This is an easy (and free) branding guidelines template I use before even writing my first letter of content to ensure consistent and strong brand guidelines, boilerplate and social media descriptive copy.
You might later want to commission a more comprehensive, brand identity logo and design guide, but at least these examples will help you get off to a strong start defining your business messaging and visual identity for your website, templates, social media properties and more!
My free brand identity guidelines template (PDF)
First things first: if you want to grab the free brand identity guidelines template PDF, you can find it right here, but I encourage you to at least browse the article for a rundown on how to prepare, fill and use the template and its sections.
This is the template I use in my business to provide me with consistent business key message and visual brand guidelines whenever I’m writing content for editorial, social media, product descriptions etc.
It should be one of the most important tools in your business tool set.
Sections in the brand guidelines template
The brand identity guidelines template covers examples that will round out your complete brand identity and messaging, including:
- What fonts and colour codes you will use so these are consistent across all your present and future properties
- Your established niche, focus and the key terms and phrases you will invest in to help your business rank in search and be easily found by new audience members
- A few different bio treatments so you will have copy prepared if you need long or short-form bios or bios under a specific character count (like for Twitter etc)
- An overview of your ideal, target audience and persona information to help you identify and resonate with them
- Key messages, brand manifesto and features/benefits statements to give you a host of punchy, catchy taglines to get people excited about your brand and business
- A complete elevator pitch, so you’ll never be caught off guard again when someone asks you what you do
Defining your fonts and colours
Your fonts and colours form the keystone of your visual brand identity and needs its own discipline; however, the better consistency you bring to this practice up-front, the better positioned you’ll be to evolve into a full visual brand language standard down the line.
Choose fonts that are clean, represent your brand work and ideally are web-friendly. The Google Font Library is a good place to shop for readily available, effective and widely used or accepted font designs
Your colours should be the anchorpoint of all your owned visual design. You don’t have to be a professional designer to nail these down, but stay flexible if you plan to have visual design support in the near future.
To stay on course but keep things adaptable, I usually recommend defining three colours that you will plan to use consistently for your brand. Your primary, secondary and accent (tertiary) colours.
For Twinsticks and Ties, for example, those are black, white and yellow.
Choosing key terms for your business
Key terms aren’t just for SEOs anymore. Keywords, terms, phrases and authority play into literally everything we do as creators in modern business. The world is saturated in content, users need to be able to find the content that’s relevant to them. They do that by searching for what they want to see. They are returned results that show authority for key terms and content phrases that match the search parameters they use.
It’s that simple.
You can use advanced tools like Moz, Ahrefs and SEMRush to determine your keyterm focuses or you can use great free tools like Google Trends to get an idea of what people are searching for when they want to find things that you offer.
You want to be found for those things!
Writing bios and boilerplates
Your bio is the summary of what your business is and does. It’s the calling card that differentiates and generates excitement around your business. Boilerplates are versions of these bios that should be standard on your communications – designed to be very cut-and-paste-able.
I always recommend having three versions of these – heavily defined by your keyterm phrases – specifically:
- Long form: A complete summary of who you are, what you do, what your specialization is and why you are better at it than anyone else. This version is usually two or three short paragraphs.
- Short Form: This summarizes the summary down to about three or four of the most important items in your long form. No more than one paragraph and usually under 250-300 words. These are good for social media platforms, bylines etc.
- Strict/Keyterm: This is basically a meta-description for when you are only allowed 150 or so characters. This should be readable and punchy, but also make sure your keyterms and key-focuses are represented. Usually a long sentence or two medium sentences. Believe it or not, this is usually the most difficult one!
Defining your audience
This can be a bit of a complex one to do on your own, but it doesn’t have to be. Simply think of the top three or four types of clients, followers or audience members you are trying to appeal to the most.
Imagine who they are, what they do and where they are most often found. This will serve as the launch pad to define how you will be best served to seek them out.
Don’t get caught up listing dozens of audiences/targets. The more you add, the less focused your practices will become. It doesn’t mean you can ONLY deal with these four targets, it just means you are going to start with a tailored approach for them.
Brand key messages
These are the items you really want your brand to stand for. This can be tricky too and it’s fine to come up with many, but ultimately you’ll want to carry four or five of the strongest ones.
Think about how you want your business to be referred to, remembered, or spoken about. What are the taglines that really communicate what you do and why you are the best at it.
Why should anyone do business with you and what are you about?
How to write a brand manifesto
This is the whistle that calls the hype train. A few impactful lines that can exist outside all the ‘rules’ of the rest of the doc and are designed to just unapologetically drive excitement, empathy, understanding, desire and more for what you do.
The brand manifesto is your creed. It’s your reason for doing what you do and the driving power that begs success. When you write and reflect on this, it should practically bring you to tears.
It should be something you want to hear, embody, and reflect on every day.
Goals, Features and Benefits
This is a chart version of all the awesome things you do (your “features” column) and, more importantly, why they are critical to your audience, clients and stakeholders (the “benefits” column).
Start with a master list of all the things you do and services you provide in one column, then simply write down why they are critical to the success of your clients – I don’t mean things they need, I mean things that are critical.
From there, whittle the list down to things you provide that are unique or in a unique way. Then refine the “benefits” column to showcase the outcome or end result your clients will enjoy as a result of your features.
This practice takes you from just listing things, to explaining the need and desire for outcomes that you will produce.
How to write an elevator pitch
I used to dread the elevator pitch. I used to freeze when inevitably asked: “what does your business do?” The reality is that this should be an easy, fun and natural moment for you to shine but it takes practice and honing.
There are a lot of different methods and approaches to getting to your perfect elevator pitch (if such a thing exists) but I find this simple method to yield the best results:
Try this formula: [NEED] + [SOLUTION] = [OUTCOME], for example:
- You NEED shoes
- I SELL SHOES
- I can GET YOU SHOES
Then consider the following structure:
- I have..
- You want…
I produce the world’s finest bespoke shoes, which you need to impress the people who matter most to you. When we connect our clients with that perfect set of kicks, the only thing that matters is that we’ve empowered them with a breakthrough in self-confidence and style.
So go ahead and get cracking on your new brand identity and brand guidelines template. Make sure you bookmark this guide to help you through it and connect with me on LinkedIn if I can help at all.
I’d love to see what you create and how this tool helped take your business just a little bit further!