Communicating Lasting Impressions

End Inconsistencies in Your PR-Marketing Content

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The important role of graphics and editorial style guides in PR-marketing content.

 Recently I came across two publication style guides from a former job. As I chuckled at their dated visuals, they were a brilliant reminder that graphics and editorial style guides really do bring brand consistency to PR-marketing content.

style guide circa 1980sRegardless of where content is published – in print or on the Web – defining visual and writing styles builds familiarity and trust among readers. It also improves work efficiency for the communications team, eliminating the need to answer the same questions or make the same edits. Moreover, with the growth in content creators brought about by social media, graphics and editorial style guides are necessary for brand consistency.

If a graphics and editorial style guide is on the horizon, here’s how to get started:

  1. Conduct a simple communications audit. Evaluate print and online PR-marketing content for uniformity.
  2. Determine which elements – graphics or writing – to address first. Although visual variations generally scream out, it might be easier to tackle an editorial style guide first.
  3. Agree on usage. In addition to the communications team, who else needs a graphics and editorial style guide? What’s the best way to introduce and share this guide? How will you promote and update it? Is there a plan for enforcing its use and gaining feedback from users?
  4. Decide decision-making structure and deadlines. Since a graphics and editorial style guide is a living document requiring regular updates, set a deadline for completing the first guide. View style guides from similar businesses. Discuss recurring inconsistencies in your company’s work with content creators. Ask associates to jot down style variations and regularly share them with a project coordinator.

As for elements to include in a graphics and editorial style guide, there are no right or wrong answers, only what works best for your institution. Below are some ideas.

Editorial Guidelinesimportance of consistency quote

  • Are there commonly used words or acronyms used in your industry or by your organization that could benefit from usage standards?
  • When writing headlines and subheads, are all words uppercase or only the first word and proper nouns?
  • How will you handle the always-controversial serial comma?
  • Should there be periods or dashes in telephone numbers?
  • Will you include www with a URL?

Graphics Guidelines

First, let’s differentiate between brand identity or logo guidelines, and publication style guides. The former is a part of the latter because brand identity applies to all PR-markketing content.

For brand identity guidelines, consider information about…

  • Approved logos for one, two and four-color projects
  • Logo usage based on background color
  • Logo proportions and size relationships
  • Use of taglines and seals
  • Logo usage by PR-marketing content: Stationery, brochures, electronic presentations, websites and automotive vehicles are just a few. If appropriate, supply templates.

For publication style guides, ask these questions:

  • Do you use the same font for headlines, body text, pull quotes and captions?
  • Are you consistent in using all uppercase or upper and lower case in headlines?
  • Have you defined leading, padding, alignment, borders and hyphenation?
  • Are you consistent in using color?
  • Online, are link properties the same for each link state?

With electronic design programs, content creators can define and apply detailed styling to any text or object in PR-marketing content. Update one line in a website’s Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), or change one attribute in a print publication’s Define Styles function, and a universal change occurs. Talk about fast! Export and import defined styles between documents, or use templates, and brand consistency reigns.

Hopefully, you’re using a graphics and editorial style guide to build your brand and inspire confidence in your institution. Are there elements you’ve included in style guides that have increased brand consistency in your PR-marketing content?