How to Build a Brand Style Guide

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An easy-to-use template of what business owners need to visually market their products and services consistently and authentically

Entrepreneurs need to wear many hats from finance, human resources, supply chain management, to strategy, operations, sales, and marketing. To make marketing your business just a little bit easier, I have created a template for creating your Brand Style Guide. Read below for more specifics on what you need in your Brand Style Guide toolkit to communicate your message consistently, memorably and to stand out in the competition.

What is a Brand Style Guide?

A comprehensive guide containing everything from recommended wording, fonts, color choice, graphic/image description to keep your brand consistent, LOGO with digital versions for printing and social media

Why does your business need a Brand Style Guide?

The guide to make every visual you create from print to digital consistent with your brand and business goals. By having all of the information needed in one place, you will decrease the time it takes to produce content and sales materials as well as keep communications consistent across material created by multiple team member or over long periods of time. 

Get to know your Brand

Before you start building a Brand Style Guide, you will need to get to know your brand much better. Not sure you have a clearly defined Brand? Start with these recommendations.

If you need to better understand your Brand, visit these posts on branding, 7 Steps to Create a Brand Strategy, Branding for Bloggers: Part 1 Why Bloggers need a Brand Plan? and Part 2 Brand Plans for Bloggers and Target Marketing 101 – OR – check out my book, Fun and Fulfilling Careers One Question at a Time.

Basic Parts of a Brand Style Guide

  • LOGO
  • Color Palette
  • Taglines
  • Image
  • Fonts
  • Constraints

A Logo is a simple image depicting the industry, purpose and uniqueness of a company, product, or organization, which may include color, words, pictures, symbols, or other visual representation. 

Definition by Creative Brand Coach

Why your business needs a logo?

Logos provide the following benefits:

  • Give an instantaneous recognizable impression of your business at a glance
  • Keep your products and services top of mind promoting Brand awareness
  • Make your organization stand out and be memorable to your ideal audience
  • Give a simple visual way to represent your organization
  • Increase brand loyalty through a connection to your organization’s purpose. With consumers and customers making buying decisions more and more based on the underlying purpose of a company, it is important to communicate a connection to your company’s mission, vision and purpose through a logo. 

Read this post via The Branding Journal to learn more. https://www.thebrandingjournal.com/2019/05/difference-logo-design-branding/

Psychology of colors: Choosing a Color Palette

What is a Color Palette?

A Color Palette is a set group of colors you will use in your communications and image materials. The main benefits of a color palette are brand recognition, the ability to stand out from your competitors, helps to simplify design decisions and through color psychology helps your ideal target market recognize your brand as a good choice.

WARNING: Colors have different meanings in different cultures. If you are working across borders, be aware that a color can change meaning.

Recommendations on choosing the right color palette

Working with Words: Fonts Choice

What is a font?

“A font is a set of printable or displayable text character s in a specific style and size. The type design for a set of fonts is the typeface and variations of this design form the typeface family. Thus, Helvetica is a typeface family, Helvetica italic is a typeface, and Helvetica italic 10-point is a font. In practice, font and typeface are often used without much precision, sometimes interchangeably.” Definition from WhatIs.com via @WhatIsDotCom

Warning: Fonts, like colors, can have meaning. Read this post to learn more, What Different Types of Fonts Mean and How to Use Them via Digital Synopsis.

  • Modern fonts best for technology and style.
  • Classic fonts best for building trust and sense of security
  • Script fonts can be formal or playful depending on how stylized they are.

Recommendation:  Choose multiple fonts including at least one script font for use across social media and print. Stick to 1-2 for the vast majority of your communication but use secondary fonts for sale or announcement materials.

First impressions: Image choice

A picture is worth more than a thousand words, especially if you use consistent types of images in your brand communication. Consider what images your target market naturally gravitates toward.  Remember you are trying to establish a relationship based on people buying from people and doing business with companies they know, like and trust. Consistent images help increase all three.

The images you choose will depend on your business type, unique brand style/personality, and the message you are conveying.

Options:

  • Soothing colors/attention grabbing
  • Natural images/High Tech
  • People/Objects/landscapes
  • Positive/Negative space
  • Lots of white space/busy
copyright by Creative Brand Coach

When to be disruptive!

Exception:  If your brand is very unique in your industry or you want your business to be seen as a disruptor, feel free to break away from the pack. Just be sure you are using images that reflect your brand and are consistent. Disruption can also be communicated through more unusual fonts and unexpected color choices as well.

How to share your Brand on social media:

Branding recommendations by Platform to help you reach your Target Markets

Each Social Media platform responds best to its own set of rules about brand representation. Choosing the platforms that are most likely to connect you to your ideal target market or high value customer is essential for the success of your brand and your business.

