Brand guidelines are essential if you’re to create the consistency required to build a strong, sustainable brand.

But…

Make your brand guidelines too complex and they’re never going to be read or referred to. It’s a balancing act between providing the essential detail but in a streamlined and useful way.

Yes, I can help you to get your tone-of-voice down in a way that’s genuinely useful to the people who write for you…

And these are my top tips for creating that document:

Keep it short

Within your brand guidelines the section on tone-of-voice and writing style should be 4-5 pages.

Give examples

You need to ensure your guidelines are crystal clear, so spell everything out. For example:

“When writing large numbers they should take an abbreviated short-scale format – for example ‘£1m’, not ‘£1million’ or ‘£1,000,000’.

Cover off the basics: spelling, punctuation and grammar

It’s the teeny tiny details that make a brand – without them, you’re not communicating in a consistent way.

For example:

  • Are you writing in UK or US English?
  • Will you write ‘&’ or ‘and’?
  • Are numbers written as ‘9’ or ‘nine’?
  • How will you format bullet points/lists?
  • What commonly used words are hyphenated?
  • How should quotes be formatted?
  • What’s the standard for linking to external sources of information, such as research or reports?

Cement the structure

How you structure your words is crucial if you want your copy to be engaging. And it’s only recently that I’ve fully appreciated just how important structure is to the design process.

Think about:

  • Sentence structure.
  • Paragraph structure.
  • Length for different types of content.

And make it clear if these rules change for any reason.

For example:

In our blogs, which are 500-750 words in length and more conversational, sentences can finish with ellipsis (‘…’) and start with ‘And’ or ‘But’. However, in our guides, which are 2,000-3,000 words in length and more formal, this is not allowed.

Show how the tone of voice relates back to your overall brand

The main part of your writing style guidelines should centre on how your words will relate back to your overall brand personality. As part of your branding exercise you will have come up with a list of 3-5 adjectives that succinctly describe your brand personality. Use these here to demonstrate how that translates into your writing style:

  • State the personality trait.
  • Show an example.
  • Set the parameters.
  • Share words that should be central to your copy.

For example:

Personality trait: helpful

In all our communications we want to come across as genuinely supporting our clients to grow their business. By sharing our knowledge and experience, we can help them to understand the intricacies of content marketing, and educate them on how to extract maximum value from every piece of writing produced.

In practice this looks like:

“You already produce mountains of valuable content as part of your business-as-usual activities – the proposals, statement of works, project wash-up sessions, comprehensive sales deck. A smart content strategy focuses on re-spinning and re-purposing this existing content into promotional material.”

Read some examples:

When we speak:

  • We are helpful but not claiming to be an expert.
  • We are confident but not arrogant.
  • We are educational but not close-minded to new perspectives.

Words we like:

  • Share
  • Teach
  • Help

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash