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What is a Style Guide?

Simplify life. 
Stop relying on memory or checking every piece of the team’s work. 
Show up consistently without overthinking it.

A style guide is a way of simplifying your business. Small amount of work now, big time saving later. Do I have your attention?

A style guide is a document recording your preferred tone, style, font, words, images and more. It can include rules about how to use your logo right down to whether you prefer American English or British English. A good style guide ensures that you communicate with your audience in a language and style they relate to and show up in a consistently recognisable way. 

As a result, customers will learn to trust and present like the professional you know you are. Style Guides are also extremely useful if you ever need to engage a sub-contractor or expand your team.

Style guides help communicate with your audience

If you are reading this, you probably already know communication is a two-way street. That means you have a style of messaging, and your audience has needs and preferences. To be successful in business, you need to meet your client’s needs while still showing up in a way that is true to who you are or how you want your business to be perceived. 

Use the process of drafting your style guide to take the time to reflect on what your customer avatar needs and how your style matches that need. The overlap between your style and your customer needs is where you should ideally position your Style Guide.

Style guides ensure you show up consistently

Showing up with a consistent style makes you instantly recognisable to your clients and potential clients. Instant recognition helps you build know, like and trust relationships. 

The number of touch points needed to attract the attention of a prospective new client seems to be ever on the increase. So, make sure every time they see you, they know it is you! 

Things to include in your style guide

Like all good documents, start your Style Guide with an introduction. A good introduction will include your business mission and values that you can refer to throughout the style guide.

Writing

For a great example of a writing style guide, check out Mailchimp’s style guide online. Their voice and tone section is a great explanation of voice – written in their voice. They also sensitively address the fact that tone needs to change depending on circumstances. For example, a dry sense of humour is fine in a marketing campaign but not appropriate when responding to client concerns or requests for help.

Your style guide also needs to address practical points of detail that will help you show up consistently. Consider things like:

  • How do you write your business name? You don’t want clients confused about whether you are Social Nest, The Social Nest or Social Nest Australia because there might be other companies sharing similar names and clients need to know they are in the right place!
  • What abbreviations are acceptable for your style? 
  • Are you writing in American English or British English? Do you use Australian slang? 
  • How do you write numbers, use hyphens and space dates or times? 
  • What points of presentation, style or writing are of importance to you as a business? Make sure you include all these.

Visual Presentation

It’s beginning to sound complicated, I know, but stay with me and remember, a one-page document with key points is a great place to start! 

In this fast-paced, visual era, the font you choose, the way you use your logo, and the sorts of images you allow are maybe more important than whether you use numbers consistently, so this is an absolute must!

Be sure to include links and details. Links to the folder on your cloud system that contains your logo in supported formats. The exact numbers of the colours you use and the names of fonts permitted. Remember, the easier it is to use your Style Guide, the more likely you (and your team) will use it!

Style guides are living documents

Your mission, writing and presentation styles are just the beginning of your style guide. As technology, society, and your business evolve, you will want to review and consider whether it still meets your needs. For example, you might consider the accessibility of your styles as new standards are released, or the level of detail included as your team expands. You should ensure the links you include to your internal documents and images remain up to date and relevant to your business as it expands and evolves. 

Remember, the point of your Style Guide is to support your business mission and goals. So review it yearly and make sure it is still supporting you, still relevant, and still meeting your business needs.

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