Important Brand Style Guidelines by Social Media Platform

Instagram: Check your checkerboard (9 images that work)

Facebook: Go for engagement (event promotion, new services)

Twitter: Motivate & Education (inspiring words & the science behind)

LinkedIn: Show the expert you are (share industry articles, start the conversation)

YouTube: How to & why me? (Teach & testimonials)

Pinterest: Show & Sell (Products, Services, Share)

A few Final recommendations:

Do your research!

Spend time understanding what is out there. Research how other brands in and out of your industry communicate their Brands through Style and imagery. A few ways to keep up to date with the latest trends include:

  • Follow Top Influencers
  • Spend time learning what you like and don’t like visually
  • Ask for feedback from current clients/friends
  • Don’t be afraid to rebrand or rebound brand (start over or go back to your original branding)

Start building your Brand Style Guide today to make marketing your business, brands, and company easier tomorrow.

Heather H. Bennett is a marketing strategist, personal brand coach, Board Director, and author of Fun and Fulfilling Careers One Question at a Time. Heather lives and works in Chicago, Illinois and is enthusiastic about helping businesses and professionals build strong brands to connect with their target market and reach their personal and professional goals.  Find Heather via Twitter @creativebrandch & www.creativebrandcoach.net

Fun and Fulfilling Careers One Question at a Time by Heather H. Bennett, Creative Brand Coach, image copyright by Creative Brand Coach

Top LinkedIn Strategies for Job Hunters

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By Heather H. Bennett, MBA

For anyone looking to improve their career or find a new job, LinkedIn is the best use of your social media time. LinkedIn helps you promote your personal brand and get you in front of the people that could hire you.

“The best advice I give to clients about social media is to only invest time and money in the social media platforms that (1) resonate with you, (2) are directly tied to communicating your message to your target markets, and (3) communicate that message in the most effective way.  Otherwise, you are wasting your time.” (from Fun and Fulfilling Careers, One Question at a Time)

LinkedIn Strategies to help you get your next job!

For a LinkedIn strategy, you need to commit to spending time on LinkedIn: posting, engaging, keeping you profile updated, and adding valuable connections.

A LinkedIn Strategy focused on finding a job needs to be: focused, efficient and targeted. Most job hunters are working at a full-time job or many part-time roles, WHILE searching for a new job. 

Focused (The primary goal of getting a job should be reflected in all LinkedIn interactions)

Efficient (Takes only a few minutes of your time each day or week)

Targeted (Connects you to the best people to hire you for your next role)

What is LinkedIn? 

Description: “LinkedIn is a social network that focuses on professional networking and career development.”– Dave Johnson

Best used for:

B2B (Business to business) sharing of business and industry related topics and discussions. Sharing job experience and acting as a live resume.  Establishing thought leadership and social proof of professional knowledge. 

Best practices:

  • Create a solid LinkedIn page for your audience, not you!  Design your page and your posts to fill their needs as they seek information on you
  • Post on it to support your blog
  • Keep it updated
  • Ask for endorsements and recommendations from clients, coworkers, current and past
  • Link to your website
  • Fill all 50 skill lists, change the top 3 based on the needs of your business so you rank higher
  • Use consistent photos and images
  • Feature and share other related articles online as well as short video clips
  • All information should support the headline
  • Keep information focused on core business, do not add tangential information/businesses unless they are relevant to your primary business goals
  • Visit the Orbit Media blog post How to Improve Your Personal SEO: 5 Tips for Personal Branding within Search Results for more ideas
  • Comment and engage with colleagues so you are seen as an expert in your field and a helpful contributor.  As my friend and expert marketer, Troy Sandidge says “The party is in the comments”.  So make sure you are commenting.  I can’t emphasize enough how important engagement is for your career and job hunt. 

LinkedIn sits at the top of the Social Media Pyramid because it accommodates short posts and brief discussions about topics that are important to specific industries and careers. 

The benefit of these shallow conversations is that it supports the main purpose of LinkedIn for careers, connecting people that are loosely tied to you. 

The majority of people get jobs not from their closest contacts but from loose ties as evidenced by the well-designed and often references study called The Strength of Weak Ties by Mark S. Granovetter in the American Journal of Sociology.  In the study, Granovetter demonstrated that individuals that were weakly tied found jobs through those ties that the rest of their network did not see. 

He also found that jobs gained through weak ties tended to have higher salaries and bring more fulfillment to the newly hired employee.  Both excellent reasons to focus your LinkedIn strategy on your weak ties and develop more weak ties when you are job hunting. 

