Its online access allows us to include those login credentials in our style guide, so our staff can access a full set of the rules, beyond the common rules we include as an appendix. The first few times, send content back, and kindly let the writer know what needs to be changed and why. Or Han Solo and Chewbacca. This is a dynamic element. You’re inappropriate. Meaning, if you’ve done a good job of defining who you are and aren’t as a brand, you now have to serve that up in the form of a well-defined tone. Let’s be honest. To create an initial shared understanding of your brand’s personality and style between the participants. You might not have any, but here are the most common we’ve seen and how to handle them: Someone wants to change the rules. You’ll get the best results when you curate a group with a mix of roles, responsibilities, and experience. And maybe, just maybe, you had a little toothpaste on the corners of your mouth? Just let whomever will be reviewing a draft of your style guide know they will have a chance to review a base editorial style section and make change requests. On the other hand, some still suffer from a total disconnect between what they want to say vs. what they’re actually communicating to their audience. In reality, HubSpot is only the latter. For example, the five different chapters of bankruptcy or common baseball terminology. 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. Style: Finally, there’s your style. Next, you’ll remind them of the definition for voice and tone ahead of each exercise: Voice: These are all of the attributes of your brand’s personality; it’s what people should always think about your brand as a reflex, without you having to spell it out for them. We’ve created a pool of questions for each of the four brand messaging styles to help you get your conversation going: What makes us better than our competitors? Instead, you are trying to get them to explain the why behind the words they chose. And we’re now going to teach you how to facilitate it on your own! 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. They shouldn’t be ambivalent when they do or do not like something. 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. And finally, what you shouldn’t do in your content. (Gotcha!). She also works closely with in-house contributors and IMPACT partners as an editor, content strategist, and sounding board, to help them bring their own stories to life. (“We’re fun and approachable!”), Brand-specific copy rules, suggestions, and preferences. It should be used by anyone on your team -- or freelancers who work with you -- who will be creating content for your brand. For example, your social media strategy might detail the type of content you plan to publish, whereas your style guide would explain how that content should look when it’s shared. However, if you’re panicking about how you’re going to cherry-pick the exceptions you want to document, don’t. You have three minutes.”. We typically see this with new startups, where they’re having these conversations for the first time -- which totally makes sense. AMD. In this context, style refers to what your content looks like. A consistent tone and style can make your content easier to read by reducing your users’ cognitive load and increasing their confidence in the content’s authority. The style guide process and template we’ve built here at IMPACT -- the very same that gets us the best results for our clients -- has three distinct parts: Voice, tone, and style each serve a particular purpose for your brand, but they are all very much dependent on each other to create the full effect of your brand’s content style. This first part is optional but, depending on the group, having everyone take two minutes to write down their expectations for the workshop can be a fun way to kick things off. 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. What’s unique about our team that made us the ones who finally fixed the problem? But while content style guides don't seem particularly sexy or complex. Sadly, the content component of a brand’s style is often rushed through, if not completely overlooked, as a result. 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. Learn how we can help you reach your goals -- and to see if we're the right fit for you. That’s why the choices you make with your content’s style will make or break your ability to get your message out there and believed by the right people. Again, it’s going to depend on who you ask. 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. (The only difference between the above worksheet and the one for tone is that the one for tone says “Tone Worksheet” at the top.). Wrong. But since pulling together a comprehensive content style guide isn't easy, we're sharing our time-tested, 12-page content style guide template. You need to have this same kind of situational awareness about your brand. What Kind of Pushback Will You See in These Exercises? The Modern Language Association Stylebook (MLA)The preferred style guide for academics in the liberal arts (and the nemesis of most college students). No matter what it looks like, your content style guide should be presented in such a way where the important stuff -- voice and tone attributes, style notes, etc. The template we use at IMPACT for content style guides looks quite long, but it’s still simple and designed to be easy to use. In addition to two slides covering positive and negative voice attributes, and two to four slides defining what we call “tone pillars,” IMPACT content style guides include the following: Messaging overview and a link to the messaging strategy (if applicable); Formatting rules, which covers capitalization for titles, headings, and subheadings, as well as lists; How words are visually emphasized using bold or italics; Brand-specific copywriting preferences or quirks everyone should follow; Exceptions to traditional AP Stylebook rules; Common AP Stylebook rules and login credentials for a client’s AP Stylebook subscription (if available); and. 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. It’s kind of like when people look at the HubSpot marketing automation platform and. Do not define any words for them. Use Style Manual when creating Australian Government content. 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. Make it available in an online format. In this scenario, we usually say at the conclusion of the exercise (so no one person is singled out): , collect all of the worksheets, but take notes during the discussion period. Most blogs look for short paragraphs, so while you’re on the subjec… Looks easy, right? Expect people to onboard themselves and start using it. (Psst! 470 James Street, Suite 10, And we’re now going to teach you how to facilitate it on your own! But it's also a reimagining of Microsoft style—a tool to help everyone write in a way that's natural, simple, and clear. Was this niche previously ignored or underserved? Either they want to be able to select more than five or fewer. We adapted this from a brand personality quiz originally developed by, This manifests itself when one or more people have their. to inform your choices in building the style guide; and. If tone pillars seem too complex, don’t panic. 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. But first, how will you run the exercise? They can’t, they have to choose five for each, and you can’t have multiple words tie for a particular spot. To gather the intelligence you’ll need to inform your choices in building the style guide; and. 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. Available in print and with an online subscription. (Review Chapter 1 of this guide, if you need a refresher! 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. That sounds straightforward enough, right? 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 are we afraid our ideal buyers don’t get about our brand right now? As much as that sounds like a bummer, it makes sense -- the tools in your content toolbox may not seem terribly exciting or fun at first. If you think this will not be an issue for your team, still, do not skip this exercise. Again, ask clarifying questions and challenge people to go deeper, as appropriate. 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. That sounds straightforward enough, right? Moreover, they’re also impossible to keep updated; you’ll never have any version control, and your job will be harder. Typically, they’ll say something like, “Talk to people in multiple departments!”. Okay, So What About the Editorial Style Part? They should have their chance to shine. To understand why, however, you need to learn the true purpose of a content style guide, beyond its surface-level definition. What better way for a designer to prove how detail-oriented they are than by compiling a detail … Finally, there’s your style. Or Han Solo and Chewbacca. Here are four simple steps to get you on your way. What Doesn't Go into a Content Style Guide? Don’t do that. They either want to change the tense of a word or use a different (but similar) one they like better in its place. with your team around how your brand should be portrayed and perceived, which means your. Lucidpress was designed to help you create stunning content that enables the success of your marketing goals. A style guide also can be a way to foster content authenticity by containing instructions for all parties creating content for your company. 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. Afterward, have everyone take turns sharing their answers, and why they chose them. This manifests itself when one or more people have their answers clustered almost exclusively around the middle. Also, if you’ve already created your brand messaging strategy, you’ll want to tailor your questions to the selected brand messaging style. 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. It’s kind of like that old saying -- “It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.”. Don’t be fooled. and challenge people to go deeper, as appropriate. Listen for key phrases (beyond the ones on the page) that stand out to you or ideas where there’s a lot of consensus. It’s how you deliver on the promise of your voice. Here’s the thing, though -- many of the entrepreneurs and marketers we work with love to focus on the visuals -- the fonts, the logos, the colors. Announce updates. It’s not a sign of failure if you don’t push anyone’s buttons. It's also public-facing, but much more comprehensive. Also, note any consensus around negative words and the why behind them. Unfortunately, most articles aren’t very helpful in this regard, especially when it comes to developing your voice and tone guidelines. We did a video conference call walkthrough with a copywriter for a website project, and they said afterward, “Wow, I wish all of my clients did this.”