Does your company have a best practices document addressing the communications that go out to clients? Many do, but they’re often so complicated or hard to access that they’re rendered practically useless. Without the taming influence of a set of standards, the different iterations of one company’s logos, letterheads and email signatures—especially when left up to the creative liberty of everyone on staff—can stretch into infinity. Read on for the low-down on crafting a functional reference tool for consistent event branding.
1. See what sticks. At Matchstic, a branding agency in Atlanta, co-founder Craig Johnson helps clients define the heart and essence of their brand as the first step in building a style guide. He suggests printing all branded materials (letterheads, website pages, etc.) and pinning them up on one wall. “You may discover that there are six different logos being used,” says Johnson. “If you’re using 50 different colors and you have to define one primary color and four secondary colors, there’s a process of choosing.” Put everything up on the walls, and see what’s working. Define why it works and apply that to the other pieces.
2. Define your brand’s core. “Identify your objectives, figure out your voice and style, then delineate the aspects you want to standardize,” says Kevin Cain, director of content strategy for OpenView Labs, a Boston-based venture capital firm that invests in expansion-stage technology companies. Cain writes about content marketing and style guides on blog.openviewpartners.com. Have a framework in mind, he says. Will you cover editorial standards, major branding issues or how you do events or public relations?
A good style guide touches on verbal, written and visual communication—logo, typography, color palette, certain graphic and editorial rules—but leaves the minutiae to reference materials like the Associated Press Style Guide or Chicago Manual of Style. Its main goal is to equip team members with the tools and language they need to present a unified front during client-facing interactions. “A comma can change the meaning of a sentence,” says Cain. “But overall, having that consistency creates a sense of ‘they’re paying attention to details and therefore I can trust them to handle the bigger stuff, too.’”
3. Draw inspiration from others. Many companies and organizations, including Delta Airlines, Cargill and Vanderbilt University, make their guides and graphic standards available online. Browse dozens of branding and identity manuals at logoorange.com/branding-corporate-identity.php to learn from others’ experiences and examples.