By Susan Hicks & Steve Smith
As your content marketing program progresses, you will reach a point where multiple writers, including internal team members and outsourced talent, will be creating content for multiple channels. But whether you have one writer or several, your brand should speak with one voice.
Considering the differences in writing styles and proficiencies among the various content team members, how can you be sure your brand voice is maintained?
An Editorial Style Guide is a great tool to ensure that your brand’s voice and tone are carried through every one of your content channels, by everyone who writes for them. It’s the editorial equivalent of a Graphic Standards Manual, which you most likely already have in order to maintain, preserve and protect the integrity of your brand’s graphic identity.
What is your brand voice? Confident, yet warm and sincere? Does it convey maturity? Boast with youthful exuberance? Snap with technological savvy?
See our detailed post on Content Marketing for Nonprofits
The Editorial Style Guide will cover how various elements that are unique to your brand are managed across platforms, beginning with your business or organization name.
For example, if the name of your hospital is Spring Lake Memorial Children’s Hospital, is it acceptable to abbreviate the hospital’s name to “Spring Lake Memorial"? Or to abbreviate it even further to “Memorial"? And what about using a possessive form of your brand? Is the practice acceptable, or would it be best to always try to rephrase copy to avoid it?
Spring Lake Memorial Children’s Hospital’s policy is to…
It is the policy of Spring Lake MemorialChildren’s Hospital to always…
Decide once, save time
Although the AP Style Guide can be the North Star, developing a style guide for your brand saves time in the long run. You may choose to deviate from AP when it comes to matters like capitalization of titles before and after names, website references, location and email addresses, and phone number formatting.
You may want to create a Brand Manual that includes graphic and editorial standards. For example, for print publications, it would set the standards for how to handle layout and cover formatting, logo color options and placement, head and sub-head styles, pagination and pull quotes. It may also include the exact, legal department-approved wording of health, copyright or other disclaimers, and your preference for compound words (healthcare, health-care or health care) related to your industry that are still evolving.
Update as needed
The style guide should be a resource that can be expanded or revised as needed. Start with a simple guide, covering the elements that seem most critical to preserving your brand. As language evolves and society changes, or when staff identify an area of inconsistency or confusion, update the guide – and be sure to send the revised version to all concerned parties.
There are no absolute assurances here, but if all writers, editors and proofreaders are working from the same playbook, you will see improved efficiency as your program moves forward. In this case, efficiency means much less time spent making edits or having internal discussions about whether or not to make edits, or making edits and then “unmaking” them – all because team members weren’t sure about editorial style guidelines.
Contact Consonant Custom Media for help putting together an Editorial Style Guide for your organization.
About the authors
Susan Hicks works with nonprofits, businesses and individuals to help them create copy that engages and educates readers and moves them closer to their goals.
Steve Smith is publisher/creative director and chief storyteller at Consonant Custom Media.
About Consonant Custom Media
Consonant Custom Media provides content marketing and storytelling for hospitals, health systems, nonprofits, foundations and others who want to make more meaningful connections with their communities of interest.
We create original content that is truly consonant, or in harmony, with our clients' brand values and drives profitable consumer action.
Clients use our original content strategically, to reach specific objectives in perception management, physician relations, service line development, sales and donor development.