Take control of your business and create a content style guide
If you’re a writer, editor, or content strategist in a small business or startup, chances are you’ve had to deal with the frustration of trying to create consistent and compelling content. You spend weeks working on a piece only to have your boss critique it by saying, “this isn’t how we write here.” Or maybe you notice that all your coworkers use different styles when writing their titles or descriptions. This can happen when there’s no central source for publishing content within an organization and no “style guide” for how we present information online.
A style guide helps writers and editors create consistent content across all departments so readers can easily find what they need on the web. It’s basically like an instruction manual for creating good content: one that contains guidelines and standards for everything from grammar down to paragraph structure. In this post, I’ll walk through how you can ensure your company has its own effective style guide no matter what industry your business is in.
Why should you create a content style guide?
The key to creating a content style guide is consistency. Whether you’re communicating with your customers or just trying to maintain a consistent image for your brand, having a clear set of guidelines will help keep the look and feel of your content unified. Preventing mistakes is another big reason everyone should have clear content rules. Having these guidelines in place can prevent even minor errors from happening when someone’s writing copy for the first time—and even more so if multiple people are simultaneously working on the same piece of content. Creating a content style guide will also benefit SEO by making it easier for search engines to crawl and understand the information on your site. This means that you’ll have an easier time getting found online!
When should you work on your content style guide?
There’s no right or wrong time to start working on your content style guide, but you should do it once you have more than three people on your content development team for your business and a strategy for all of the content types in your company. Suppose your company has successfully created significant content on its channels (also known as a channel matrix). In this case, an audit is required to show what content and formats are already produced and published. This would be the perfect time to develop a strategic and cohesive content style guide so none of your content is broken or disconnected from your content goals.
How do I get started with my content style guide?
Before you begin, you must grab your content development team and whoever else has creative input on your company’s content strategy. Creating a content style guide is a collaborative process and requires all the people involved in creating and maintaining the company’s creative content. This could include business owners and stakeholders such as a project manager, content strategist, designer and developer.
Who should be involved with the content style guide?
- Content writers are the most important members of your team since they write all the content that needs to be edited and formatted according to your finalized rules.
- Designers because they’re responsible for creating visual designs that need to match what has been decided by editors and writers.
- Editors or copy editors can play different roles depending on their responsibilities at work. Still, an editor ensures that written text meets specific standards before publishing it online or in print.
Once your team and everyone has been briefed on their roles, schedule time around milestones, so everyone knows what they’re working towards and when they’ll be able to determine whether they’ve hit those targets. You may decide that you need more people than yourself working on this project; consider hiring additional freelancers or remote workers skilled in writing content according to style guidelines like AP Style Manual or Chicago Manual of Style if necessary. In addition, look into hiring someone who specializes in human-centred design (HCI) practices like ethnography and personas—these teams will help ensure that your brand persona translates into real-life experiences for your customers.
What should be included in your content style guide?
A content style guide can be as robust or simple as you would like. However, the most straightforward content style guide should include a list of your brand voice guidelines, including tone and voice. And style guidelines relating to grammar, spelling, content layouts even templates. Here are some other pieces of information to include:
- A list of all central style guides that are used in your organization. For example, if you use Google Analytics or HubSpot, there may be specific style guides for using those tools. You can also include any internal papers or templates created for specific projects or initiatives that are essential to your company’s workflow (e.g., a PowerPoint deck).
- Images illustrating what types of images are acceptable for each medium (for example, photos versus illustrations), as well as contact information for the people responsible for creating them.
Where should you publish your content style guide?
Your content style guide should be available to everyone in your company who needs it. It should not be buried in a wiki or held hostage on an internal server that only certain people can access. Also, consider publishing your style guide somewhere central—like a shared drive or a website—so that it’s easy for anyone in the organization to find and use.
A solid content style guide helps everyone on your team write great content.
Finally, ensure you’ve got someone responsible for updating the content style guide so that nothing falls through the cracks and becomes out-of-date over time.
A solid content style guide helps everyone on your team write great content in a consistent tone, voice, and look. It’s an invaluable resource for new employees. A style guide is a go-to source when you’re unsure of the best way to approach a type of communication. It provides consistency across your brand—from email campaigns and social media posts to blog posts. By creating rules for delivering your company content, you can ensure that everything fits together seamlessly so that customers know what they’re getting every time they interact with your brand.
Whether you’re just starting to build your content style guide or have been working on it for years, we hope these tips will help you create the best possible version of your style guide. If you need extra support with your content style guide, feel free to reach out with questions or book a discovery call.