Most larger companies have some kind of style guide to help them manage and protect their brand. It’s now widely recognised that this is a crucial part of the marketing toolkit. This document is sent out as part of a brief for any creative work, and is also used heavily internally in a lot of organisations.
House Style Guides usually concentrate heavily on visuals: logo, font, colours, image treatments etc. Their use makes successful brands really recognisable at a glance. They can also invoke the emotions that the brand wants to convey – and ultimately help to tell its story and sell its products and services.
But what about copy?
House Style Guides often don’t talk about copy at all – or have just a ‘one-liner’ telling users the brand tagline or what language the company writes in (for example UK English vs US English – don’t get me started on that one!).
But what’s needed to write really good copy that fits the brand and the communications brief properly is something that goes deeper. How are the brand values conjured up in writing, for example? How personal can the writing be? What is the correct way to refer to a certain product or features (see my ‘Are your brand texts escaping from you?’ article for more on this).
Then there are the decisions that need to be made and recorded, for effective and consistent copy. How do you deal with dates? What’s your view on the use of lists? How do you refer to any trademarked names – for example when do you use the ® symbol, and when the ™? For communications like brochures and reports, how do you use heading levels? Of course, this also refers back to the visual guidelines – in fact, it’s important to remember that a Writing Style Guide can only exist as a subset of the overarching brand guidelines.
You may not want or need to go into great detail. After all, this is not meant to be the famous Economist Style Guide, unless copy is your main product. But writing is very subjective, everyone has an opinion. If you can brief with proper guidance, and point to that ‘pre-agreed’ guidance when seeking approvals, you are much more likely to get what is best for your brand.
The Brand Guidelines are an excellent place to start, but it’s worth going the extra mile to drill down into the supporting guidelines to really make the most out of your brand.
How much is there in your brand’s guidelines on copy? I’d love to hear from you.
About the author: Waynne Meek
Waynne is passionate about all things content, especially how copy merges with other elements to make compelling communication. A recognised career of 20 years spanning various media has given him a useful insight into the way copy works across brands. Armed with this experience, he has delivered and managed effective copy solutions, from award-winning internal magazines to compelling brand and product messaging. Find out more about him on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/