Ep 221 | Creating a Language Guide

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A language guide is a part of your branding materials that helps ensure your entire organization is speaking the same way and your copy is consistent. Putting together a word doc that allows you to keep the terms and phrases you us as well as your ideal customer makes it faster and easier to get things done.

Learn what can go in your language guide and tips for putting it together in this episode.

What you'll learn:

→ what is a language guide?
→ how it helps make things easier.
→ video is crucial.

Want to skip ahead? Here are key takeaways:

[0:11] A language guide is part of your branding toolkit. It provides clarity and consistency as you communicate with the public. Building it takes time but will make things so much easier as you engage volunteers or other team members to write for your organization.
[3:50] Things to include. Vision and mission statement. Words to use, and not to use. Taglines that you can reference quickly. Ideal donor avatars. Testimonials. The tone you want to use


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Full Transcript

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hello, hello, and welcome to our month all about copywriting. I'm excited to kick off the first episode this month talking about a language guide. So what is a language guide, you might be asking yourself? Well, this is part of your branding toolkit that is going to give you all of the clarity and information that you need when it comes to writing for your business. Whether that's emails, or website copy, or you know, blog post, it's going to be your guiding light to help make sure that you have a consistent voice that you're showing up in a consistent fashion and that whoever is writing or creating content for your organization has all of the things that they need in order to be able to push out a copy that is in alignment with your brand and your voice. So we're going to talk through what a language guide is how you can create one and what types of things you might want to consider putting inside. So that you can have all of these resources handy when you need them, and making sure that everything shows up in the same way.

Now, before we get into this, if you're thinking this is going to be too overwhelming of a project, I want to let you know that I'm a huge fan of your language guide being an ever evolving piece of work. So keeping it somewhere like a Google Doc that you can easily access and add to as you go. So you're gonna hear a lot of different options and ideas here today. But that doesn't mean you need to sit down and write your language guide in one sitting. In fact, I don't recommend that that's going to be kind of tricky, because you're not going to really come up with all of the things that might need be in there in one sitting. So put it somewhere easy, so that you can add to it as you go. But you'll at least have everything that you need handy and know what needs to go in it. So as things happen throughout the days, weeks, months, even years, you can continue to add an update to that language guide. Okay, so I'm going to give you all the tips, all the tricks, all the things so that you can put one together for yourself. Or if you have one already, listen to this episode to maybe help add to it and make it a little bit more robust. Or also just to kind of go through it again. Sometimes we need to review these things as well, because things change and evolve as our organizations grow. And our impact areas change or get added to. So we're gonna jump into this episode.

But first, it is brought to you by our digital marketing therapy sessions. These are 30 minute one on one sessions with me where we can talk about whatever you need support with in your digital marketing, you'll walk away with actionable steps that you can take to keep pushing through it anywhere that you're stuck or anything you need an extra set of eyes on. Whether it is email, copy or support with your website, or you need some strategic help in pushing through a problem that you're facing in your marketing. These digital marketing therapy sessions are perfect for that. And I would love to chat with you and help you move through and continue to grow and multiply your impact. You can go to https://thefirstclick.net/officehours to snag your time today. I can't wait to see you. Let's get into the episode.

