(Psst! In that case. VA.gov content style guide This is our house style guide for the VA.gov website. To create an initial shared understanding of your brand’s personality and style between the participants. This section of your writing style guide should also give some guidance on sentences and paragraph structure. For example, one person might say “controversial” is good, and then later, someone else says it’s bad. In Chapter 4, we’ll discuss how you pull that part of your style guide together, but there’s no need to dedicate a part of the workshop to grammar rules and formatting conventions. For example, at IMPACT, we do include a slide with a. primer within the content style guides we create for clients: As you can see in the image above, this is merely an excerpt that links out to a. , which is a massive document all by itself. An overview of content style guide basics; and. That’s a bad thing. Through these two exercises, participants will choose positive and negative attributes for their brand’s voice and tone, based on the needs and preferences of their buyer personas. Conduct an official training to walk-through it with your writers and marketers, so you can ensure they understand it, and you can address any questions or concerns that may come out of that discussion. Available in print and with an online subscription. No problem, save time by asking subsequent participants (usually starting with the third participant) only to explain their answers for the words that were either unique to them or if they chose the same word as someone else, but for which they had an opposite reaction.For example, one person might say “controversial” is good, and then later, someone else says it’s bad. Two is a nice minimum, because it allows you to create a balance between two tonal qualities that can be scaled or differently weighted, as needed, depending on context. We think templates are essential to the content process, especially if you have more than one cook in the content kitchen. They can only use the words presented to them, as-is, but they are encouraged to expand upon their thinking when it’s their turn to share their answers. I'm sorry.). Sometimes those changes might be small, like a pivot in certain editorial or style rules. This is where the magic happens -- the words on the page prompt participants to share their real feelings. Listen for key phrases (beyond the ones on the page) that stand out to you or ideas where there’s a lot of consensus. No one is going to want to read War and Peace every time they need to write a 900-word blog post, especially if it could have been shortened to the length of a press release and been just as effective in explaining what they needed to know about content style. Listen for key phrases (beyond the ones on the page) that stand out to you or ideas where there’s a lot of consensus. Here are four simple steps to get you on your way. But having it available online (either in an internal intranet, in a Google Slide Deck, or available publicly online, like MailChimp), will make it accessible and easy to update, when you need to make changes. Since the College-Department Advanced template doesn’t display the section default or content below sections in the Contact Info block, site authors will need to add a bottom row with the contact info as shown. We believe in doing the same, but we’ve added a little more structure to it by creating what are called tone pillars. , we’ll discuss how you pull that part of your style guide together, but there’s no need to dedicate a part of the workshop to grammar rules and formatting conventions. That’s a great question, but you want to keep them focused on the task at-hand, and you don’t want to accidentally influence their choices by pivoting the discussion to the methodology behind the workshop. They must also be present literally and figuratively for the duration of the workshop, so all they’ll need are their brains, a pen/pencil, and a notepad. It helps us write clear and consistent content across teams and channels. It’s how you deliver on the promise of your voice. People fundamentally do not like being told what to think about anything -- especially about brands. If you’re just starting out and not ready to take on something super complex, a one-page document with some basics might be the best approach until you get more comfortable. Again, it’s going to depend on who you ask. Literally. They can’t, they have to choose five for each, and you can’t have multiple words tie for a particular spot. What’s fun about this is that while the exercises for both were the same in the workshop, the output is quite different for each. You will lead a group discussion where are participants are invited to answer questions about your brand. And it doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do, it’s clear that you’re completely unprofessional. If you think this will not be an issue for your team, still, do not skip this exercise. AP style says only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized in article titles and headlines; exceptions vary wildly, but most use some version of title case is adopted as an exception. While your contributors may often be responsible for choosing images for their own work -- we do that at IMPACT for our blog -- notes about visual preferences (like natural photography with bright colors or no text on featured images for blogs) should live in a visual style guide. This training should also include an overview of the benefits of having a style guide. What a content style guide is and why your brand needs one. “Why?” and “What do you mean by that?” are two of our favorites. There is no right way to synthesize the data, so do it in a way that makes the most sense for you. Honestly, people post about it on our Facebook … Don’t be fooled. You’ll be that guy at the party last night who everybody liked, but no one can remember his name or anything about him. We did a video conference call walkthrough with a copywriter for a website project, and they said afterward. So, we’ve reviewed what a content style guide is (and isn’t), why it’s important, and a few examples of what a content style guide can look like. The Modern Language Association Stylebook (MLA)The preferred style guide for academics in the liberal arts (and the nemesis of most college students). Available in print and with an online subscription -- although the latter is geared in pricing toward institutions, such as universities. How to run a content style guide workshop with your team. You can easily find free “style guide overviews” online for the big style guides we listed above, which will give you primer on the most common rules and standards for each one. Pushback, in this case, is not a negative; it’s by design. After you get to a point where you know they should be accountable, just send the work back and circle what’s not up to style and have them correct