Five things that should be in your organization style guide

While I was at Back on My Feet, something I was proud of completing was, with the great help of a colleague, a company style guide.

A style guide should be a fundamental piece of documentation that goes a long way to creating an institutional memory. If everything imploded, a style guide would help you rebuild your organization — with workflow being more explicitly enumerated in staff manuals.

As your organization grows, it’s easy to wake up and find a lot of disparate, disconnected pieces that you’ll need to assemble again. Take hold and  keep connected the work you do for a tighter, more inspired and successful campaign.

In looking at other guides and finding value in ours, there are a few items that I think every style guide should include:

  • Branding: Take control of how employees describe, share and employ reference and mention of your organization.
    • What is your organization’s name and its appropriate shorthand?
    • What is your organization’s logo and its acceptable varieties?
    • List the colors in your logo and the palate of colors from your website and other materials.
  • Language: You don’t want your staff sounding like robots, but getting everyone on the same page can help create an effective culture in talking about your mission.
    • What is your mission statement and acceptable shorthand?
    • (i.e. At Back on My Feet, staff took issue with reporters describing us as a ‘homeless running club,’ so we needed to combat that with something nearly as short but more descriptive. With all parties, we came to “a running-based program to combat homelessness.”)
    • What are basic responses to common questions that staff can use? Save your staff time with quick, canned responses to common questions.
  • Marketing: Keep materials around marketing, invitations, one-pagers and the like similar.
    • What are the major events your organization hosts or is involved in and how do you market them?
    • What are the fundamentals musts and basic look
  • Style: The broader, specific expectations that fit into all three of the above categories.
    • What are the fonts you use?
    • Is your basic grammar and usage AP style? Or something else?
    • Are there organization-specific words or phrases that should used or portrayed in a specific way?
  • Anything else you have basic, staff-wide rules around.