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. How much work you put into this section is entirely up to you, because there’s good news. What are we afraid our ideal buyers don’t get about our brand right now? Unfortunately, most articles aren’t very helpful in this regard, especially when it comes to developing your voice and tone guidelines. Ideas delivered with clarity move people to take action. 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 --. Okay, So What About the Editorial Style Part? If one or more people fall into the “playing it safe” trap described above, gently point out why that’s an issue. template we use at IMPACT for content style guides, download our content style guide template, great “Internet vs. internet” shift of 2016. A simple content style guide template will be different for each organization, depending on your needs, the content you want to produce and your target audience. 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. Afterward, have everyone take turns sharing their answers, and why they chose them. 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. and challenge people to go deeper, as appropriate. Add your own logo, colors, typography and other elements to fully represent your brand. We’ve found, however, that the sweet spot is between two and four tone pillars for a style guide. But it's also a reimagining of Microsoft style—a tool to help everyone write in a way that's natural, simple, and clear. This is a dynamic element. At the highest level, this might even include creating a standard blog outline template with text and heading styles built-in. Was this niche previously ignored or underserved? In that case, ask them what was different for them about “controversial” that led to a negative reaction. But what should your style guide include? Here are four simple steps to get you on your way. We typically see this with new startups, where they’re having these conversations for the first time -- which totally makes sense. 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. We think templates are essential to the content process, especially if you have more than one cook in the content kitchen. Once you have your style guide finalized, it’s time to put it out into circulation for use. And finally, what you shouldn’t do in your content. 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. Generally speaking, the good ones include some form of all the following elements: Brand personality traits. That said, it’s our experience that developing your messaging strategy in advance makes developing your content style so much easier, since they build on each other. AP style says that there are a lot of cases where job titles are not capitalized, even with a name; the exception is to always capitalize job titles or, at the very least, always capitalize job titles with a name. First of all, we need to give credit where credit is due. Let them know, however, that they don’t have to rank the words. 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. Whether it’s via email, Slack, smoke signal, carrier pigeon, training, or company meeting, let people know when things change and why. Yes, the UNC Creative team developed exhaustive brand guidelines about everything -- logo, visuals, typography, stationary, color guidelines, content, etc. Style guidance for places (addresses, cities, states), academic degrees, names, and acronyms. Technically, you could do this afterward if you really need some sort of style guide. The same holds true for your content’s style. How “scattered” your results were. While it doesn’t need to be fancy, you still need to have a proactive and defined rollout strategy for your style guide that includes trainings and follow-up, as well as a start date of when you will begin using it. (You can read the full guide without giving us your email -- keep scrolling!). Available in print and with an online subscription. That’s a bad thing. Don’t be fooled. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)Beloved by book publishers, and fiction and nonfiction authors. consistent with it, because someone may form a permanent, irreversible opinion about your brand based on a single piece of content. Not only do they allow you to keep everyone on track (no one forgets the headline when there’s a required field for it in your system or a box for it in your text document), but they can also help your team think strategically and holistically about the content they’re creating for each page. As a result, they try to over-engineer the final product by making it longer, because they equate complexity and length with importance. Your entire focus should be on managing the discussion of the group, asking clarifying questions, encouraging participation, and guiding your participants through the exercises. We believe it’s a fantastic foundational tool on which to build your content style, but don’t be afraid to take it in a different direction. 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. Use this free template to create a Web Content Style Guide for your non-profit. This is the not-so-fun part, but you should send back work that doesn’t adhere to the new style guide. (Review Chapter 1 of this guide, if you need a refresher! A simple list of dos and don’ts will work fine as a first draft. GPO Style ManualThe official guide for the United States federal government, which is particularly useful for government contractors, as well as official agencies. They should grow and evolve along with you and your team. New Haven, CT, 06513 The end result may end up being quite substantial, like MailChimp’s. If you plan to have it available in print, that’s fine, too. 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. Since it is designed for journalists, it’s not only versatile and neutral, it’s always being updated in real-time -- you don't need to wait for new editions -- based on current events. The holy bible of content style guides. (The only difference between the above worksheet and the one for tone is that the one for tone says “Tone Worksheet” at the top.). Before you get your hopes up, this chapter will not be as instructive or hand-holding as the previous one. 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. 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. 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. Your content’s style isn’t your blogging strategy. If you think this will not be an issue for your team, still, do not skip this exercise. 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? What Does a Content Style Guide Look Like? They either want to change the tense of a word or use a different (but similar) one they like better in its place. What Kind of Pushback Will You See in These Exercises? But since pulling together a comprehensive content style guide isn't easy, we're sharing our time-tested, 12-page content style guide template. 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. 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. For example, you may want to be perceived as a thought leader in your industry -- who doesn’t these days? Because, while there are a lot of. It won’t tell you what your messaging should be -- again. This is the only exercise where participants will answer from their own perspective, rather than trying to step into the shoes of their personas. 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. Honestly, people post about it on our Facebook … Ask lots of clarifying questions. Unveil the next one only when you’re ready to move on. They can’t do that either. Additional guidance that’s often used by journalists on media law, social media use, data reporting, etc. Definitions, as well as usage, spelling, formatting and capitalization standards for words and phrases. If you plan to have it available in print, that’s fine, too. It won’t tell you what your messaging should be -- again, that’s an entirely separate process. Pushback, in this case, is not a negative; it’s by design. Some of you might disagree with us on this, and that’s okay. In that case. Use this free style guide template layout to create a custom brand manual for your startup, small or large company. eBook vs. ebook) and other common terms (e.g. 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. (If you’re looking for a shortcut, our content style guide template has an appendix with common AP style rules, which will make it easier for you to pull out your exceptions, if you have any.). 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. In this context, style refers to what your content looks like. It’s how you deliver on the promise of your voice. What Doesn't Go into a Content Style Guide? 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. There’s a big misconception that only writers need or use a content style guide. Ever. Given the complexity of their organization and its size, history, and tradition, however, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Let’s be honest. No problem! The voice and tone exercises are virtually identical. You may be wrong about your assumption, and it’s still a great calibration exercise. login credentials for a client’s AP Stylebook subscription (if available); and, At IMPACT, we solved this challenge by developing a. . Outside of large, planned or unplanned changes (leadership, ownership, mergers, etc. It's also public-facing, but much more comprehensive. This kind of thinking results in content style guides people will never want to use. So, who should be involved in your content style guide workshop? (Psst! 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. 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. Having a content style guide in place will guarantee your content always looks good and -- most of all -- what you’re saying and what you’re actually communicating to your audience are in sync. If someone asks what a word means, tell them however they want to interpret it, and they should do so for ALL exercises. You’ll also use three worksheets to run the branding exercises, but don’t give those worksheets out in advance. Even the best writers can use reminders on … internet vs. Internet). 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