[Intro] You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. Each month we dive deep into a digital marketing or fundraising strategy that you can implement in your organization. Each week, you'll hear from guest experts, nonprofits, and myself on best practices, tips and resources to help you raise more money online and reach your organizational goals.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern]  So as I mentioned, your language guide is going to hold all of the things that are going to help you figure out how to navigate copy. As you're moving through all the things in your business from press releases, social media posts, email, even donor letters, it is going to help you write in a way that stays consistent consistent with your voice. And so there's a few things that we want to include in our language guide. And again, like I mentioned earlier, don't feel like you need to do this all at once. Because there's things that are going to come up over time. But what I want you to put at the top of your language guide is really just your vision and mission statement. I love to have these everywhere we possibly can. Because a lot of times what comes in with marketing is we think about the thing that's most pressing that's right in front of us in our face. And it's always good to be rerouted in remembering like this is really the work that we're trying to do big picture that's going to help you write the language that you will be using throughout everything. Now it doesn't mean that all of your posts are going to be big picture posts, right? All your blog posts, all the marketing stuff that you put out there, but it's always good, I think to have that front and center and to be able to remember exactly what it is that we're working towards. Also, when you go to hire or if you ever hire a copywriter, or if you ever use volunteers or interns or people that aren't in the day to day business with you. This this language guide is something you would hand over to them and so to have that vision and mission right up front To remind them and to give them that understanding of exactly the work that you're doing is also a really great thing to reference. So I always like to put that at the top. And I want to back up a second, when I say, guide, this doesn't have to be like some really fully designed fancy PDF, whatever, literally, a Google Doc or a Word doc, whatever that you have, it just outlines exactly all of these things, just written words, with a nice little outline. That's why I love using my Google Docs, because I can have my outline on the side, left side to really like just be able to get to where I need to go. Super easy down and dirty, easy to edit. And so that's what we're creating here. Okay, so you've got your vision and your mission at the top. And the rest of this stuff can go in whatever order makes sense for you. But the next thing I like to kind of think about are, what are the words that we use to talk about who we are, who we serve, and what we do? And what are the words that we don't use. So let me give you a couple of examples. We want to think about how we talk about our community and how we talk about our work. So when I was in the guitar business been working for a custom builder, it was things like fingerboard, fretboard, they talk about the same thing, but a little bit differently. So we always used one word, and we didn't use the other. So in our language guide, it would say use fingerboard, not fretboard, right, and you're gonna put, you're probably going to have two different versions of these because you kind of want them in alphabetical order. So you might have an alphabetical order of the words that you use, and then ones that you don't use, but you're still going to reference both in that line, that makes sense. Use fingerboard not fret board, just so that it's really clear, because maybe you're going through and writing copy, and you're not sure which words are not okay to use. So having them there in a line is perfect. And other examples, I work with an organization that supports whole families. We also support kiddos. And so it's very specific how we as a brand talk about them. So we say either children, or we say teens and youth. We don't say kiddos, we don't say kids. Those are just the choices that this organization has made. So really being clear about how we talk about the population that we serve is also really important. Maybe your pet adoption, do you want to be casual and use Furbabies? Or do you want to make sure you're specifically saying cat, dog, rabbit. And the reason why this is important is because it helps also with clarity. And it helps with understanding what it is who you are, who you serve. So for the public, if they keep hearing the same terms over and over and over again, it's easy for them to really identify what's happening, if you kind of are going back and forth between different words. Like let's say it's teens use kids, whatever you might be confused on what what age group are we talking about here. So they are very consistent in the programs that are related to certain age groups, and the terms that are used with them. Another example could be if you are in an organization that uses abbreviations, and acronyms that can make a big difference. So for example, we work with another organization that's in the health and wellness space. So