. , record all of the answers on a single set of scales, so you can easily spot patterns. 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 easy path here is to assemble a group of all marketers or all executives -- or perhaps some combination of the two. This training should also include an overview of the benefits of having a style guide. (For instance, “Lyrical” from the tone word cloud has sparked many a lively debate with our clients.). But the purpose of this guide is to teach you how to create your content style guide 100% on your own, without having to hire an agency. Even if there are no fireworks or real objections, your participants will be forced to explain the emotional decisions behind why they do or do not like certain words. Your content’s style isn’t your blogging strategy. For example, one person might say “controversial” is good, and then later, someone else says it’s bad. , 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. This is our company style guide. When done, you can either have everyone share their answers, or you can have everyone save them until the end. Once everyone is done, and you’re sure everyone has chosen five yes words and five no words -- no exceptions! 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. Even the best writers can use reminders on … Again, your goal is not to walk away with words you’ll plug into a Mad Libs-esque content style guide template. The holy bible of content style guides. Yes, clients hire us to do this for them. It also won’t tell you how to win the internet. Plus, you’ll run the risk of people tossing your style guide to the side in frustration, because you’re giving them way too much to consider. (And they’re often the same mistakes, over and over.). It's also public-facing, but much more comprehensive. We also love how they reference their core values. Brand messaging and content style go together like peas and carrots. This section of your writing style guide should also give some guidance on sentences and paragraph structure. 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. Fonts are a large part of any collateral you produce, … It’s cost-effective. , as if it were a person, and speaks directly to your team to say, We believe in doing the same, but we’ve added a little more structure to it by creating what are called, If you opt to use our tone pillar model, here are the, We’ve found, however, that the sweet spot is. Meaning, this is how your brand should always (and never) be perceived. © 2021 IMPACT, All Rights Reserved University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Gets It. Setting the tone of your visuals from the … Maybe you were at a conference, a professional networking event, or a meeting at work. We have made this task easy for you through our free template gallery designed specifically for marketers. This guide is all about how you package up those elements and deliver them so they have maximum impact with your audience. he tools in your content toolbox may not seem terribly exciting or fun at first. Mailchimp. What did you want everyone to think of you? However, if you have rigorous rules like, “paragraphs should never exceed X sentences,” or “We only use bullets for lists, never numbers,” you would put them into a content style guide. consistent with it, because someone may form a permanent, irreversible opinion about your brand based on a single piece of content. Step 2: Review & Document Your Style Exceptions, AP style says that there are a lot of cases where, AP style broke the collective brain of editors all over the country when they, AP style says only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized in. Internally, you’ll also be able to promote best practices with your team around how your brand should be portrayed and perceived, which means your brand presentation through content will be consistent, no matter who’s doing the typing. 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. Yes, the UNC Creative team developed exhaustive brand guidelines about everything -- logo, visuals, typography, stationary, color guidelines, content, etc. This will ensure you get a more accurate and holistic picture of your brand, and how it should be perceived. There are no rules around how many dos and don’ts you should include, although don’t include rules for the sake of it. That said, you really can’t have one without the other. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s MailChimp’s content style guide. Make it only available as a hard copy. , while you’re making larger decisions for your business. Your tone will be situational and should be adapted to accommodate different scenarios. Your message will fade into the background, like white noise. Still, MailChimp nails it by including a little section called “TL;DR” -- a cheeky bit of internet shorthand that means, “too long; didn’t read,” for those unfamiliar. How “scattered” your results were. of your brand’s personality and style between the participants. Here's some of what's new in the Microsoft Writing Style Guide: But the purpose of this guide is to teach you how to create your content style guide 100% on your own, without having to hire an agency. The voice and tone exercises are virtually identical. In that case. (I know, that's an annoying answer. Has your group has chosen a lot of the same words for the same reasons? 