Style guidelines don’t get the recognition they deserve.
And no, we’re not talking about a branding style guide — the document that outlines your brand guidelines for your logo, font, and brand colors, among other design elements and formats. We’re talking about a content style guide — your best tool to make sure all your company’s content maintains a consistent voice and brand personality, regardless of department or location.
What’s a content style guide?
A content style guide is the fundamental pillar of your enterprise content strategy. Ideally, it unites all your content creators — no matter what department or location they work in — and helps them to standardize their writing style and tone. This keeps writers on-brand and using the correct company-specific terminology.
Similar to how your brand style guide is adopted to maintain consistency across how your company applies its visual identity elements, a content style guide contains company-specific writing guidelines that shape your content and keep everyone on-brand.
And successful content style guides achieve several things simultaneously:
- Define your tone of voice and harmonize all your enterprise content.
- Integrate seamlessly into your content creation environments.
- Evolve as your brand identity evolves.
So, what’s the big deal?
You might be wondering what the fuss is all about with content style guides. How do they lead to awesome business outcomes?
Well, they play a vital role in creating engaging and effective customer experiences.
Don’t believe us? Here are some statistics to consider:
|Marketing messaging volume will increase by 40 percent in 2021
|Typical Fortune 2000 companies average 30+ million web visits per year – totaling 700 million minutes!
|Internet traffic in some countries increased 60 percent following the pandemic outbreak
Now, more than ever, customers and prospects are meeting and primarily engaging with your company digitally. As customer experiences increasingly take place online, regardless of industry or sector, you need to realize the value of your content asset.
Though you might not have thought of content as an asset before, it’s actually one of your business’s biggest assets. It speaks on behalf of your brand when people can’t, and it guides people through every stage of the customer journey. Although it might not end up on your balance sheet, content is the fuel that keeps your organization moving.
So that’s why it’s critical to have a well-defined content style guide (not just a brand style guide) that’s used at scale across your enterprise. Through a unique and consistent voice, your content creates parallel positive experiences for your target audience, and builds relationships with them as they get to know your brand.
Most companies focus on visual brand consistency by developing brand guidelines. And although that’s important for recognition, it’s just as important that your content uses a consistent brand voice. Plus, consistency in your communications makes your brand voice recognizable. Meaning it’s also a vital part of your brand strategy.
The top 5 reasons your company needs a content style guide
- Keeps everyone up to date with the latest content guidelines.
- Results in more consistent, better quality content.
- Helps your company establish and maintain uniform messaging and communications.
- Keeps your company branding consistent when it comes to your name, abbreviations for your name, and your tagline or slogan — so you don’t confuse your customers.
- Guides all content creators, no matter what department they work in.
And when you think about it (almost) everyone creates content for your organization. From support articles, and white papers, to blog posts and website microcopy, content is produced in all departments and needs to be governed by a content style guide. Which means your entire organization should adopt your style guide — not just your content marketing team. So we recommend storing it in a central location where it has the best chance of getting used. And keep it current and reflective of any changes in your naming conventions or other rules.
Creating your own style guidelines
It’s time to start outlining your content style guidelines. Unsure where to start? Well, all enterprise style guidelines harness the basic formatting rules for one of the major editorial style guides. Adopting an established editorial style guide provides the foundation for standardizing spelling, grammar, formatting, word usage, and other variations of the English language — so you don’t have to! And you get more time to focus on company-specific guidance.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the options you can choose from:
- The Chicago Manual of Style. This set of writing standards is used in commercial and academic publishing — so it’s one of the most widely used style guides and beloved by writers, academics, editors, and publishers.
- The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook. The AP Stylebook is a set of writing standards for news media, and one of the most comprehensive and ubiquitous style guides. AP style contains commonly accepted journalistic standards for usage, spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
- The Modern Language Association (MLA) Style Manual. The MLA Style Manual is used mostly in the academic world and is primarily a set of guidelines for formatting and citation, in scholarly writing and manuscripts. It’s often used in teaching and lays out the principles behind citing and documenting sources.
- The Elements of Style. Written in 1918 and revised decades later by EB White, The Elements of Style is short and to the point. With an emphasis on clarity and simplicity, the rules are hard and fast — but set out simply.
If you want more details about what these style guides have to offer, make sure to check out our four style guides that every writer should know about blog. But of course, there are other editorial manuals you could chose from. Guides like the Diversity Style Guide and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. It matters less which one you chose, and more that you consistently uphold those standards across all enterprise content.
The next step is including company-specific guidance for your content writers. These guidelines should focus on different elements of language and writing style, such as:
- Tone of voice
- Product and service-related words or phrases (brand terminology)
- Grammar guidelines (or your lack of them)
- Accessibility standards
- Inclusive language
This part of the process is the most challenging. It’s difficult to know where to start and what’s important to include in your company-specific guidelines. That’s why we created the guide Content Style Guides: The Path to Creating Consistent and Engaging Customer Experiences. This guide walks you through the process of outlining the guidelines that make your style guide unique. It also discusses what role technology must play in helping to enforce and maintain your guidelines across the enterprise. Download your copy today and start creating compelling customer experiences, fueled by effective, on-brand content.
Bringing your content style guide to life
Most companies underestimate the power of using and enforcing a content style guide. And because of that they often under-deliver when it comes to customer experience. Our platform, Acrolinx, is here to help you unleash the power of your style guidelines. We can help you outline, enforce, and maintain your content guidelines by capturing and digitizing your content style guide and aligning all content creators (regardless of department or location) to meet your standards.
Acrolinx gives your writers immediate in-depth feedback on the clarity and style of their writing — making sure it’s aligned to your brand. This means that large teams, with different language skills, across different locations, can be guided to meet your content strategy and goals. Automation carries the burden of time-consuming editing for quality control, and integrates into your content creation process to deliver automatic alignment. And this fuels efficiency. From day one, Acrolinx maximizes the value of your content, by boosting its overall quality and effectiveness, and giving you time and money back to reinvest in other higher value activities.
Want to learn more about how Acrolinx can bring your content style guide to life? Let’s talk.