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What to include in a style guide

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Jamey Gentry, Director
Marketing Communications

There’s an old adage that “people buy from people” or to paraphrase, “people buy from companies they trust.” Historically, trust was built through personal relationships. In today’s world businesses use many methodologies to gain and nurture trust, including branding. To establish brand trust, you must be consistent over time and across channels, so your buyers know exactly who they’re dealing with.

Making the complex more simple

Depending on your product or service, marketing can be complex and expensive, often with longer sales cycles. Delivering a consistent brand experience allows you to drive home the core values of your company. Inconsistent execution can have a negative impact on your brand’s credibility and hinder recognition among prospects and customers.

Brand consistency is not about strategy; it’s about discipline. And having discipline implies that there is a structured way to execute it. Consider these four steps:

1. Broadcast your brand

Is there clarity around your brand? You can (and should) create a style guide that allows marketing, sales and all partners to understand the specifics of how your brand is used — and just as importantly, how it is not. Create and enforce the guidelines everywhere, both internally and externally. Seek out rogue employees who exercise freedom in creating their own email signature or cut and paste your logo on presentations.

A brand style guide should include:

  • Target audience
  • Marketing personas
  • Brand story
  • Brand essence
  • Brand promise
  • Brand personality
  • Brand platform
  • Value proposition
  • Key differentiators
  • 30-second elevator speech

Sharing a brand style guide gives your colleagues and partners not only a resource for usage, but a reason to reinforce it. When they believe in and engage with your brand story, they can advocate for consistent execution.

2. Focus on what your brand says

Your brand voice is an important driver of consistency. It can be difficult to teach, as each person’s individuality can get injected into written and spoken words. Provide as much detail as possible, such as:

  • Tone
  • Acronyms
  • Distinctive spellings
  • Word/phrase usage (and what to avoid)
  • Bullets and numbering
  • Preferred resources (i.e., AP Style)
  • Abbreviations
  • Salutations and derivations
  • Capitalization

This level of detail decreases the time spent to train people about your brand. This is especially helpful when outsourcing creative. Most importantly it drives discipline.

3. Don’t forget the graphics

Advancements in software has made most people capable of “desktop design.” Unfortunately, whenever there is a void, outliers can usually create what they need on their own … with varying levels of consistency.

Your best bet is a centralized repository for approved graphics to fit a variety of formats. A digital asset management (DAM) solution is one option or a centralized server with an easy-to-use file structure system. Whatever you choose, make the assets widely available to deter DIY graphics.

Of course you still need to provide education about how to access the assets, and ensure everyone understands the importance of returning to the repository each and every time to retrieve the most current assets.

4. Encourage employees to live the brand

A little more esoteric is getting employees to “behave” like the brand. This is the toughest part of brand consistency overall. Whether your tone is laid back or highly professional, get the word out that there is an expectation — and lead by example. We’ve all seen companies “shape up” when clients are coming. Wouldn’t it be great if it was always like that?

Here are a few next-level ways to create brand ambassadors throughout your organization:

  • Write call scripts for customer service and sales
  • Develop standards for client meetings
  • Circulate company email signatures
  • Create standards for office behavior


You can’t take a one-and-done approach to brand identity. It’s a process that requires continual effort to diligently and consistently maintain it as a company. The greatest reward may come when your clients reflect back what working with you is like, in words taken straight from your brand style guide.

This content also appears on Curtis1000.com.

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