Brand and content guidelines
Many content creators have a love-hate relationship with brand guides. They’re essential in may situations. Useful, even. But how often do we use them, really? And are they useful when it comes to creating ongoing content for platforms like blogs and social media?
Brand guidelines, brand style guides, house style guides: they go by many names. The most common version of this document includes information about the brand’s visual identity: the logo and how to use it, corporate colours, typography guidelines, and placement of elements on a webpage, brochure, or any other platform. They can also include the tone that should be used in all brand communication, or descriptions of the brand voice. They can include the style of photography that should be used, the length of a headline or tagline, or what a product description should say. These are comprehensive documents, developed after extensive discussion and research, and often with the advice and support of experts.
They’re also often difficult to use on a daily basis. And there’s a good reason: they’re created for designers, developers, and professional copywriters. If you’re creating content for your brand on a regular basis, but aren’t a professional content creator, a set of brand guidelines can seem overwhelming.
That’s why platform or content guidelines are important. Using the main set of brand guidelines as a starting point, a platform or content guide addresses specific content creation challenges. This is really important, because it’s often not enough to say that the brand should be “empathetic” or “empowering”. This can mean very different things for different people. How does “empowering” translate into a Facebook post, for example? What about on Instagram — we know that platforms differ, so should “empowering” be slightly different on each platform?
Getting started on a set of platform or content guidelines would involve asking the following questions:
1. How does the brand voice translate, in practical terms, to the actual words we use?
2. How are we going to manage the minor variations across the platforms we’re using?
3. Which words and phrases are most suitable? What about sentence length? Do we emphasise certain ideas?
4. What do we need to avoid? Are there brand or legal reasons for this?
5. What sort of images or video would be suitable for each platform?
When putting together platform or content guidelines, it’s important to remember that this is a document that will — and should — be used on a regular basis by content creators. This means it has to be short, accessible, and simple to understand. It has to be a handy reference, not a set of rules which are adhered to with reluctance or resentment. And it has to be usable and practical, so that everyone reading it comes to a mutual understanding about what to say and how to say it.