The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Create a Style Guide That’s Useful and Used (Part Two)

Style Guide image

 

Read Part One

Use this Start-to-Finish Checklist to Build a Useful Guide

  • Identify your Consistency Czar—the person on your team in charge of creating and managing the style guide. Your czar should be a content expert, good listener, and diplomatic powerhouse. She is the single person who will answer questions and make yes or no usage decisions. The czar will update the style guide to include responses to frequently asked questions and revise existing standards (or the coverage thereof) as needed.
  • Enlist relevant colleagues as guide helpers and users right up front. Make sure you let colleagues who write, review and revise, or use content know what you’re up to. Position the guide as a tool that will save them time and effort (less revision) and increase campaign effectiveness. Ask for their input as needed in the development process and as users.
  • Collect what you do now (editorial, graphic, and brand habits) and relevant examples from other organizations. Include pages printed in color from your website, e-news, blog, Facebook page and other social channels, and online fundraising campaigns, as well as print materials.
  • Review your samples. Spread them out in front of you or pin them to a bulletin board. Scan or photograph hard-copy samples, and upload everything to a Pinterest board for easy sharing with colleagues and to build an archive of your process and options. Select the standards that work best in each editorial guideline category and each graphic guideline category. Start by removing items, colors, and styles that clearly don’t fit your organization’s brand or personality. Next, review the remaining elements to remove any that are inconsistent with the core approach you see developing.
  • Get input on your draft from colleagues and external audiences, if possible. Solicit feedback from your colleagues who create and/or count on effective communications. Your outreach will double to build buy-in, which will increase the probability they’ll use the style guide. Once complete, run an abbreviated draft by your marketing advisory group, composed of supporters who are willing to give you five to 10 minutes monthly, since your prospects and supporters matter most!
  • Finalize your standards and write them in clear, succinct language, illustrated with examples.

9 Steps to Getting Buy-In for Your Style Guide

Your style guide, no matter how clear and thorough, is worth absolutely nothing if it’s not used. Here’s how to make sure it’s used correctly, frequently, and as happily as possible.

Make your style guide:

  1. Searchable. Whether you produce your guide as a Word doc, PDF, or simple website (see this example from the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK), make sure it’s easy for users to quickly search for and find what they need.
  2. Easy to use while writing. Many of your writers and designers will want to have the style guide open in front of them as they work, either in a separate window while they’re writing in Word or in hard copy (there are still some die-hard paper fans). Test the guide to make sure it’s usable this way.
  3. Available in hard copy or formatted to print in a flash. Some folks—especially those who create a lot of content for your organization—will want to browse the guide, which they might find easier in print.
  4. Integrated into your authoring platform. There’s nothing easier for writers than having standards built right into their authoring tool, whether it’s Word or your organization’s content management system. You can set your tool to highlight words, phrases, or grammar usage that aren’t in your standards or to automatically style font sizes and colors of headlines and subheads.
  5. Quick to edit and update. The more current and relevant your style guide, the more likely it’ll be used. On the other hand, if users see lots of outdated elements, errors, or gaps, they’ll stay away.A simple website format can be the easiest to update and distribute.

Train and support your colleagues in using the style guide.

You’ve already taken the first steps in updating relevant colleagues on the guide, soliciting input on your draft and asking them to use it ahead of release (stressing its value to them), and welcoming some of them into the guide development review process.

Your guide launch is a perfect time to train your colleagues in its use. You can do this in person, via video (great for multiple sites), or over the phone. I recommend you train the key department representatives and make them “keepers of the guide,” rather than training everyone. Whatever training approach you take, also outline this info in the guide as an ongoing reference.

Feature:

  1. The WIIFM—“What’s in it for me?” This is the value for your colleagues of using the guide).
  2. Who should use the style guide and how. Illustrate your vision with several concrete scenarios, ideally those that frequently occur and that most colleagues are familiar with.
  3. Contacts and the process for questions, revisions, and updates.
  4. A huge thanks!

Useful Models: Nonprofit Style Guides

These models range from the Audubon Institute’s one-pager, which might be enough for your organization, to the mammoth Rutgers University style guide. The more complex your organization, programs or services, and audiences, the more in-depth you’ll need to make your style guide.

Consider contacting your communications colleagues at these organizations to learn more about the development and use of these guides:

 

Read Part One

Does your organization currently have a style guide, including editorial and/or visual standards? If so, please share the link and/or how the guide has helped (or not).

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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