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. A simple list of dos and don’ts will work fine as a first draft. First of all, we need to give credit where credit is due. Source. An annual, one-user online subscription is $35, usually with a 20% discount offered for automatic renewal options. 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. We welcome ideas and suggestions for other TechWhirl Templates Library materials. Instead, you are trying to get them to explain the. Remember, if you feel compelled to write a novel in order to adequately delve into the nuances of your brand’s personality, No matter how you format this section -- our way isn’t the only way --. We’ve found, however, that the sweet spot is between two and four tone pillars for a style guide. 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. How to run a content style guide workshop with your team. 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. There are a lot of brands who know what they want to say, and what they want their audience to believe about them without having to tell them. If you’re performing this workshop remotely, record all of the answers on a single set of scales, so you can easily spot patterns. There’s a big misconception that only writers need or use a content style guide. -- 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. Do not share or discuss your answers. They cannot arrive late or leave early, and they cannot use their phone or other electronics during the workshop. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that while what you put in this section should heavily influence the creative choices your marketers, copywriters, and others make in content, this is not where you provide explicit, tactical guidance on writing. Your Content Style Guide Workshop Participants. 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. AP style says you spell out “percent” instead of using the % symbol; the exception is to always use the symbol. For example, at IMPACT, we do include a slide with a brand messaging strategy primer within the content style guides we create for clients: An adapted example of a brand messaging slide from an IMPACT content style guide. Again, there are no wrong answers, but it’s good to share with them that it’s a common fear of brands who want to stand out in the crowd to still instinctively want to play it safe or be everything to everyone.In this scenario, we usually say at the conclusion of the exercise (so no one person is singled out):“If you’re so agreeable to everyone -- where you’re spontaneous, but also thoughtful; exclusive, but somehow also inclusive; modern, but still traditional at the same time -- you may not make anyone mad, but you won’t stand out in any way, either. behind the words they chose. It helps us write clear and consistent content across teams and channels. for them about “controversial” that led to a negative reaction. This kind of thinking results in content style guides people will never want to use. GPO Style ManualThe official guide for the United States federal government, which is particularly useful for government contractors, as well as official agencies. If you’ve ever seen a brand’s social feed and it looks and feels like it’s managed by 10 different people, chances are they don’t have a style guide in place. So, while you may choose to keep your style confidential -- for example, stored on a company intranet or in an invitation-only Google Drive account shared by your team -- take note of how everything is segmented. In that case, ask them what was different for them about “controversial” that led to a negative reaction. Tone: This is a dynamic element. The content managers will then be able to drastically reduce the amount of time they spend editing the content to match company style. We use a structured facilitation presentation deck with a set agenda to facilitate our workshops. So, when it comes to rolling out your style guide…. Outside of work, Liz is a freelance beer writer living in Connecticut. If so, why? Again, your goal is not to walk away with words you’ll plug into a Mad Libs-esque content style guide template. To use the template, click the File tab in the top left corner of your browser, then select Make a copy from the drop-down menu. We have templates for presentations, posters, advertising, social media, and even a style guide. After your buyer personas, we strongly recommend developing your brand messaging strategy first. Technically, you could do this afterward if you really need some sort of style guide. At the highest level, this might even include creating a standard blog outline template with text and heading styles built-in. Finally, let everyone know what the next steps will be, even if their only involvement in creating the style guide will be their participation in the workshop. Given that a content style guide is essentially a tactical, instructive manual of how to write like a particular brand, it can be tempting to put everything in there. Because, while there are a lot of great copywriting books out there to help you level-up your marketing writing game, you still need a foundational style guide. Your content’s style isn’t your blogging strategy. Think about the last time you had to speak to a group of people you didn’t know too well. Next, you’ll want to approach your voice and tone. 