and credibility.

WriterGirl requests a style guide from every healthcare organization we work with, no matter the project’s size. Some of us may even geek-out a bit every time one lands in our inbox. It’s a great tool to deliver content that hits the mark early in the process. A good style guide is like the wardrobe basic you can’t live without.

Whether you’re starting a style guide from scratch or making annual updates, these five ‘must haves’ can help tailor your organization’s style guide to a perfect fit:

  1. Examples of your organization’s voice and tone. Voice is about personality — think friendly vs. superior, or spontaneous vs. cautious. It shouldn’t change across channels or audiences. Tone should shift depending on the message and the audience – think of it as packaging for your voice. Include both good and bad examples, especially if people outside of the marketing and communications realm are creating content.
  2. A list or links to all preferred reference sources. Does your organization follow the AP Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, Webster’s Dictionary or another resource? Start with your overall guide, then also include examples of your preferred formats for titles, credentials, and addresses. Include your organization’s exceptions and preferences for frequently used terms like healthcare (health care), orthopedic (orthopaedic) and inpatient (in-patient).
  3. Words to avoid and alternatives. Writers love this, and it provides added insight into your brand voice. For example, use doctor, never physician. Avoid passionate, instead use caring.
  4. Specific guidelines for online content. Do you have word-count specifications for blog posts or web pages? Are headlines sentence or title case? How should internal and external links be handled?
  5. An index. If your guide is digital only, include an index to make searching easier.

A style guide is most effective when it’s a living document that all employees and others creating content for your organization have and use. Keep an eye and an ear open for new topics to include. Or, consider appointing a team with members from across your organization to review and suggest updates. Involving them in creating the guide reinforces their commitment to brand stewardship.

Do you have examples of ‘must haves’ from your organization’s style guide? Share them in the comments.



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