Why Creating and Adhering to Editorial Guidelines Matters

editorial guidelines


When it comes to conveying strong messages that define your brand in the public consciousness and for your target customers and clients, consistency is key. A single brand voice, projecting a clear brand identity, is what makes people seek out your organization when they need the product or service that you provide. It speaks the language of your audience and gives shape to your brand’s persona.    

We often contradict an opinion, while actually it is only the tone with which it was advanced that we find disagreeable. – Friedrich Nietzsche 

Let’s start with brand tone. Take healthcare providers in marketing. There’s a reason why the voiceover or actor in a commercial uses a soft voice and reassuring language. When we’re seeking medical care, we want to know we’ll be cared for by someone who knows what they’re doing. Hearing a comforting message from someone who projects authority evokes those feelings.  

Note that even though medicine is a highly technical and skilled field—so we want to hear from someone with authority—the message focuses not on technical points or statistics, but personal feelings. People make healthcare decisions based on personal experiences, so they’ll ask people they trust for their recommendations, or look up online reviews. 

In contrast, take a technology company that offers identity security and access management for computer networks. Like healthcare, this is also a highly technical and skilled field, but personal feelings don’t factor into the decision for the CIOs and c-suite executives making these purchase decisions. They want to hear authoritative expertise backed up numbers. The IT directors want to hear the technical know-how, and the c-suite executives want to know the cost-benefit analysis and operational efficiency. 

Two industries that we rely on for technical expertise and skill, sold with two different messaging and tonal strategies that focus on what the target audience wants to hear. Successful brands create or hire a firm to create editorial guidelines that require first and foremost the brand voice, followed by style, formatting, as well as punctuation, and heading styles. 

This is how you achieve customer recognition. This happens when someone asks for a Band-Aid instead of an adhesive bandage. Or, when someone tells you to “Google” something, instead of telling you to do an online search. These people may have never used your product or service before but they know you provide it. And through a clear brand voice, you’ve built credibility, trust, and eventually loyalty. 

If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. – David Ogilvy 

Tone matters. Clarity matters just as much. Clear language speaks to authority and authenticity. You want to choose the words that speak to your audience, the kind of language they use every day, so that your brand projects that authority and authenticity. 

If the target audience for your content is the press or general public, you probably want to use the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, which stresses brevity and clarity. Targeting computer technology and engineering fields may call for using the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) style. Social science publications use the Chicago Manual of Style, and so on.  

These guides provide useful baselines for formatting and grammar that you can adapt for your specific audience needs. Maybe your organization wants to call customers something like “community members,” or there are words you want to specifically avoid because of negative connotations. Then you can address tone and voice, whether playful or serious. 

Length should also be addressed in your guidelines. If your ideal buyer is detail-oriented and thorough, like a medical professional or technology manager, your content should probably lean towards comprehensive resources. If you’re trying to capture the attention of a busy person who’s quickly searching for an easy solution, then shorter, lively content is probably better suited for your purposes.   

Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow. ‒ Oliver Wendell Holmes 

At Inspire Agency, we work to understand your brand’s story and goals, so we can uncover your soul and give your brand a unique personality. Once we know that soul, we can find your voice and apply it to marketing and content strategies that project your identity, personality and authority to gain recognition in the marketplace.  

Editorial guidelines development is one of the earliest actions we take for our clients. We don’t apply generic ideas but do the work to uncover what’s right for your brand. Contact us to learn about how we can help tailor a voice that makes your brand sing. 

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