What is a style guide?
Inconsistency is costly. You need a unified method to get your message out into the world, from large scale ad campaigns and in-store signage, to the little notes your customer receives in his inbox when he makes a purchase on your web site.
The answer is a brand style guide—a single, foolproof document full of hard-and-fast rules and true-to-life examples that clearly demonstrate the proper way to communicate for your company, no matter who is doing the talking, from your CEO, to your agency of record, your in-house copywriters and summer interns. Whether you're engaging your customers in your store or on Instagram, you need to sound like the brand they know and love, at every point of contact.
Read on to explore some of the elements of a verbal style guide, and learn why this could be the most valuable document you ever commission.
Tone of voice.
A strong style guide includes an explanation of your brand voice and how it ties to your products and overall brand promise. Ranging in length from a few sentences to a several paragraphs, this section is a prose explanation of the brand's overarching verbal attitude. Often expressed in anthropomorphic terms (smart older sister, cool uncle, trusted friend) the chosen personality combines with a bit of company history, brand positioning and description of the target consumer. It brings everyone up to speed on how the brand is generally supposed to come off when it speaks.
Verbal tool box.
Developing a brand voice involves deciding exactly which words your brand will use to convey its messages. We create a list of brand words that are appropriate for your voice and banned words that are off-brand and off limits to your constituents. This is also a good section to list your product names and proper spellings, so you have total consistency around product copy.
This section addresses the nitty-gritty of your brand's grammar, punctuation and preferred sentence construction. Does your brand allow exclamation points? Is it terse or chatty? What pronouns do you use? Are ampersands and percentage signs okay? All of these kinds of questions will be answered unequivocally, with examples to clarify, so even non-professional writers and downright grammar-challenged team members will know exactly what is and is not allowed in .
These days, there are so many points of contact with customers, and you don't necessarily speak the same way at all of them. Over several sections of your style guide, we will break down the guidelines by platform, addressing specific concerns for each. Do you limit the length of your Instagram captions? Are emojis appropriate, and if so, which ones? How do you format your email newsletters? Do you respond to criticism on Facebook? In what tone? Your style guide will settle these issues centrally, so there's no guesswork for your social media manager or anyone else who wants to chime in.