7 Steps to Create Brand Guidelines for Your Digital Marketing

By Colby Flood,
business.com writer
|
Jun 18, 2020
Image Credit: Weedezign / Getty Images

You want your digital marketing to project a consistent, positive image and voice. Here are the steps to develop marketing guidelines for your team.

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Notice any differences here? 

Running a digital marketing campaign can be a timely task, so many companies delegate it to multiple employees. If the process ends at delegation, you may see something similar to the captions above, with each employee putting their own spin on your brand voice and image. 

Part of a digital marketing team's responsibility is to consistently share your brand image in a way that connects with your audience. Unity across your messaging makes it easier for potential buyers to identify your brand voice and understand your offer.  

In this article, I will share my experience working with an NGO, a men's drug and alcohol regeneration program, to build its online marketing presence and how we established brand guidelines. All of the advice in this article can apply to both nonprofit and for-profit businesses. 

You'll need to follow these steps to establish brand guidelines for your digital marketing team:

  1. Define your mission statement.
  2. Understand your audience.
  3. Establish your brand voice.
  4. Establish content guidelines.
  5. Set creative standards.
  6. Clarify your posting expectations.
  7. Communicate response standards.

1. Define your mission statement.

Your company's mission statement sheds light on who you serve and the purpose of your business. You must start with your mission statement, as this will shape your ideal audience. You want to find an audience that matches your core values, not vice versa. 

When creating a mission statement for this NGO, we worked to define its purpose into key identifiable features: "Living Free Ministries desires to be an instrument of hope for our community and beyond. Our goal is to help develop spiritual leaders, family leaders, and community leaders."

2. Understand your audience.

Developing and understanding your buyer persona will streamline the content creation process for your team, allowing you to create content that is more relevant to the audience. By knowing things like your audience's spending habits, goals and possible objections, you can position your content to spark their interest no matter where they are in the shopping experience. 

When defining the buyer personas for the NGO, we looked at its two primary audiences – its donors and the men it serves. By understanding what aspects of a person's background or lifestyle would lead them to donate, we were able to determine which part of the NGO's values were best suited to share in its media. 

Take the time with your team to map out your buyer persona(s) using these eight key identifiers:

  1. Background
  2. Income
  3. Online activity
  4. Spending habits
  5. Daily life
  6. Goals
  7. Possible objections
  8. Stage of the buyer journey

3. Establish your brand voice.

Your brand voice shows your company's personality and stems from your mission statement and core values. Without an established brand voice, you may end up with the scenario at the beginning of this article – a wide variety of audience interactions across your digital marketing platforms that lack a genuine connection with your audience. 

With the NGO, we started by looking at its mission statement and pulling the three key identifiers: It develops spiritual leaders, family leaders and community leaders. We then selected descriptive words that matched its core mission, including "hope," "compassion" and "opportunity." 

The next step is to create a list of words to avoid and another list with words to use in your marketing content. Certain words may lead people away from your brand value or incline them to use certain emojis on your social media posts. 

4. Establish content guidelines.

Generally, how-to guides for brand guidelines cover the creative standards (which we will discuss in the next section) but not the purpose of the actual content or the value and emotion the audience will pull from it. 

If you have a clear mission statement and 3-5 descriptive words, you can easily translate them into the purpose of your social media content or campaign, and your job transitions from creating content to documenting your brand. 

With the NGO, we used the three key identifiers in its mission statement and one of its descriptive words to plan out the entire content campaign. Here are the content guidelines we established for its identifiers. 

Family leaders:

  • Photos of men with their children
  • Testimonials from the families of the addicts

Spiritual leaders:

  • Photos documenting the men praying for others
  • Stories documenting their journey 

Community leaders:

  • Photos and videos documenting the men working in the community

5. Set creative standards.

Your creative standards consist of the photos, videos and graphics you share online. The ultimate goal here is to create a style with your brand content that is readily identifiable by your online audience. 

Establishing things like a brand logo, color palette, photo and video background color, photo-editing style, and font is one of many ways to build out specific creative guidelines for your brand. With the NGO, this meant establishing brand colors for its website and online graphics. 

6. Clarify your posting expectations.

Part of growing your brand online is maintaining a consistent posting schedule. Your audience is inundated with information from friends, family and other brands – if your business does not keep a regular posting schedule with proactive engagement, your content will be lost. 

Time

The time of day you post can determine the amount of engagement you receive from your audience. A small brand can't expect to receive the same engagement on a post at 2 a.m. as they'd get at 6 p.m. A good rule of thumb is to post content around 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and 6-7 p.m. 

Frequency

The ideal posting frequency is another common question I receive from clients. If you post too little, you will disappear in the news feed, but you may overwhelm your audience if you post too often. 

My suggestion is to focus on content quality before quantity. While one or two posts a day is optimal for platforms like Facebook and Instagram, don't feel pressured to put out content that may not perform with your audience. 

7. Establish response standards.

Social media created an opportunity for two-way communication between brands and buyers on a large scale. Engaging in conversation with your audience will set you apart from the competition and increase the engagement you see online. Set clear expectations with your team for how they should respond to user comments and engagement to help your brand build lasting relationships with your audience. 

Shares

"Thanks for sharing!" "Thank you for sharing this, @Name!" These are two quick and easy ways to show that your brand is aware of your audience and the impact they make for your brand. By showing appreciation for a share, you let that user know your brand listens, which will encourage them to continue sharing your content in the future. 

Comments and reviews

I grouped these two together because they both can be either positive or negative. Positive comments or reviews are an opportunity to build a connection with your audience and show appreciation for their engagement with your brand. Negative comments or reviews are an opportunity to confirm that your brand is proactive and wants each customer to have a great buying experience. It's best to respond to the negative comments or reviews by directing them to a private message so you can evaluate and solve any issues. [Read related article: Why Responding to All Your Online Reviews Is Critical]

Private messages

Platforms like Facebook display your response rate, which is how quickly your business responds to private messages. Create a routine of checking and responding to private messages from users. 

Creating brand guidelines and setting them as expectations for your team will keep your brand image consistent as your company scales its digital presence. You now have the tools to create brand guidelines for your digital marketing team. Time to get out there and crush it! 

I am an experienced storyteller and marketing professional. I got my first crack at my innovative marketing strategy when I worked for a non-profit organization. My biggest win was when I helped to raise $204,000 in just 45 days, with only one day of planning before launching the campaign. These funds helped a ministry open a women’s recovery house, a place that will bless women and their families for years to come. Today, I take this unique approach to lead generation and lend my expertise, knowledge, and dedication to the Health & Wellness industry. My vision for my business is simple, make Cause Marketing an expectation for businesses of all sizes. I want to create a bridge between small businesses and local non-profits, and supply both sides with tools to grow.
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