In public relations, a style guide is a document that serves as a guideline for the way an organization wants its brand to be presented. It can include references for visual styles that will influence the way the brand looks, and language styles that will influence the way the brand sounds. The rules of a style guide are meant to ensure a brand is presented in a consistent manner.
The way a brand presents itself needs to be consistent. It not only needs to be consistent in its design, but also in the language that it use. A consistent style in visual and spoken and/or written communication ensures that an organization is communicating with the public in an effective manner. A consistent style shows that a company cares about the way they are presented and how they communicate with the public. It also shows that they are in control of their presentation.
For brands that have a presence on the internet, a consistent style is imperative, as the World Wide Web can be extremely unpredictable. A style guide is an organization’s basis for ensuring that their online presence is consistent.
What is a Style Guide?
A style guide is comprehensive collection of standards that defines the style of branding for an organization. It incorporates several elements, such as language usage, tone, grammar, point of view, visual cues, etc. These elements can vary from business to business and is based on the specific way that a company wants its brand to be presented to the public.
Why is a Style Guide Important?
Essentially, a style guide serves as the personality of an organization. It makes a brand more recognizable and establishes authority and reliability. Consistency is key when creating a style guide, as this helps the public easily recognize a brand, which makes it more authoritative, reliable, and trustworthy.
Think of a business in terms of how you view people: if someone you see on a regular basis constantly changes they way that they look, you probably wouldn’t feel like you really know who they are, or that you could trust them. This idea applies to brands. If the style of your brand is inconsistent, you won’t be easily recognized or trusted, and you could actually end up turning customers away instead of attracting them.
This is the very reason why a style guide is important: it helps you communicate your brand in a consistent manner.
What Should be Included in a Style Guide?
The objective of a style guide is to help a business’ brand make a personal connection with its audience. As mentioned above, the elements included in this guide will vary from business to business; however, a basic overview of the elements that are often included in a style guide include:
- Mission. A style guide should include a mission statement; a statement that illustrates the reason(s) why your company exists.
- Vision. It should also include a vision statement that highlights your intentions for the direction you would like your brand to go.
- Target audience. A style guide should also clearly indicate and describe who a brand’s customers are and why those customers need the brand. For example, it should showcase how the products or services a company offers are useful to the audience.
- Attributes. Brand attributes are also an important element of a style guide. They describe the brand and create the tone for writing and design. For example, is your organization’s brand hip and trendy, or classic and sophisticated?
- Values. You should also consider highlighting the principles that your organization uses to guide the decisions and actions that it makes.
- Visual elements. You should also incorporate visual elements that your target audience can instantly recognize and associate with your brand. This includes you’re the appearance of your logo, as well as the color and fonts that you use in your publications.
- Language. The language that a brand wishes to be used in publications is also an important element to highlight in a style guide. This includes tone, grammar, point of view (first person, second person, etc), punctuation, and any particular words that an audience would automatically associate with a brand.
What Types of Business’ Need a Style Guide?
Businesses of any size and across any industry can benefit from using a style guide. This is particularly important if the business has a presence on the internet, as it helps to prevent any confusion, builds reputation, establishes authority, and makes it easier for the public to recognize a brand. Businesses that can benefit from a style guide include retailers, insurance companies, healthcare, restaurants, and so forth.
When Should a Style Guide be Used?
Your brand’s style guide should be referenced whenever any documentation is being created. This includes content for your websites, blog posts, social media posts, press releases, letters to the editor, articles, etc. Essentially, any content that is written for your brand should follow the style guide and the elements that it highlights should be kept in mind.
Tips for Creating an Effective Style Guide
In order to write an effective style guide, keep the following tips in mind:
- Be consistent. Consistency is key when creating a style guide. In being consistent, you can ensure that your audience can recognize, relate to, and trust your brand.
- Use a positive tone. Avoid being negative or speaking down when creating a style guide. Instead, be uplifting, inspiring, and encouraging. When a style guide is written in an approachable and welcoming manner, those who it is intended for will more likely view it as being a positive thing and will be more inclined to create content that will truly benefit your brand.
- Make changes. Though style guides need to be consistent, they should also evolve with your brand. As your business grows, your mission statement, your objectives, your values, and other facets might change. Don’t forget to adjust your style guide so that it reflects these changes. The key here is to make sure that any changes you are making to your style guide are consistent. For example, continue using the same language, the same fonts, etc, so that your audience will still recognize and trust your brand.
- Incorporate your team. You want your style guide to unify your team. Instead of having just a few heads of your company dictate the elements that should be incorporated into your guide, include your entire team in the process. For example, ask your associates what they believe your core values and how they should be expressed to the public.
The Benefits of Using a Style Guide
There are several benefits that creating and following a style guide for your brand can offer. Here’s a look at some of the key benefits that you will be able to take advantage of when you develop and implement a style guide:
- Recognizable brand identity. By developing and using a style guide, you will be able to give your brand a unique position in the minds of your audience. When your audience reads documents associated with your business, they will be able to easily identify your unique format, language, style, etc, and know that it is your brand that they are reading about.
- Streamlined documents. There is no doubt that your organization will make use of and create various types of documents. By creating and following a style guide, you can ensure that all of your documents are streamlined in the same format, which will essentially make content much easier to access.
- Easy adaptation for new recruits. With a style guide in place, it will be far easier for any new recruits or hires to understand and implement how you would like the documents associated with your brand to be presented. This saves you from having to invest the time and money into training each new employee on your style, and it also alleviates any possible confusion for new team members.
- Reduced errors in documents. Errors in documentation can be costly and time consuming to correct. They can send out the wrong message to your audience, which can ultimately impact the success of your business. Correcting those errors can take a great deal of time (and money) to correct. By using style guide, you can reduce the possibility of errors, which will certainly prove to be beneficial for your business.
Wrapping It Up
A style guide can be one of the most important tools in your brand’s toolbox. By developing an effective style guide and implementing it, your brand will have the opportunity to take advantage of the numerous benefits that were listed above. In short, using a style guide can help to boost the overall success of your business, and ultimately, that is what every business owner hopes to achieve.