How Style Guides Can Help Teams Build Meaningful Release Notes

A style guide is an essential component of any marketing strategy. It’s a document that basically provides your marketing team with guidelines that outline the proper visual elements and language/grammar approaches that will define your brand. Style guides create clear and cohesive outlines meant to reflect your company’s brand voice and style to keep everything related to look and feel consistent and predictable.

Visual vs Editorial Style Guides

Companies typically have visual or editorial style guides – or a combination of the two. While one deals more with the visual aspects, the other covers tone and language.

Visual style guides define the “look and feel” of a brand and ensure a uniform appearance across marketing materials. Graphic style guides tend to cover:

  1. The logo (and its variations)
  2. The design standards (minimal, abstract, modern, etc.)
  3. Color palettes
  4. White space usage
  5. Typography details (fonts, sizes, kerning, line height/spacing)

Editorial style guides cover rules related to the company voice and tend to include:

  1. Active vs passive voice
  2. First-person vs second or third person
  3. Tone (casual, formal, technical, etc.)
  4. Grammar conventions (words to avoid, abbreviations, regional dialects, etc.)
  5. Specific style guides (Chicago Manual, Associated Press, etc.)
  6. Any other language-specific standards

Why Following a Style Guide is Important

A style guide is essential to follow, as it’s a thoughtful blueprint of a company’s DNA. A style guide can help a company stay consistent – allowing them to differentiate themselves within a saturated market, effectively deliver important messaging, and encourage customer loyalty and trust. Style guides enable teams to drive client perception at every touchpoint – whether that’s the product itself, or a website, blog, social media channel, or other digital touchpoints – including release notes.

Release Notes Style Guide

As a team, you may decide to take the elements of your company’s style guide (such as fonts and color schemes) and build those into a release note template so that your look and feel match with the company’s general aesthetic.

However, your release note style guide may end up as more of a template, with specific sections that can be filled in and distinct extras to be added where it makes sense (such as Calls to Action, contact details, or links to further information).

Whatever your template entails, it’s a good idea to stick to the general style guide to determine the tone of your release notes. For example, if your company has a formal tone across its communications, it’s likely going to be quite jarring to your release notes audience if your notes are overly casual.

Implementing a Release Note Strategy

Once your team has reviewed any existing style guides and has formulated a template, it’s a good idea to have a release note strategy as well. This might involve considering:

  • Who will be in charge of “owning” the release notes
  • What teams need to be brought into the process to collect and then refine the notes themselves
  • When the release notes will be released
  • Where release notes will be placed
  • How often release notes will be published

Following Through

Once you’ve decided on your strategy and given the task to a specific person or team, it’s time to ensure that there is follow-through on the production and release of notes. Whether that entails developing a dedicated Slack channel or Trello Board, ensure your release notes don’t fall through the cracks by implementing reminders into your task management system.
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