When you are establishing and maintaining a brand identity for your business, you need to pay close attention to your text across all of your digital and physical marketing materials. Consistency is of utmost importance in making sure potential customers have a clear understanding of your brand.
As a copy editor, I’ve seen the common problems small businesses have when they are trying to establish their brand identity and gain recognition among potential customers. But it’s not just small businesses that have problems maintaining consistency in their business marketing materials. Every established business goes through staff changes – and when staff changes, it may take new employees a little time to memorize the branding identity manual carefully crafted by their new employer.
This is why it’s crucial to have a good copy editor review your materials. Here are the key branding elements I focus on when I am copy editing for businesses. If you have a copy editor on staff, they need to ensure the consistency of these elements.
- Consistency in references to your company name.
What is your company’s official name? Does it have a “nickname” or acronym that is commonly used? For the benefit of website visitors not already familiar with your company, the “Home” page and/or “About” page of your website should specify the complete legal name of your business. Perhaps everyone in the world knows that KFC stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken, but how many automatically think “National Safety Associates” when they see NSA, which is also the acronym for the National Security Agency and the National Softball Association.
Does your business name include punctuation, such as U.S. Trade Incorporated? Your copy editor should confirm that any time the business name is written, the periods are included in the abbreviation. Does your business name have unusual capitalization? Many business names consist of two or more words with no spaces between the words. Often, each word is capitalized, or there is no capitalization at all, or a word or combination of letters is italicized or in bold.
Every person in your company – especially every person on your marketing team (including the interns who post on your social media channels) – needs to know the rules for spelling, punctuating, formatting, and capitalizing your company’s full name and common name. Even if they do know the rules, mistakes happen, and this is where having a copy editor review your website and brochure text can help.
- Consistency of textual formatting, including colors, fonts, design, logo placement, etc.
It’s hard to achieve brand recognition if your website uses the Palatino Linotype font with green and blue design elements, while your brochures use Helvetica and yellow elements, yet your interns are overlaying your Instagram posts with Comic Sans in orange.
Imagine the McDonald’s “M” in a different shade of yellow, or UPS in anything other than beige-on-brown. Consistent use of color reinforces brand recognition. When a major company changes the font of its logo – such as when Yahoo changed the font of its logo in 2013 – it’s cause for lots of discussion and debate. If your business logo consists solely of your company name, you need to be consistent in the font you use throughout all of your materials.
Current and potential customers should be able to recognize a document from you at a glance. That is, the marketing brochures you use should be visually tied together with your website. You can achieve this by creating a style sheet for your company that specifies the font and colors your company uses for all of its digital and printed materials, including textual overlays on graphics or images. Once you have a style sheet, provide it to a copy editor so they can confirm adherence to the rules.
- Consistency of tagline wording.
Do you have a tagline for your business? Be sure that it’s worded precisely the same way whether it’s in your website header, on the front of your brochures, or in the email signatures of your staff. Tell your copy editor what the tagline is supposed to be so that he or she can review and revise all of your materials to make that wording consistent.
A concise tagline gives potential customers an idea of your company’s mission. If a client sees multiple taglines, they may wonder if your company is lacking focus, or if there have been changes in your business offerings.
- Consistency of keywords and key messages.
What are the key features of your product? What are the benefits of your service? Develop a list of keywords and key messages related to these features and benefits. Have your copy editor review the company’s brochures, website pages, and social media accounts to make sure these keywords and messages are repeated.
Repetition of exact phrases will help the key messages stick in the minds of your potential customers, who will then associate the message with your product or service. Using these keywords and messages throughout your website will also help improve your visibility on search engines when potential customers search on those terms.
When your business has several staff members creating marketing materials, or even if it’s the same person writing website and brochure text over the course of several months, attention to branding may get lost in the process of meeting deadlines. Hiring a copy editor to focus specifically on the above issues is important to keep your brand identity clear as you reach out to investors, or to current and potential customers.
Bernadette Geyer provides writing, copy editing, and translation services for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and writers. She also leads online workshops on a variety of topics for small businesses and writers. Geyer likes being a small fish in a big pond, and enjoys helping others move to bigger ponds themselves. Subscribe to her monthly news from the big pond if you’re interested in professional growth.