One brand, one message, one voice
Your brand is much more than a logo or tagline. It’s everything your company stands for. It’s the quality of your products and services, the attitude of your employees, the altruism in the community and so much more. When your customers and the public at large see your logo or hear the name of your company, they get an image in their minds based on their personal experiences with your company. Good or bad, that image is your REAL brand, regardless of what your logo or tagline says.
So, you’ve spent money creating a logo and/or tagline to help portray and sell your products or services. What image did you hope to portray with it? Quality? High tech? Problem solvers? Whatever it is, you want to be sure that all your employees, systems, policies and procedures support that image.
That includes your communications. Whether it’s a letter, email, bill, phone call, advertisement or tweet, every communication needs to deliver the same brand image. Slapping a tagline on the page is not enough. Nor does it mean your communication should explain your tagline message. Instead, your communications must convey and exemplify the brand without contradicting it.
For example, you’re tagline might say you’re the helpful company, but it’s not very helpful if the rest of the communication presents an impossible task or creates more questions than it answers. Likewise, if a tagline claims the company is top-shelf quality, then the communication can’t look cheaply made. Even the photos, charts and other graphics you select can either represent or contradict your brand image. In fact, every speck of that communication is subject to brand identity.
Beyond the message itself, all of your communications should have a consistent look and feel for easy recognition. A company style guide is a great way to ensure brand consistency in your communications. It’s more than your typical Chicago Manual of Style, APA or MLA guides. Yes, you can adopt and follow one consistently. But your company style guide goes much farther than that.
A company style guide can include voice and tone rules; selected fonts and font sizes; margin requirements, rules for capitalization, bolding and italics; a color wheel for fonts and graphics; rules for imagery selections; headline and subhead writing guides, and more. It includes nitty gritty details like preferred spellings, such as e-mail vs. email, both of which are correct, but can be noticeable when not applied consistently. Your style guide should also include rules for consistent logo and tagline placement.
Make sure each employee or outside vendor who creates communications for your company has a copy of or access to your company style guide. And include brand review alongside legal review and subject matter experts with your approval process. Renegade communications can tear down the fabric of your carefully cultivated reputation. Don’t let anything out of those walls without a brand stamp of approval.
If you have a company style guide, review it periodically and keep it up to date. If you don’t, maybe it’s time to create one. Just remember, brand isn’t always what you want it to be. It’s public perception. Communications can be the most consistent way to keep up appearances if everyone follows the same rules.
Jeanette Juryea is President of QubComm, your Corporate Communications department in the virtual Qubicle next door. Send an email to Jeanette@qubcomm.com for professional writing, editing and design services from award-winning writers. You can also ask about writer training, brand/style guide development, existing communications analysis and more.