How to Write a Brand Style Guide (and Why You Need One)

According to Sasha LaFerte at the Content Marketing Institute, branding fails happen “because of a lack of a clear style guide, which can result in inconsistency or miscommunication among you content team.” Creating a brand style guide helps ensure that all of the content you create is consistent, polished, and enjoyable. Your brand style guide will create some rules for your brand, which will tie all your content together like matching dishes at an excellent dinner party.

Knowing your brand style guide will help inform all your content.Image source: Content Marketing Institute

First, look at your brand voice.

In order to create a great style guide, it has to align with your brand’s voice. If you aren’t sure what that sounds like, ask yourself these 5 questions to help find your brand’s voice.

In addition, LaFerte suggests revisiting your company’s mission statement and “About Us” section (if you have them) to “make sure it’s not only on point with what it says but how it says it. If you’re defining your brand voice as conversational, but your mission statement is filled with corporate jargon, it’s probably worth revisiting.”

Second, pick your editorial style base.

Of course, recognizing you need a brand style guide and actually having one are two very different things.

Both the Words Girls and the Content Marketing Institute recommend starting with a base (we use the AP Style Guide.) Go through the baseline and add additional rules if you need them, like whether or not to use the Oxford comma, or specific emoji guidelines (we’ve got a rule about that poop icon. Nope.) You can also add in guidelines on formatting bullets, lists, hyphens, or quotes, anything that defines your particular style.

Finally, add a few more details to your brand style guide.

This is the part that gets tricky. LaFerte suggests including “a section on how to engage, words to stay away from, and any other details that are important to your brand.”

Having a well-defined brand voice will definitely help with this section. Content Marketing Institute has prepared a list of brands with awesome style guides that you can use for reference. With a well-defined brand voice, a bit of time, and a few details, soon your brand could be one of them.



These 5 Questions Will Help You Find Your Brand Voice

If you’re like most SMB marketers, you’ve created a lot of marketing copy without taking the time to find your brand voice. And you’ve ended up with copy that doesn’t sound like you at all.


As Erika Heald notes in a Content Marketing Institute post, “If your logo didn’t appear with your content, could you identify the content as coming from your brand? Would someone viewing your content on different channels know it all came from the same brand?”

How to find your brand voice

An authentic voice is a wildly important part of your marketing strategy. But how do you define it? And how do you share it with the people on your team who need to know how to use it?

Around here we say “Give us a week, and we’ll give you a voice.”

We take Heald’s advice a few steps further, and use a thing we call the Five Question Process. It’s pretty simple. Each workday for one week, you answer one key question about your brand. You can answer them on your own if you’re a solopreneur, or get your team members involved for a wider view. Plan to spend at least 15-20 minutes on each answer. You want to really dig deep and give this some thought.

At the end of the week, you’ll have about 80% of the tough work done to create a workable brand voice guideline you can share with your team. You’ll be ready to define, in just a few short paragraphs, what your brand voice stands for, sounds like and intends. And that information will absolutely transform your marketing.

The five questions to ask about your brand voice

Question 1. Describe your brand as a person. What is that person be like? What are the key elements of your brand’s personality and philosophy? Be sure to think about how your brand interacts with advertisers, investors, clients, families of clients, vendors and the public.

Question 2. Understanding where your brand’s product or services will have an impact is critical to developing a strong brand. What change(s) are you working for in your field, your community, your world, and how does your brand help to bring those changes about?

Question 3. Your brand must speak fluently to and resonate with your intended audience and your stakeholders. Your “audience” might include current clients, advertisers and the general public – anyone who will be directly affected by your content. Who is your primary audience? Your secondary audience? Who do you need to talk? Are there any specific challenges you face in communicating with them?

Question 4. If you could directly speak to each person in your target market, what message would you want to share with them? What do you want people to do when they hear your message?

Question 5. Are there any marketing materials or editorial/branding guidelines already in place for your brand? Are you using them to create your marketing copy? If so, what do you love? What do you not like so much? What’s missing? Are there any examples of voice and style out there than you really like?

Try it and see what bubbles up. Then use your answers to help create your brand’s style guide. Download our sample brand style guide for some inspiration, and of course get in touch if you have any questions.

Here’s to your authentic brand voice…and more engaging content for your audience.

5 Questions to Find Your Brand VoiceReady to get started? Download your copy of 5 Questions to Define Your Brand Voice and get started. Or contact us if you’d like to work together on this.