3 reasons why you need a style guide for your digital content

digital content specialist

November 18, 2016

Often, we ask content creators to produce digital and social media assets for brands without giving them specific guidelines to follow in the form of a style guide. And yet style guides are an essential tool to help your content strategy be more consistent, more aligned and more agile.

What’s a style guide?

Content style guides are used as a framework to write or create content, just like graphic designers have style guides for colours and logos. Generally, these guidelines include the brand and content mission, themes, formats, tone of voice, etc., with clear examples to illustrate each point. Both Mailchimp and Google have excellent style guides that are comprehensive and simple to use.

Better user experience

The words and visuals you use help shape your brand perception. A style guide ensures the content you create is consistent, strengthening your brand image and making it shine with one single, powerful voice. For your users, this translates into a more unified and relevant experience on your digital platforms… which in turn increases awareness and loyalty!

Establishing a style guide will also help you find a differentiator—the unique set of traits that will make your digital voice stand out from the competition. Case in point: the team messaging app Slack, that we love here at the agency. The brand’s mission to make workers’ lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive is reflected in the app’s custom loading messages.

One of Slack’s motivating loading messages.

More aligned organization

In a digital writing workshop that I held recently, a participant asked me how to tell her boss that his content idea was not appropriate for the company website. Without a clear guide in place, this type of situation can be awkward.

Style guides allow you to strategically and collaboratively pinpoint the type of content you need to produce in order to be aligned with your organization’s communication objectives. Because your guide relies on best practices as well as your company’s long-term vision, it reduces the amount of individual opinions in content decisions. Pro tip: I recommend updating your style guide every year to make sure it evolves along with your content strategy.

Creating a style guide, applying it and educating internal stakeholders helps your team focus on the content that will help achieve business goals… and to say no to ideas that just don’t fit!

More agile production process

In an agency like Valtech, where the focus is on collaborative work, agility is a keyword we hear a lot. By defining a clear direction in your style guide, you make the work that much easier for your content creators, allowing them to be more productive. Even more so when you have several collaborators and a large volume of content to produce. Giving your team guidelines means you avoid having many different voices in your final product. Ultimately, you’re reducing the number of rounds of revisions while making sure you stay within your budget and your timeline.

In the near future, we could even see bots automate the application of style guides. With a bit of innovative thinking, everything is possible!

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