Free Tools! A Style Guide for Your Organization

How do Doctors Without Borders and the World Wildlife Fund and Oxfam and Amnesty International maintain consistently distinctive and professional identities across the world? I’m sure part of their secret is using an organizational style guide.

Having a style guide for your organization is essential for several reasons:

  • Helps you appear consistently professional, credible and distinctive
  • Saves you time and effort when creating materials of any sort
  • Makes it easier to outsource work to freelancers or knowledgeable volunteers

Five Sections of an Organizational Style Guide

This recent LinkedIn post outlined five areas that should be included in an organization’s style guide:

(Looks like I need to write posts on colors and logos!)

Actually, I would expand logo usage to include the official name of the organization and its products and services. Often, the shorthand jargon used inside an organization finds it way into external communications and winds up confusing the audience and diluting your brand.

Keeping Names Straight in Your Organization

For the naming section of your style guide, you need to clarify such issues as

  • Names that are legally protected by trademark, service mark or copyright
  • Acceptable abbreviations and nicknames
  • Naming conventions for groups / suites / families of products and services

Style guides need to kept current and consistently applied. Have a process to review your guide at least annually.

If your organization is big enough that multiple people in multiple locations are representing you to the public, it’s a good idea to establish some sort of process for style compliance checks. You could decide to check everything that’s created, vet just high profile items, or review all new materials on a periodic basis.

What do you notice about the style of your favorite public and social sector organizations?

(Image obtain from Flikr through Creative Common license.)

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