A talented friend with a growing business recently lamented that so many of her communications decisions belonged to a parent company, and so she felt very little latitude for creating authentic content that would tell her story. But here’s the thing: with a Style Book, you can make a whole host of productive decisions about how your clients “see” you, and how they experience your services, even if you can’t (or don’t want to) tell big, juicy stories about your work.
What IS a “Style Book”? It’s a type of internal handbook that helps you and your team articulate your business identity. It can be comprised of just a few style and content guidelines, or of an exhaustive list of rules, templates, color and font schemes, and mission-driven decisions that inform every expression of business, through both formal and informal communications. And while I’m a big fan of “exhaustive” work, I understand that a lot of small businesses don’t have that kind of appetite and bandwidth for an exhaustive approach to articulating business and brand. Some businesses just want a few guidelines for their communications with clients and collaborators.
Thoughtful, intentional, cohesive, consistent messaging on the basic elements of your brand and communications says: “I know who I am. This is what I offer. I’m transparent and reliable.” So, if you either don’t have the capacity or perhaps the energy to take an exhaustive approach to creating a Style Book, then consider instead this “if-you-do-nothing-else-then-do-this” list. And if you’d like to do more and you need a little help, send me an email and we’ll get going on your very own Style Book.
1) Make sure that everything you write, post, print, publish or mention having to do with the name of your business is consistent.
If your business is called “All the Way Design”, then make sure, for example, that you take a few moments to decide whether you’ll capitalize the “t” in “the” (or not). Think about accepted short versions – do you want “ATWD”? Do you prefer “ATW Design”? And think for a moment about how you’ll refer to staff – are you “ATW Designers”? Are you “ATWD Teammates”? Whatever the name, whatever the situation – make sure that every mention of your company and its staffers is consistent so that you make your company instantly recognizable in a crowded field.
2) Make sure that all the photos associated with your business are current and that all images relate to one another.
Even if you’re a one-person business, make sure that all portraits of you are taken on roughly the same day, and have the same general look. And if there are several people in your organization, make sure that everyone’s picture was taken by the same photographer (even if it’s your best friend with an awesome cell phone camera) and featuring similar “vibes”. And here’s a big thing – keep your photos current! Change them every two years, and make sure that you post those current pictures everywhere:
- profile pics for social media
- professional association listings
- speaking engagement programs
- promotional publications
3) Put some thought into the kind of language you’ve used again and again to describe you and your business.
Really – think for a moment about the elevator pitch you use for the “What do you do?” question. Take a few moments to write it down and then keep it handy – for your speaker bio, for a new brochure, for a professional listing, for a social media “about” field. This kind of fundamental language about who you are and how you’re “you” in your field is the basis for how you reach your audience – whether that audience is comprised of prospective clients or future collaborators. Capture that essential language, make it available to everyone in your organization (including your Board, if you have one) and then use it erywhere!
To get a quick look at the principles I’ve outlined here, download the PDF titled “Fran Wescott Style Book 101”.