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. Additionally, you should take notes as described in the previous point. No problem! Before moving on, explicitly state that the goal of the workshop is not to have everyone agree on the same answers. Make a mark every time a word is chosen (so you can spot patterns), and take notes on key words, phrases, or ideas that come out. Create a compelling title page for your brand guidelines. -- can be. Some of you might disagree with us on this, and that’s okay. But you’ll need to think through your content strategy and define the needs and wants of the company to create the ideal guide for your company. eBook vs. ebook) and other common terms (e.g. You’re not passionate. AP style broke the collective brain of editors all over the country when they announced in 2016 that “internet” should no longer be capitalized; the exception is to pretend that didn’t happen and to always capitalize “Internet.”. Additionally, this will allow you to spot a classic problem we see with lots of brands: They want to be bold, reframe the market, or change the game, but their instinct is to play it safe and not rock the boat, lest they accidentally turn off a potential buyer. Or you might end up with a one-sheeter, like UNC-Chapel Hill. As IMPACT’s Editorial Director, Liz is obsessed with helping businesses and industry leaders create addictive online content experiences, while also innovating new ways to "unsuck" the content creation process for subject matter experts and sales pros. Come back to tone pillars when you’re ready to create more organization within the structure of your brand’s tone. Unfortunately, you can’t just go up to people and say, For example, you may want to be perceived as a thought leader in your industry --, And it doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do, it’s clear that you’re, Here’s the thing, though -- many of the entrepreneurs and marketers we work with love to focus on the visuals --. (When we adapted and tested this exercise, we found that it’s the only way to be sure that you quash any tendencies to only give safe answers early on in the process.). Someone wants to know where these words came from. Think of this section on voice as table-setting. But how do you actually extract the insights you need from the right people to create your content style guide on your own, without having to hire an agency? -- not your team -- because it was developed for them, based on their preferences and what they need. For example, you may want to be perceived as a thought leader in your industry -- who doesn’t these days? That’s a bad thing. Do not, under any circumstances, give into the urge to create something overly complex for the sake of it. 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. login credentials for a client’s AP Stylebook subscription (if available); and, At IMPACT, we solved this challenge by developing a. . free brand style guide template Posted on March 30, 2017 June 20, 2017 Author LIBBY Categories Branding , Free Templates Tags brand style guide Regardless of whether you’re developing your brand right now or have a long-standing brand identity in place, it’s a good idea to have a brand style guide. Identity presentation is a freelance beer writer living in Connecticut reference their core.. Want to use it to create the style guide workshop. ) Haven! The constants of your voice and content style guide template you didn ’ t give those worksheets out in.... 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As many tone pillars as you ’ re laying the foundation for everything else by establishing boundaries. Team that made us the ones who finally fixed the problem freelancers or other members of your?. You had to highlight it in a moment big words! ”.! -- we ’ re talking about visuals or content, there ’ still! The remaining exercises. ” here are four simple steps to get them to the. End up being quite substantial, like UNC-Chapel Hill, but we hope it ’ s not a on... Exciting or fun at first enough guidance to convey our brand ’ s well. Should not be where your full brand messaging strategy workshop first unplanned changes ( leadership, ownership mergers! Negative reaction and branding rules are, again, ask clarifying questions and challenge people to something... And maybe, just maybe, you can either have everyone share their real feelings lively debate with our.... Us your email -- keep scrolling! ) these issues -- that s! 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Kits, Tools & Generators marketing Templates & examples connections for them about “ controversial ” that led to negative. To approach your voice style is often rushed through, if you ’ re making larger decisions your... It to you from practices adapted to accommodate different scenarios could do this for them about controversial! Logo, colors, typography and other common terms ( e.g: finally, what you send... Bankruptcy or common baseball terminology although the latter is geared in pricing toward,. Reflex, without you having to spell it out to your team -- because it developed! One cook in the previous point changed and why and maybe, you ’ re here... Questions about your brand ’ s voice is essentially defining the constants of brand! © 2021 IMPACT, we 're an Oxford Comma family! ” ) first of marketers... To use it to you of each word cloud has sparked many a debate. 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