Traditionally a writing guide (or style guide) forms part of your brand book. It’s the section of your brand book that is used to establish and define your brand voice, tone, and writing style. These are three concepts that really deserve their own blog posts, but for the purpose of this one, I want to discuss a writing guide in the context of how it can make the management of your digital presence easier. For that, we are going to approach the concept from a very different angle.
Want to know how a writing guide can help you? Let’s begin!
General Guidelines for Setting up a Writing Guide
As mentioned, traditionally a writing guide helps businesses to establish the way in which they interact with their audience. We touched on this topic in a previous post that you can read here.
As explained in the post about setting up your brand book, how you say what you want to say depends on the kind of brand that you want to build and the kind of audience you wish to attract. Your writing guide is used to set up your brand voice, which should ideally be relatable to your target market and should use expressions and colloquialisms that resonate with your audience.
To establish your brand voice, you can start by:
Choosing three words that describe your brand. For example, if you offer a professional service (accounting, consulting, coaching, etc.) you might want to go for words such as knowledgable, authentic, and passionate.
Once you have selected your words, write a sentence explaining what each word means to you in the context of your brand. For example, knowledgable could mean that you are able to share information about your industry with certainty and authority because of the years of experience that you have.
Once you understand your brand at this level, it is easier for you to step into that space when you create your content and help your audience to better connect with your brand.
From your brand voice, you can determine what your brand tone and writing style is. Your brand voice further impacts the kind of content that you share. Consider a brand that is knowledgable and informative. This kind of brand will typically share interesting information about their industry; positioning themselves as thought-leaders within their field. A fun and friendly brand would be more inclined to share content that their audience has created (also known as user-generated content), sharing posts and stories from their followers.
Determining your brand voice, tone, and writing style is important, but I want us to look at a writing guide with the view of saving you time and energy.
A Different Approach to Setting up Your Writing Guide
As important as the traditional approach to setting up a writing guide is, a somewhat different approach is needed for small businesses - especially if you are the only person who manages your digital brand. When it comes to the management of your digital presence as a small business, time is very important and anything that can help you save time is always recommended. So, in the context of a writing guide, I always recommend setting up a writing guide of general phrases, product descriptions, and call to actions that you regularly use when sharing content. This kind of writing guide should be considered a living document that changes as your business does. Let me explain with an example.
Let’s assume you are a service provider like a beautician, accountant, counsellor, etc. and each of your services have their benefits, prices, a booking process, and call to action. If your booking process requires your customer to go to your website, click on the book now button, select a date, enter their details, and make a payment - instead of writing these instructions out from scratch every time you share content, save the instructions in your writing guide and simply copy and paste when needed. I know this seems like a very basic suggestion, but you’ll be surprised to find out how many small business owners don’t do this. They essentially try and reinvent the wheel every time they need to add copy to a post and spend ages trying to think of what to say. Naturally, you won’t copy and paste the entire copy every time you post, but when you look at the kind of content that you share, you will always find certain sections that are repeated.
Another example includes the technical specifications of your products and services. You don’t just advertise once on one single platform, your initial product or service description would be on your main platform (be it your website or Facebook if you sell directly from there) and whenever you decide to add the product or service to your content, you will need to enter the specifications again. So, in order to save time, simply copy and paste the relevant information from your writing guide.
Because each business is unique, it would be impossible for me to set up a comprehensive list of possible phrases and statements that you could possibly need. But, nonetheless, here are a few call to action ideas that you can use in your writing guide and your content. These are very generic and can be changed to suit your needs.
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Other items that you can consider adding to your writing guide include:
your contact details
standard responses to customer questions and comments
You are welcome to contact me if you need more suggestions that are specific to you and your business.
Using Your Writing Guide for Standardisation
Another important element to include in your writing guide is the standardisation of words and phrases - especially if you operate in an industry filled with jargon. Standardising your words and phrases basically means selecting naming conventions for your products, services, and other phrases that you generally use in your content.
A great example would be a pet grooming service deciding on what to call pets in their content. Do you say "fur baby", "furry friend", or "pet" when talking about your customer's pets? Do you offer "pet grooming", "grooming", or "pet grooming services"? Beauticians, do you offer "laser hair removal" or "IPL treatments"? Retailers, is it a "slogan t-shirt", "slogan t", or "printed shirt". Furthermore, you need to standardise your spelling. For example, should customers "inquire" or "enquire"? Does your cream "moisturise" or "moisturize"?
It might seem like such a small detail to consider, but standardization is incredibly important for branding and recognition. With customers becoming ever more informed thanks to the internet, it is important to correctly educate and inform your customer in a way that enables comparability. If you are going to advertise your products using two different names (as with our laser hair remover and t-shirt example above), you are not making the decision-making process any easier for your customer. What's more, using the same spelling and terminology helps with branding and brand recognition.
As much as a writing guide is important for establishing your brand voice, tone, and writing style, for small businesses, using it to save time when managing your digital presence is one of the main reasons for taking the time to set it up. I'm not saying that you shouldn't decide on a brand voice, tone, and writing style. It is wonderful to know that your brand is friendly, informative, and knowledgable and knowing this does help when deciding on the kind of content that you want to share. But, from a small business perspective, having a repository of words, phrases, and information to draw from that will save you time and energy is far more valuable.