How style guides help your strategy

It's easy to get caught up in hierarchies and visual design when you're launching a website. But in that excitement it's not unusual for the actual content you need to deliver to be reduced to an afterthought.

What do you need your content to say about you? If your content strategy is about being respected, trusted, inspiring – any reputation you need – then think early about how your content will help convey that idea. Capturing the details of your style in a written guide will help keep your strategy in line.

Capturing the details of your style in a written guide will help keep your strategy in line.

Style guides

To help guide your organisation's content creation, it's worth having a style guide. A good style guide:

  • Sets out clear rules and advice on the presentation of content
  • Makes decisions about issues so the author doesn't have to
  • Is applied consistently
  • Grows with the organisation, and changes or adapts when necessary
  • Is easily available to everyone who needs it

Here are a few good examples:

Enforcing the style guide

If you build it, will they come? Not automatically, but a few simple things can help get style guide buy-in..

First, make sure everyone knows where to find the style guide and why they should follow it:

  • Recruit a champion, someone in a leadership role who can endorse the guide
  • Put it on the intranet, with a link from the homepage or a team landing page
  • Promote it in an internal comms slot – a newsletter, speakers' forum etc.
  • Include a link on the editorial briefing form
  • Offer workshops on applying the style guide
  • Explain how the style guide was created – e.g. it's in line with the Economist, BBC or Guardian style guides – and that the key principle is consistency (not where a particular style point is 'right' or 'wrong')
  • Mention it when giving feedback
  • Add a link to the online version in your signature
  • Consider printing and distributing hard copies

When people know the rules, there's a better chance they'll make them a habit, and help you maintain the style consistency your strategy needs.

Check out our Online Content Strategy course for more ways to manage and grow your site content.

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