Organizations are made up of a variety of voices. Everyone has their own ways of talking about the cause to your different audiences. But what happens when there are inconsistencies in messaging, tone, and voice? Confusion – which can be an obstacle to action.
Brand Communications Guidelines are organization-wide standards for how to communicate to your audience across all channels.
Communications Guidelines make it possible for teams across departments to represent a cohesive shared brand personality.
If your Social Media Manager sounds quirky and clever on your Instagram, and your Digital Copywriter sounds serious and humorless on your website—your audience will wonder, what’s going on here? Is this the same organization? Inconsistencies in your brand’s communication style can spark feelings of mistrust.
Developing clear, strategic guidelines to uphold the tone of voice of your brand can make branding confusion a thing of the past, and a consistent brand personality will emerge—even with multiple writers.
Does Your Organization Need Brand Communications Guidelines?
In short, the answer is typically yes, even for organizations that have just one person communicating on the brand’s behalf. A brand should have its own personality, and a set of strategic guidelines will ensure an individual’s personal voice does not become the organization’s brand voice.
Briteweb’s brand strategists, Mailande Moran and Anu Khosla, have worked with some of North America’s most established nonprofits and social sector businesses. They have guided notable organizations, like Accion Opportunity Fund and Meridian Institute, through transforming their communication strategy to an approach that is cohesive and results-driven.
With their extensive branding experience, Mailande and Anu walk us through the fundamentals of creating an effective communication strategy. They share their valuable insights on why your organization needs Brand Communications Guidelines in four digestible rationales.
Connect strategically with your audience.
When your audience is interacting with you on any channel, they’re seeking a connection. They’re looking to understand: what does this have to do with me? Taking a look at your audience (or audiences) is the focal point of a communication strategy. Branding is a profession of behavior change. In both the nonprofit and for-profit worlds, your goal is to drive action: secure a donation, acquire loyal volunteers, or convert a purchase. In order to do any of that, your communication practices need to effectively resonate with your target audience.
Pro Tip: Before writing your Communications Guidelines, get to know your audience and ask yourselves the following questions:
- How do they communicate?
- What are their motivations?
- What drives their actions?
- What are their pain points?
- What do they care about?
A set of Communications Guidelines will speak to what your audience’s interests and motivations are and will help you establish the tone of your messaging.
Maintain a clear brand personality across every communication channel.
Communications Guidelines set the tone and voice of your organization’s brand personality. It contains guidelines that help reinforce a persona that your audience can trust and connect with. It provides language that evokes certain emotions, influencing how your audience receives the information you’re giving them.
What’s the difference between voice and tone? Your voice is inherent to your organization’s brand personality. Tone is the way in which you communicate based on that personality.
Pro Tip: When establishing voice and tone in your Communications Guidelines, consider the following:
- How does your audience speak?
- Is your brand authoritative or playful?
- What tone of voice do you use and not use?
- Are you plainspoken? Are you casual?
- Do you use emojis? If so, how?
A “Voice and Tone” section within a set of Communications Guidelines establishes the collective words and style for an organization’s written language. A solidified brand personality detailed clearly in a document will help your team maintain the same strategy across all avenues of communication.
- Use real words. The goal is straightforward and inspiring communication, not an overabundance of $10 adjectives.
- Support what you say and build credibility by incorporating facts, figures, and statistics, but also rely on stories to give depth to the numbers.
- Don’t be overly formal or proper. Speak in an accessible, human tone. Be professional, yes, but avoid coming across as too rigid or corporate.
- Don’t overuse industry language, including shorthand and acronyms, unless it’s unavoidable and the audience is completely familiar with such language.
Create a consistent and recognizable brand.
Branding is all about establishing a relationship over time.
“When we build up a brand personality, we’re trying to create consistency in terms of how a brand interacts with their audiences. People cannot feel that relationship throughout multiple touchpoints if you sound radically different every time they interact with you.”
Mailande Moran, Brand Strategist
Consistency breeds familiarity. Communications Guidelines contain elements like organizational descriptions, key vocabulary, talking points, and elevator pitches for an organization’s team to use, so everyone is on the same page.
When you maintain a consistent brand personality, you will build a reliable relationship with your audience, which cultivates a loyal community.
Launch your brand into a new identity.
Communications Guidelines are a key component in the rebranding process. If you’re looking to pivot your current brand into a fresh and updated identity, then establishing Communications Guidelines will help shape that process.
These guidelines serve as a useful tool for aligning your aspirations for growth into a tangible action plan. Not only do they help your organization refocus on your evolving audience, they create a clear direction for your team to follow through this branding transition. Your guidelines will ensure that your organization will have a path to follow when setting new foundations.
Ready to build your Communications Guidelines?
Kickstart the process by considering these actions:
- Audit your current brand’s communications
- Start a dive deep into the discovery of your audience
- Keep your social mission top of mind
- Align your business and impact strategy with your brand
- Understand how you sit among your peers and competitors
- Create a brand personality that authentically represents you
- Establish a voice and tone that will resonate with your audience
- Share your Communications Guidelines document for your whole team to follow