3 Cs of a LinkedIn Strategy for Job Hunters

  1. Connections
  2. Content
  3. Calendar

Connections

Connecting with individuals who are in a position to hire you or share an open position with you is key.  First, start by creating a list of ideal companies to work for. 

So how do you find the right connections to get the job you want?

Ask yourself the following questions. 

Who is your “in” to the industry or these ideal companies? 

Who is your inspiration in this career? 

Who are the influencers? 

Do you know someone from college, or even your professional, or social circles that could help you learn more about this industry or the companies you want to be hired by? 

Consider your business network, convention connections, company directories, LinkedIn contacts, other tangential companies that work with the company directly, social media groups, and your personal network.   By finding a connection you already have on LinkedIn that is directly connected to the person that can hire you, you are one step closer to be connected with that ideal individual. 

Connections Lists

Group 1 (who can hire you or recommend you for the role you want)

Create a list: (call this list your Top Tier, Premium or A List) of individuals that are best able to hire you, recommend you or bring you in for an interview with your ideal company. 

Why are they important: They are your fastest path towards getting the interview you want.  Keeping your personal brand top of mind for this group is vital, so that they think of you when a role opens in your ideal company.

How to connect with:  Find them through your connections, look them up on the company website, Follow on LinkedIn, comment on their other social media if they are very active (YouTube, Twitter, Instagram), request a connection from them asking so that their posts come across your feed

How to engage with: Check in on this list every week, see what they are posting, commenting or sharing, like, share and comment on their posts that directly tie to: the type of work you want to do, important industry trends, anything that your profile highlights to show you as an expert in your field such as skills, technical capabilities and successes

Group 2 (Industry Influencers and Key Thought Leaders)

Create a list: (call this list your Tier 2, Secondary or B List) of individuals in your industry that are influencers, highly active on LinkedIn and social media, key opinion leaders, key thought leaders 

Why are they important: They are the people with the loudest voices, furthest reach and strongest presence digitally and normally at in person conventions and events. 

How to connect with:  Find them through your connections, look them up on the company website or register for webinars or events they are featured speakers at,  Follow on LinkedIn, comment on their other social media (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), request a connection from them asking so that their posts come across your feed,

How to engage with: Check in on this list every 1-4 weeks, see what they are posting, commenting or sharing, like, share and comment on their posts that directly tie to: the type of work you want to do, important industry trends, anything that your profile highlights to show you as an expert in your field such as skills, technical capabilities and successes, listen to their podcasts, quote from their books.  Let them know that you consider their opinion vital to your industry. 

Group 3 (individual you have worked with on projects or who you engage with at least once a week on a regular basis in your industry, Individuals that are connected to A List connection that you are connected with or have/do work directly with)

Create a list: (call this list your Third Tier, Tertiary or C List) of individuals that have or are working with, these are people that you could reach out to for a recommendation, or an endorsement and you should 

Why are they important: They are your base of social proof and the people that are most likely to engage with you.  They are your fans and colleagues.  You may be able to help them in the future once you get your new job and their support now and throughout the process will help you succeed.

How to connect with:  You should already be connected on LinkedIn with them, but check!  Sometimes it is amazing which people we are NOT already connected to

How to engage with: Check in on this list every 2-6 months, see what they are posting, commenting or sharing, like, share and comment on their posts that directly tie to: the type of work you want to do, important industry trends, anything that your profile highlights to show you as an expert in your field such as skills, technical capabilities and successes.  You are merely reminding them who you are and that the time you spend/spent working with them has had a positive effect on your overall career. 

Recommendation: Find at least one person who has been in the industry for at least 5-10 years to act as a mentor.  Be sure to reach out to them via email every 1-3 months at the very least, weekly at the most to ask advice, share an article or post they would enjoy or simply ask how they are doing.  Your mentors will fit into the C List but should be engaged with more often than the average C List connection.

Content

Creating content for your LinkedIn Strategy starts with creating a list of career keywords. 

These keywords are topics or subjects that are important, vital or trending in your industry.  You should be able to comfortably talk about, share opinions about and in general want to learn more about these topics.  The Keywords should also be the ones listed on your profile Talks about section as well. 

Content creation is a lot like journalism.  Answer the correct questions: Who, What, When, Where , Why and How and you have yourself a story. 

Who?  Who creates the content is up to you.  You can have an assistant, social media team or write work with you to create content.  Having a professional photographer/videographer/editor help can also be beneficial.  Consider your time, budget and skill set when deciding to outsource.  Remember:  a powerful personal brand is authentic, strong and unique.  Having a ghost writer create your posts may come across as not being authentic if it does not represent your thoughts, viewpoints and vernacular.

