28.03.2017 by Jon
Most likely, you’d think of logos, colours and fonts – and you’d be right of course. As a designer, it’s these visual elements of brand identity I focus on, but I’m well aware that they don’t work in isolation. What gives a brand its unique identity (aside from what it does) is not just how it looks, but also how it speaks.
While strong visual branding and great design will be what catch the attention of your customer or prospect first of all, it will be down to the written content to follow this through; the words you use will need to communicate your message effectively – engaging, inspiring, and converting interest into action.
Looking after your brand’s voice is just as important as taking care of other areas of your branding. You should already have established Design Style Guidelines setting out rules for how your brand appears visually, and you should think about doing the same for how it speaks. A Copywriting Style Guide will outline your unique tone, style, language – and give examples of usages so that any new copy will match what already exists on your website or in your marketing materials. It will help you to build and develop brand recognition through consistency across all your communications, and will also be extremely useful when you need to brief third parties – such as a copywriter or creative agency.
There are no fixed rules about the format of a Copywriting Style Guide; you might choose to have one created for you, or if you have the time, you may want to have a go yourself. Here are some of the basic areas you will need to think about including;
While each type of communication will have specific objectives depending on what you want it to achieve (a website, for example, might need to convert browsers to buyers) – there will also be general principles that you will want to apply to all communications, and you should set these out.
Set out as much information as you can about the profile of your audience including things such as gender, age, lifestyle, socio-economic position, and any other relevant facts.
Set out the style of writing and tone to be used including the narrative position which might give instructions such as ‘conversational’, ‘active’, ‘formal’, ‘welcoming’, ‘use first person’, ‘use third person’ and so on.
It will be important to convey the level of language and how it should be used. Examples of what guidance may be given here might include; ‘write from the reader’s perspective’, ‘should be suitable for reading age level of 12 years’, ‘use short and simple sentence structures’ or ‘avoid superlatives and anecdotes’.
You will probably have a selection of words, terms, and phrases you use in your particular business sector. Provide a glossary for reference. You might also have an in-house style for some commonly used words, and probably some acronyms you frequently make use of. These preferences will need documenting.
Showing examples of work that has been done before – and that you are happy with, will be a useful reference.
A Copywriting Style Guide will capture the essence of your brand’s voice, but setting out guidelines does not mean that they are fixed in stone; it’s inevitable that things will evolve over time – you may develop a new strapline or there may be a shift in the audience you want to appeal to. Your Copywriting Style Guide can simply be adjusted to reflect developments like these.
If you’d like help developing guidelines for your brand identity – visual or written, Studio 18 can help. Contact us now for more information!