Taking control of rogue communications

Published: 02/02/22

Struggling with team members who produce their own materials – and violate your brand standards on a regular basis? You’re not alone. Here’s how to take control and protect your brand, even if you can’t directly manage every single piece.

Woman training coworkers on the importance of branding.

Whether you’re a marketing army of one or you’re a fully-staffed communications team, inevitably, someone in your organization is going to produce their own materials. Maybe it’s a one-off sales presentation. Maybe it’s event signage, or graphics for social media. With resources stretched thin and budgets squeezed until they scream, these “rogue” communications are on the rise. Excuses may include “We just needed this one thing,” or “we needed it today and didn’t have time to wait for you to review it.”

It’s a pervasive issue, one we see all the time in organizations and institutions of all sizes. While your coworkers have the best intentions, they’re unfortunately going to do something that goes against your organization’s brand standards, undermining the brand, your marketing efforts, and ultimately your business results.

Instead of getting a monster headache when you see a poster that ignores every brand standard you have, imagine seeing a well-done sign that follows brand rules – and one that didn’t divert focus from your existing communications and marketing priorities.

Getting there is simpler than you might think.

Creating a simple, streamlined brand style guide and toolkit that reflects your brand standards and locks down design will give your well-meaning rogues the tools they need to communicate effectively and stay on-message. Once they have the tools they need and know how to use them, you’ll have new brand champions who will help support and protect your standards, so you’re in control of communications, even when you can’t manage them all directly. Here are the 3 things you’ll need to lock down rogue communications and create new brand champions:

1. Streamlined brand style guide

It’s possible that your organization’s full brand standards manual will overwhelm non-design and non-marketing partners. A streamlined and easier-to-follow version with the most important elements of your brand standards will go a long way to helping your cause. Some things to include are the logo and lockups, fonts and color palette, brand voice guidelines.

Tip: Include samples of good and bad communication materials to illustrate the difference.

2. Templates for key pieces

Creating templates for key pieces makes it faster and easier to create relevant, on-brand communications pieces – and the easier you make it, the more likely people are to use the templates you provide.

Some items you might want to include are event and signage templates, localized ad templates for digital, print and social, and presentation templates.

Tip: Include templates for all common sizes, and give your users guidelines like word count, headline length, and keywords for writing brand-right copy. It’s also a great idea to include a message about the importance of proofreading proper spelling, punctuation and grammar and how they reflect on your brand’s quality message.

3. Training

Once you have your toolkit in place, you’ll of course need to communicate it to your internal partners – and it’s important to train them on how to use the new tools you’ve provided. Ideally, you’ll be able to do some internal training sessions, either in person or online through webinars or shared-screen conferencing.

Tip: If you do your training online, try recording the session and sharing it on your intranet for future reference. (Most screen-sharing tools have a “record” feature that makes this easy.)

If you can’t do live training, you can still create a simple guide explaining how the toolkit will help your audience and your company be more successful (answer that all-important “what’s in it for me?” question up front) and outline how to use the toolkit you’ve provided.

Tip: Include a “helpline,” i.e., who and how to contact for questions or help.

You may still not have direct control of every communications piece, but at least you’re protecting your brand – and can maybe cut back on the ibuprofen.

Ready to take control of your organization’s rogue communications? Let’s talk about what a brand style guide, toolkit and training program might look like.