What's Your Brand's Personality? & Why You Need a Style Guide
by Matt, on 17 Aug 2021
Building a brand isn’t all about how it looks or what it writes. People also care about how your brand behaves.
To stand out, you need to create a brand personality that appeals to your audience members’ hearts and minds.
It’s something to which your customers can relate – a set of human characteristics that become associated with your brand name.
The more consistent and recognizable those traits become, the more your brand equity will grow.
This can be especially important when your product isn’t intrinsically memorable or is difficult for customers to understand. Using your brand’s personality to create a memorable experience helps build a bond with your audience that extends beyond the solutions you’re selling.
Let’s explore this idea in more detail and discuss how writing a style guide ensures your brand develops a consistent and authentic personality.
Marketers use three concepts to describe a company’s personality: voice, tone, and style.
Voice is what most clearly defines the brand’s personality. If your brand were a person, their voice tells you a lot about who they are and what they stand for.
It’s important to define both what your brand’s voice is and what it isn’t.
For example, you might want to use an expert voice but never be condescending. Some brands want to be casual and informal, but without sounding sloppy.
At Strategic Piece, we want to be candid and confident, but not aggressive or loud. We want to be friendly and humorous, but not casual or slang. There's more, but hopefully you get the gist.
The voice of your brand will determine the words you use and the style of your writing – such as what sentence length, pace, and rhythm are most natural for the voice type you’re using.
The voice of your brand should never change, no matter what content you’re creating.
Tone, on the other hand, will change depending on the type of content you’re producing and the intended audience.
Even a formal voice can change tone – for example, adopting a serious tone for an article warning about something dangerous and a straightforward, instructive tone when presenting the results of a case study.
For a more casual brand, it might be appropriate to adopt a playful tone for an upbeat article about competing products or a ‘friendly uncle’ tone when dishing out advice on how to select the right solution to a particular challenge.
Since you should be producing content for buyers at each stage of their buyer’s journey, you might take a more cautious tone when publishing for buyers in the awareness phase, who don’t know you, than for established customers in the implementation phase.
Style is what determines the look and feel of your content. It’s the little things that make your message sing, such as punctuation, grammar, and formatting.
Since most people are more familiar with spellchecking and capitalization, style sounds like the simplest of the three elements to get right, but don’t be fooled.
It’s a huge task to get everything right, every time – especially if you don’t have a written process or rules to guide you (more on that in a moment!)
Spend an hour reading business blogs and social media posts and you’ll come across numerous examples of inconsistent styling and writing flubs.
Unless you’ve experienced what it takes to ensure your own brand’s consistency, you might view this as a lack of attention to detail. Done repeatedly, it will lead prospects to wonder whether that same unprofessional approach applies to your product design, manufacturing, or service and support teams.
A brand where the voice, tone, and style aren’t consistent from piece to piece and place to place will struggle to build trust with its audience. They simply can’t be sure which brand is going to show up.
Much like deciding which team member you can count on to show up dressed appropriately for your critical meeting, prospective customers choose suppliers and service providers based on which they believe will show up in the right way when called.
Create a Style Guide
There’s often a big gap between what a business hopes to communicate about itself and its products and customers pick up and perceive about the business.
This can happen when the communication isn’t planned properly, doesn’t align with the company’s purpose, mission, and vision, or when one team creates content that looks, sounds, and feels different from that of another.
Achieving consistency and authenticity requires more than just installing the same font on everyone’s computer, sending them the official logo files, and writing rules about punctuation (although each of those things is important).
Creating and enforcing a style guide ensures every piece of content sounds like it was written by the same person – whether it’s on social media, a how-to video, or a blog post.
Your style guide should include the following information:
- A clear description of the voice your brand will and will not adopt, using adjectives that you hope customers would and would not use to describe your company.
- Formatting conventions, including capitalization guidelines for titles and headings
- Industry-specific guidelines, such as what jargon and acronyms are acceptable and when they should be replaced by layman’s language.
- Whether content should be written in the first person (we recommend this…) or third person (it is recommended...)
- Which published style guide you will refer to for more detailed instructions – for example, the Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook. While these are primarily used by book and media publishers, they provide helpful answers on correct grammar and word usage.
A great example that has been placed in the public domain for all to see is MailChimp’s Content Style Guide. It provides excellent examples of the concepts we’ve described here and much more!
You can use and adapt MailChimp’s guide however you like under a Creative Commons Attribution – Non-Commercial 4.0 International license. Just be sure to credit Mailchimp wherever the guide is published.
Like any set of rules, a style guide isn’t much use unless it’s enforced.
To do that, appoint a copy editor and make them responsible for both maintaining the style guide and ensuring its application to all your company’s content.
In a small company, the same person might be responsible for technical fact checking and proof reading, but those tasks are often divided between multiple editors as an organization grows.
Explain the style guide to everyone involved in content production, both in terms of what it contains and why it’s important. Then, enlist their help in making your company’s content more consistent and authentic than the competition.
So, what’s your brand’s personality and how will that impact your style?
Photo by Slidebean on Unsplash
Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash
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