do they always use naturopathic doctor written out? If they aren't using it then? Is it N D capitalized? Is it n dot d dot capitalize or is anything lowercase? Like really getting hyper specific with how you choose to talk about that. And it might be a couple different ways, right? It might be that your rule of thumb is anytime you're writing something naturopathic doctor always has to be written out the first time with them parentheses, and D. Because again, we don't want to assume that people know the acronyms. Or maybe because it's a medical designation, you decide you just want to use and D. There's no right or wrong here that's critical. It's really just about making sure that you are communicating consistently with the words that you use. This is something you're just going to have to stay on top of over time and keep writing and adding to this list. It's a lot easier to put in words that you use because the words that you're using, but it's just as critically important to put in words that you don't use, especially if you're working with a sensitive population in any way. Making sure that you are having the correct terminology. But even things like are there slang words that you don't really want to use, that aren't part of your voice? Maybe you do have a more casual voice but these words are okay but we this this word, these words don't really fit our personality. So really thinking about that and making sure that those are in there as well, so that everybody knows these words are not words that we're using in our language. And then it's going to be disciplined to make sure you're checking back in. So initially, as you start to build it, making sure that you're, you know, editing using your language guide, as well as, as written, things are coming together. Okay, so the next section is kind of the key phrases that we use to talk about an organization, whether it's at the end of a press release calls to action, you know, what you might put at the end of a video how you might close out a speech, like, what are some of these key taglines that we use to talk about our organization. So think about the promotional things that you say, at different events and write them down. And again, these will come to you over time. But they're really great reference now for you to go back to and say, Okay, well, we need a call to action here. This is what we say, you know, we say, grab our resource guide for five quick ways to potty train your pet. And that might seem silly to put there. But like any of those language pieces that you're using often, or like we help families heal and thrive, write those words or words that you're using, often make sure they're there. Because now when I'm going through and trying to write something promotional or quick, or I'm trying to put together a quick donation flyer, or whatever, I have all that language in one spot, you can organize it by like this is some fundraising speak that we always give, this is an event copy. This is social media stuff, you can kind of categorize it. So you have everything in one place. This is especially awesome when you have people that are not working inside your organization all the time in the day to day because you know a lot of these things that you're using, you just haven't written them down. And especially for the development team in your office, they are great people to reach out to for some of these pieces of information, because it's asking them okay, well, when you're talking to a donor, what are some of the words that you say, Write those down. And that's great language to continue to use in our copy online. And in other video promotions or things like that. This is also still reinforcing the brand. And for new development people coming in, it's like, Hey, here's a whole list of, you know, closing words and things that we say and ways that we talk about the organization, it could include some key stats that you reference, often that are important to your organization, it doesn't just have to be warm and fluffy stuff, right? What are the things that we want to make sure we're saying over and over and over again, put that in your language guide and organize it by usage, so people can easily find it and reference it. It's a great training tool for your new development team. It's a great way to reinforce the conversations your development team is having, it's a great way for your marketing team to then also speak the same way as your fundraising team is doing. And by team, it could be volunteers that could be you know, you doing all of it. But as we switch back and forth in different hats, a lot of times we change all of a sudden the way that we approach things. And so this guide is really going to help you make sure that everything is kind of going forward in a smooth momentum. Okay, the next thing that I want you to put in here are some testimonials. So we I want you to think about how people have been engaged with your organization and how you can add them into this language guide. Because, again, hearing how other people are talking about the organization is going to just help you as you're continuing to move through. Plus, these testimonials that are in here are going to be great reference points for you to use over and over again in different places. So if I'm writing a blog post, and I need to grab a testimonial about something, it's all in one space, I don't have to look for it. Okay, and again, this is a fluid document, I just want to make sure I reiterate this right you this is a living, breathing document. So you need to continue to keep it updated so that everybody has the information that they need. And again, categorize these testimonials, donors, from volunteers from event goers, from your community that you're serving, right? Have testimonials from every facet of your organization, stick them in here, so that you have the most relevant most current information. Okay, next, I want you to include your personas. Who are you talking to and again, we're gonna break it out by type and activity because I know it's not always the same, but it's important that we're writing to a specific person. And the thing that makes it easiest for me when I'm writing is knowing when I'm writing a blog post, this is who I'm talking to, and I can make it I can just pretend like I'm writing directly to that one person and it makes it so much easier. If it's a major gift if it As a corporate sponsor, if it's a first time donor, having those personas in there is going to be really easy. Again, to just reference it really quick, match it up with some of the language that's already in the guide, and then get going on on the writing that you're going to do. Now, you may not have a lot of donor personas, flushed out or, or just at customer donor or customer donor customer personas written out. And that's totally fine. I don't want you to think that you have to spend hours and hours and hours putting all of those things together, but do make it a point to start to develop some of those characters that you can make names and ages and buyer behavior and all of that stuff, pull it together. So you can start to develop it put some time on your calendar, each quarter even or each month, where you can maybe figure out one new persona, get started with it so that you have that information in the guide, it's going to make it so much easier for you and your team to really write in a way that resonates with the people that you're trying to connect with. And the last thing is really important, maybe the most important, is really the tone of voice, being clear in how you want to talk, how do you want to present yourself? Are you super casual? Are you more professional? You know, what types of language style do you like? And kind of show some examples of written of written material that you have created that is like perfectly in the voice of the organization? And so people can see those examples? You know, do we write about ourselves in first or third person? How do we, you know, do we use like don't or do we use do not, you know, all of those kinds of nuances, especially if you're the only writer in your organization, currently, it's all in your head, and you probably don't even necessarily realize exactly what it is that your style is. So you could even ask somebody else to kind of maybe take one of your pieces or two of them, and they could write that part of the language guide, it might be easier in that way, because they'll pick up on different things than you will. But that's also really, really important for people to understand the style of voice and the style that you're trying to go for. And again, it might be a little bit different your internal communications, your external, how you talk to donors might be a little bit different than how you talk on social media. And that's totally fine. Don't get too complicated with it, we want to keep things pretty streamlined and simple. It's going to make your consistency and your clarity a lot better. But really make sure that you have something in there that's going to help guide people on the way with which you want to approach the writing that you're doing. So that's a great place to get started with a language guide. So remember, you want the words that you're using words you're not using some common phrases that you use, often testimonials don't have personas, and of course, the style that you want to approach the copywriting in your organization. So I hope that you enjoyed this quick down and dirty tip to creating a language guide. I'd love to see them when you get them done and help you kind of flush them out. You can check out the show notes for additional resources here at https://thefirstclick.net/221. But thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate it for now. I really hope that you'll subscribe wherever you listen or on YouTube. We do have two bonus episodes that come out every single month and they're also fantastic. So I would hate for you to miss out on those and subscribing is the best way to get notified when they drop for now. Thank you so much for listening. I appreciate you and see you in the next one.

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