Most would consider content marketing to be a creative endeavor. Yet, many enterprise teams establish rules and parameters to ensure the creative process aligns with brand messaging, company goals, and audience needs. To layer off the art of creation, your organization needs a content style guide.
This resource should be a central part of your content strategy. You’ll might also need more than one to nail down any audience, messaging and tonal differences for each channel you use for content marketing. In this post, we’ll provide tips on developing and maintaining content style guides.
What Is a Content Style Guide?
A content style guide is a documented framework for voice, tone, and messaging. It directs content creators on how to write for an audience and/or channel. It’s a set of rules to follow, including:
- Voice attributes, which describe how you want others to perceive your content (e.g., friendly, smart, empathetic, etc.)
- Grammar (e.g., AP style)
- Language choices (words to use or avoid)
- Syntax directions (e.g., using active versus passive voice)
Creating such a resource ensures consistency of core messaging while acknowledging that tone may shift due to channel or audience. The result is more compelling content and brand consistency.
Why Do You Need a Content Style Guide?
As an enterprise content team, your content production is high volume and covers various topics, audiences, and channels. Without a guide, your content creators won’t be on the same page. It can cause confusion, low-quality content, and skewed messaging.
The key reasons to craft a content style guide include:
- Improving relevancy to your audience so that content stays in tune with their preferences and needs.
- Enhancing trust and credibility with buyers as they consume content, which rose by 9 percent for B2B content in 2021. If they experience consistency, they’ll have greater trust in your brand.
- Boosting the quality of all content since there are rules to follow, which may decrease edits and rework, accelerating your content production.
- Instilling best practices from the start, as any new content creator would have access to the guides before they start a project.
- More engagement from audiences with well-polished content, which you can track by reviewing content analytics.
Now that you know the value of these guides, we’ll provide you with steps to take in creating and maintaining them in a multichannel capacity.
5 Steps to Create Content Style Guides for Multichannel Marketing
Ready to get started? Follow these steps in creating your guides.
Define the Team
First, you’ll need to designate who should be involved. It should be a collaborative process. Your content writers will have the most vital role, but they should get input from sales, product marketing, SMEs (subject matter experts), and branding leaders. These departments can offer insights into audiences — what matters to them, the words they use, etc.
Update Your Audience Profiles
Customer personas are always evolving, depending on many factors. You’ll want to revisit these to mark any changes in their behaviors or needs. Doing so will ensure your style guide accounts for their perspective.
Don’t forget to put some thought into which channels are likely hotbeds for certain audience profiles. Should your messaging change for specific channels? And on that note…
Identify Tone Shifts by Channel
Your brand’s voice is constant. Tone changes depending on the environment. Your core messaging will remain the same no matter the channel or audience. Before defining each channel’s guide, consider what triggers a tone shift.
Determine What Channels You’ll Include
The channels you use all need their own section in the style guides. While the main guide lays the groundwork, each channel will have nuances.
Here are some channel examples:
- Email: Email tone can vary depending on the goal (e.g., promotional vs. educational). But in most cases, it will have similar style rules relating to subject lines, overall length, CTA (call to action) positioning, and personalization factors.
- Social media: You use your social media profiles to distribute content and build communities. The tone will shift depending on profiles (e.g., Twitter requires short text, while Instagram is imagery-focused). You’ll want to identify each profile you use and what shifts in tone would look like.
- Website: Your website is your owned platform that includes your brand’s value proposition, products, industries served, and your blog. Tone on product pages differs from educational blogs, but the key messaging around product USP (unique selling proposition) should be constant. This channel also includes organic search, and the rules to improve this tie directly to your SEO strategy.
- Paid ads: A paid ad, whether programmatic, social, or search, will use more aggressive and conversion-focused tones. In most cases, these are bottom-funnel, so you drive people to convert.
- Webinars: These virtual events skyrocketed in popularity in the last few years. Organizations are using them to educate, inform, and convert. Your webinar promotion and the content itself should have content style rules.
- Long-form demand gen content: Ebooks and white papers are excellent ways to acquire leads. Long-form content will also have tone variations. Ebooks are more casual in tone, explaining a topic or problem in a conversational style. White papers are more data-driven and technical, so they tend to be more logical. In other words, there’s very little fluff.
- Video: Story and explainer videos are vital assets in your content playbook. Many people prefer to learn this way, and engagement can be much higher than in other formats. The tone of your video content will vary based on the topic. A quick explainer video may be more fun and simpler. A product-focused video is more granular. Account for all types of videos you’ll create for your brand.
- Third-party channels: Lastly, your content team creates pieces for third parties, such as guest posts or sponsored content. For guest posts, the tone will shift to educational and thought leadership with zero promotion. Sponsored content may allow for more product or service elaboration, but you’ll want to present a great story rather than a commercial.
Finalize and Share
Once you flush out each channel, you’ll want to review with stakeholders and make any final changes. Then you should make it easily accessible to all those involved in content. Revisit it at least twice a year or if you launch a new product or add a new channel.
Content Style Guides Keep Everyone on the Same Page
Enterprise content marketing has many people, pieces, and processes. Content style guides give you peace of mind about consistency and quality. Those are meaningful objectives to any team. Get more great content tips and strategies by subscribing to the Divvy blog, written by and for content marketers.