What?  Again, go back to your list of keywords.  What subjects are you professionally talking about?  Consider any areas you have received awards, written articles, been interviewed about, published books, ebooks or created webinars, keynote speeches or white papers about.  A few content experts to follow and learn from are Ann Handley, Larry Kim, Andy Crestodina, Neil Patel, Rand Fishkin. Mari Smith, Mark Schaefer.  Reinvigorate and update old blog posts.  Create a case study about a client that makes them look great!  Poll people on changes in the industry or trends. 

When?  Ideally, Tuesday through Thursday during traditional work hours.  The majority of LinkedIn visits happen during that time, but try A/B split testing to see what time or date works best to create engagement for you.  Lots of likes, shares and comments means what you sharing is exciting and important. 

Why?  Clearly state the purpose, main point and what the audience will learn and benefit from.  Give them a reason to stay.  And look for more great content from you.  Why is this important? 

How?  The main parts of a great LinkedIn post include: catchy title, hook (opening sentence that stays above the scroll to grab their attention, clearly stated main message or point of post, visual (infographic, photo, image), copy body (list supports for your viewpoint, message or main point), closing question or Call to Action (what do you want them to do next?) Always good to add a link to a website to guide them towards getting to know you better via personal website, vlog or blog.  Reread at least 3 times, one being out loud to catch errors and finally add a few handles of colleagues that have opinions about what you wrote about.  Respond to all comments that are appropriate. 

Calendar

LinkedIn has a carefully created algorithm that pushes posts to individuals’ feeds.  Unfortunately, this algorithm changes constantly.  So, any hope of trying to game the system is wasted time when you are using a long- term job hunting strategy that should get you to the next role and beyond and are likely busy with your current role and other projects.  Better to focus on overall strategies that are more likely to work in the long term. 

Posting is always better when it is consistent.  Is your regular weekly post on industry trends always on a Thursday morning?  Great! Your audience appreciates knowing when to expect to get a new nugget of wisdom from you.  Only have time to post monthly?  Just pick a consistent time, the 3rd Wednesday for example. 

Creating a content calendar allows you to create content when you have time and then save to post at the consistent posting times.  Having a bank of greatly, highly edited and tied to your personal brand gives you the opportunity to present an organized posting without feeling rushed. 

Consider using productivity tools, scheduled emails or other ways to remind yourself when to post.  Schedulers also work but how you are allowed to post can change rapidly so be sure to keep up with the latest limitations. 

Also, remember to schedule time to read your feed on LinkedIn, comment, like and share posts. 

Weekly LinkedIn Task List

(from Fun and Fulfilling Careers, One Question at a Time)

Daily

  • Check LinkedIn for Notifications and connections requests

Weekly

  • Check, read, and respond to messages or requests to connect on LinkedIn.If a major event occurs or a topic is highly trending, check your schedule and posts to make sure your posts are not seen as insensitive or inappropriate. 

Monthly Tasks

  • Set aside 2-4 hours (or more if you are creating long form content) to create posts to use over the next month.
  • Schedule ahead posts for the next 30 days using a scheduler (you may need to do more than once a month depending on the scheduler limitations) or upgrade to an unlimited paid plan to schedule months in advance. 

Quarterly Tasks

  • Update your customer relationship management software with new connections or new information on current connections from LinkedIn.
  • Update your content files and old posts with new information.

Annual Tasks

  • Get a new headshot to update your profile (If you don’t have time or the funds to hire a professional photographer, use a phone with a great filter, natural light, and a solid color shirt).
  • Review the profile wording or description to stay updated and authentic.
  • Set your goals for LinkedIn: Are you looking for a new job?  Networking for referrals? Building your industry knowledge? Building the strength of your network?
  • Review your technology needs and equipment, buy new equipment to make managing social media easy.
  • Review software to improve or switch to a new software or plan if you have outgrown your current one.
  • Consider outsourcing content creation or posting if your budget allows.

Social media is a tool to help us communicate with others.  Focusing on the message, the audience, and purpose of each post will help keep the time you spend on social media manageable.  Planning what to post and when to post will give you more time for what you are truly passionate about. 

Remember!

“The best advice I give to clients about social media is to only invest time and money in the social media platforms that (1) resonate with you, (2) are directly tied to communicating your message to your target markets, and (3) communicate that message in the most effective way.  Otherwise, you are wasting your time.”

(from Fun and Fulfilling Careers, One Question at a Time)

Good luck with your job hunt!

Heather H. Bennett is a marketing strategist, personal brand coach, and author of Fun and Fulfilling Careers One Question at a Time. Heather lives and works in Chicago, Illinois and is passionate about helping businesses and professionals build strong brands to connect with their target market and reach their personal and professional goals.  

Find Heather via Twitter @creativebrandch & www.creativebrandcoach.net & heatherhbennett.com