it. So, how do you organize all of it, if you shouldn’t put it in a single document? (“Don't use big words!”), Basic editorial rules -- grammar, spelling, etc. First of all, we need to give credit where credit is due. In reality, HubSpot is only the latter. Encourage those who are shy to share their opinions and don’t let others interrupt them. There’s a good chance people will pick opposing answers for certain scales even though they agree; find ways to guide them to that realization, although they’ll usually get there on their own. Instead, you’re making the assumption that individuals won’t have their own personal ideas about your brand’s personality and won’t make unique choices to express it. We also love how they reference their core values. In their eyes, if it’s “too short,” it’s probably not enough and/or must be a disservice to the nuances of their brand. However, if you think certain ideas, rules, or preferences about your brand’s style should be “obvious,” you’re opening yourself up to a lot of risk by not discussing them, agreeing to them, and documenting them in a content style guide. After your buyer personas, we strongly recommend developing your brand messaging strategy first. Outside of work, Liz is a freelance beer writer living in Connecticut. To your participants, it’s obvious -- you’re getting their ideas about what their brand’s voice and tone should be. Do not share or discuss your answers. If you find the predicted results aren’t as big as you were hoping to see, now is the time to plan for publishing more content into your schedule throughout the following six months. Has your group has chosen a lot of the same words for the same reasons? Meaning, this is how your brand should always (and never) be perceived. Simply fill out the form to get your free Content Style Guide Template now. But that’s not true. But having it available online (either in an internal intranet, in a Google Slide Deck, or available publicly online, like MailChimp), will make it accessible and easy to update, when you need to make changes. What’s unique about our team that made us the ones who finally fixed the problem? Wrong. Participants will have five minutes to complete the worksheet below on their own, based on the following instructions: “On the worksheet in front of you, you will see a set of four scales. Your brand’s style has two components -- visuals and content: The style conventions established in the visual and content style bubbles are how you tell the story of your brand. (Who can forget the great “Internet vs. internet” shift of 2016?). You may be wrong about your assumption, and it’s still a great calibration exercise. The Mailchimp content styleguide can serve as a solid jumping-off point if you’re creating your own guide, offering inspiration and a potential format to follow. Again, your brand’s voice is essentially defining the constants of your brand’s personality. For example, the five different chapters of bankruptcy or common baseball terminology. Styleguide Toolbox - Templates, UI Kits, Tools & Generators It also won’t tell you how to win the internet. When it comes to “how the sausage gets made” with your style guide, how you pull together your findings into a single, cohesive style guide will depend on two things: Your personal working style and preferences. It's also public-facing, but much more comprehensive. But having style is essential to executing an effective blogging strategy, guaranteeing your messaging is packaged for maximum impact, thus empowering you to win the internet. A style guide template for web content writers should be no longer than four pages, clear, concise and easy to understand. You’ve got to be maniacally consistent with it, because someone may form a permanent, irreversible opinion about your brand based on a single piece of content. (“We're an Oxford Comma family!”). They can’t do that either. -- you’ll have everyone share their answers and the why behind each. Why You Need a Brand Voice and Content Style Guide. consistent with it, because someone may form a permanent, irreversible opinion about your brand based on a single piece of content. Hard copy-only style guides get put in drawers and ignored, thrown away, or used as coasters. Once complete, you will have a dynamic content style guide that will empower all of your marketers and content contributors to put your brand's best foot forward. Additionally, you should take notes as described in the previous point. This article addresses why your organization needs a style guide, details what to include in your style guide, and gives examples of top-notch style guides to ensure streamlined external communications. Make it available in an online format. Marketing Templates & Examples. (203) 265-4377. You could probably put all of these items into a single document, but no one will want to use it. While messaging notes or a link to a full messaging strategy should absolutely be included as a reference in your style guide, you need to remember one thing: Your brand's messaging strategy and your brand's content style are not the same thing. Either they want to be able to select more than five or fewer. What Doesn't Go into a Content Style Guide? The same holds true for your content’s style. This is the not-so-fun part, but you should send back work that doesn’t adhere to the new style guide. Make it only available as a hard copy. Voice: These are all of the attributes of your brand’s personality; it’s what people should think about your brand as a reflex, without you having to spell it out for them. How well are we communicating the answers to those questions right now? Pro Tip: Make it easy for those using your style guide to understand the why behind the standards and to retain the information in front of them. Yes, perfect is and always will be the enemy of good, but if you don’t have a handle on your brand’s content style, you can run into a lot of trouble: ...many of them will get stuck on the one thing you did wrong. Place an X on the line for each where you think it best represents how your brand should be received to the public. Please … A tone pillar groups together tactical copywriting and content creation instructions under a larger tonal “theme,” which ties directly back to the story of your brand that you’re trying to convey. Ask lots of clarifying questions. It’s shared across VA administrations and teams, so we can speak with one voice and create a consistent, helpful experience for Veterans and non-Veteran customers. Style Manual is for everyone who writes, edits or approves Australian Government content. The end result may end up being quite substantial, like MailChimp’s. Your tone is how you deliver on the promise of your voice. We’re not here today to talk about what your message is or to flesh out your talking points. This is the only exercise where participants will answer from their own perspective, rather than trying to step into the shoes of their personas. You’re the business owner, founder, or CEO of a new brand -- or a brand making a pivot -- and you need your team on the same page about how your brand should be perceived. How well are we communicating our why and what makes us better than our competitors right now? No matter what you say or how compelling your ideas are, your physical presentation of how you showed up would be a complete distraction, sending an entirely different message than what you were intending. Your audience will fall in love with your brand, but only if what you want to say and what you’re communicating are aligned. But since pulling together a comprehensive content style guide isn't easy, we're sharing our time-tested, 12-page content style guide template. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)Beloved by book publishers, and fiction and nonfiction authors. to inform your choices in building the style guide; and. Sometimes brands bundle this kind of information together along with visual notes like the ones mentioned above, but sometimes they’re separate. Once your blogging content style guide is finished, it’s important that you don’t, in fact, consider it that. Additionally, if you’re the facilitator, you should probably also be the one to create the style guide documentation. Your brand is always sending messages and communicating with your audience about who you are and what you value, even when you’re not explicitly saying something. It should be used by anyone on your team -- or freelancers who work with you -- who will be creating content for your brand. When done, you can either have everyone share their answers, or you can have everyone save them until the end. They cannot arrive late or leave early, and they cannot use their phone or other electronics during the workshop. However, your content style guide should not be where your full brand messaging strategy lives. But obvious best practices like, “Don’t make your content look like a massive word wall; break up your text with headings, lists, etc.,” don’t really belong in a style guide. Download our FREE brand voice and style guide template. AP style says you spell out “percent” instead of using the % symbol; the exception is to always use the symbol. Ours is a little simpler, and its purpose for the workshop is slightly different -- we’ll explain how in a moment. This style guide was created for Mailchimp employees, but we hope it’s helpful for other content and communications teams too. In a lot of cases, you’ll still need some serious thinking time to bring it all together, but you’ll probably have a good idea during the workshop about some of the choices that need to be made. Editors Note: This TechWhirl Style Guide Template is one in a series of templates to help readers plan and manage communications and content management activities, resources and deliverables. Or you might end up with a one-sheeter, like UNC-Chapel Hill. They either want to change the tense of a word or use a different (but similar) one they like better in its place. Because, while there are a lot of. We use a structured facilitation presentation deck with a set agenda to facilitate our workshops. Instead, as they go through each exercise, they should focus on providing honest opinions and having healthy discussions. Additionally, it’s fairly common with established brands who are pivoting from outbound to inbound marketing for the first time, and they’re not used to having these discussions. Going back again to that old adage of, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” your messaging strategy is the WHAT and your content style is the HOW. Where the first example is something your writers should already know -- or, if they don’t, should be addressed through education at an editor-to-writer level -- the second two examples are hyper-specific brand preferences that no one would know intuitively. Use this free style guide template layout to create a custom brand manual for your startup, small or large company. You’ll also use three worksheets to run the branding exercises, but don’t give those worksheets out in advance. It’s kind of like when people look at the HubSpot marketing automation platform and. Perhaps you wanted your peers to think of you as smart, passionate, and knowledgeable. Pro Tip: If you don’t enforce the style guide, your staff will not take the time to learn it. They shouldn’t be ambivalent when they do or do not like something. New Haven, CT. That’s a great question, but you want to keep them focused on the task at-hand, and you don’t want to accidentally influence their choices by pivoting the discussion to the methodology behind the workshop. Instead, you need to be clear, concise, and direct in your content style definition and direction. They must also be present literally and figuratively for the duration of the workshop, so all they’ll need are their brains, a pen/pencil, and a notepad. The first few times, send content back, and kindly let the writer know what needs to be changed and why. Moreover, they’re also impossible to keep updated; you’ll never have any version control, and your job will be harder. In addition to getting your participants comfortable talking with each other, this will help you establish a baseline about where the brand is now in contrast to where you want to go. While that’s true, that doesn’t give you any sort of structure that will guarantee the results you’re looking for. Whether it’s via email, Slack, smoke signal, carrier pigeon, training, or company meeting, let people know when things change and why. -- but if your audience ever believes that about you, it’ll be because you proved it to them time, not because you told them to believe it. If that won’t be the case, you should record the audio of your workshop (not video, it can make people nervous), take lots of notes, and work very closely with the individual who will. But what should your style guide include? But if you hear any of these objections, you cannot cave. By taking the time to define and document our brand’s voice, tone, and style parameters, our style guide will empower us to create better content that resonates with the right people we’re trying to attract in three ways by ensuring we are always: Putting our audience first with our content. The style guide features updated direction and new guidance for subjects that weren't around when the last edition was released. We typically see this with new startups, where they’re having these conversations for the first time -- which totally makes sense. Before you get your hopes up, this chapter will not be as instructive or hand-holding as the previous one. In a lot of cases, you’ll still need some serious thinking time to bring it all together, but you’ll probably have a good idea during the workshop about some of the choices that need to be made. 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