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What is a Style Guide? An Introduction

What is a Style Guide and Why Do You Need One?

Published: July 28, 2022
Today Digital - What is a Style Guide?

Rebekah Carter

Think about a company you like.

Whether you enjoy the brand’s unique image, its tone of voice, or its phenomenal products, the thing that often keeps you going back for more is the fact that these “differentiating” elements don’t change.

Companies thrive by creating a unique, meaningful experience for their audience through a range of different assets and tools. With the right branding, a business can form a crucial initial connection with its customer. However, the brand needs to continue showcasing the same elements in every customer interaction, or it won’t have the right impact.

A brand style guide is essentially a roadmap for companies, showing team members how to convey the unique personality and image of the business in every marketing, sales and service interaction.

Let’s take a closer look at style guides and why they’re so important.

What is a Style Guide, and Why Do You Need it?

A style guide is a tool used to direct how companies share their brand personality, image, and identity with their audience. When executed correctly, a style guide acts as an essential compass, so brands can maintain a consistent presence both internally and externally.

Remember, it takes time and focus to create a powerful “presence” for your company. Once you’ve found an identity that works for your business, repeating the factors that set you apart from your competition in everything you do, helps to make your company more credible.

For instance, take a look at Today Digital’s style guide. We’re committed to being friendly, engaging, and informative in everything we do.

Your style guide helps to prevent any marketing, sales, or service activities conducted by your company from making your brand look disjointed or erratic. It’s important because it supports your team in building a more consistent presence, so customers can more easily familiarise themselves with your brand’s identity and values.

A consistent brand identity makes your company look more authentic and helps to create the kind of unique experiences that keep customers come back for more.

This helpful document should be a go-to resource for anyone in your team who needs a reminder of what your company should look or sound like. Style guides can also be useful when working with contractors and freelancers, as it helps to get them on the right track immediately.

What does a Style Guide Include?

Studies show that human beings perceive brands as the “personification” of a company. If you see a brand as a person, you’re more likely to purchase from an individual who’s consistent, stable, and reliable. On the other hand, a person (or brand) who constantly changes their image, voice, personality, and habits isn’t quite as trustworthy.

Style guides include everything internal employees and contractors need to ensure your image and voice are consistent when connecting with your customers.

Some of the components your style guide may include are:

  • Personality and brand voice: A good style guide should give employees and contractors an insight into the kind of personality you want to convey as a brand. For instance, are you more likely to be friendly and laid-back, using short words, sentences, and contractions? Are you more invested in building a formal identity, one identified by more complex words and language? Make sure your personality is clear for your team.
  • Grammatical and punctuation rules: Even professional writers have trouble with grammar from time to time. With grammatical rules, you can show your team members what they need to be most careful about. Punctuation rules can also have an impact on your brand’s style. Things like whether to use compound words, or how to use the Oxford comma can influence how people perceive you and your team.
  • Editorial style: Editorial style guidelines can involve everything from advice on how to write about certain people (i.e., how to mention age and disabilities), from how to format content. You can use this section of your style guide to address common issues your employees might have when writing too, such as how to use abbreviations, acronyms, and the active voice.
  • Formatting rules: Speaking of formatting, there are a lot of formatting issues that can influence style. For instance, how your people write numbers, how they use fractions, and even the way they might depict dates on a publication can all make a difference to how your business is perceived. A style guide can help to ensure everything you publish seems as though it’s written by the same person.
  • Corporate color palettes and fonts: The visual side of your company’s style is just as important as the editorial side. You’ll need to make sure any designers or creative people working with your team are using the same corporate color palettes in all of their designs. It’s also important to highlight concepts like white space usage, typography, and layout specifics for how elements are placed on a page.
  • Logos and brand assets: Other visual elements you may need to highlight in a style guide include how to use and position logos, or how to leverage various other assets, like photographs, videos, and graphics. Giving your team a complete guide for how content from your team should look creates a more consistent image for your brand.
  • Channel distribution guidelines: Advice on how to distribute certain content throughout various channels can be extremely useful. You may use your style guide to highlight some information about how to publish content on WordPress, or how to create a CTA for an advertising campaign. You can also offer insights into how to format content for social media channels in your style guide, or how to design emails.

Making the Most of your Brand Style Guide

A style guide can help your employees to better understand everything from your tone of voice to the way they should be positioning pictures in a blog post. By providing this guidance to your team members and contractors, you ensure they’re prepared to best-represent your company in any environment.

Some companies even include additional information in their style guides to assist their teams, like mission and value statements, audience personas, and USPs.

Whatever you choose to do with your style guide, focus on finding ways to make your image and brand identity more consistent.