The Critical Importance of Brand Guidelines

Everything your healthcare brand does sends a message. From the shape of your logo to the color of your waiting room walls to the font choice on a press release–it’s all communicating what you care about, what your priorities are, and how you want patients to feel about your brand.

That can feel…overwhelming. It’s hard enough to decide on a logo–but now you need to think through the messaging associated with every single email you send out? Every resource you make available?

That’s where a well thought out brand guidelines can save you a massive amount of work and simultaneously improve your healthcare messaging. With a style guide to direct your branding decisions, you can ensure your healthcare company is always communicating your core message and your central values.

What is a Brand Style Guide?

In most settings, brand guidelines are typically compiled in a document called a brand style guide. This document will contain specific information regarding how all of your content and branding should be styled and communicated.

If a patient visits your website via your blog, for example, they may first encounter your brand voice in the long form. If you’ve worked hard to foster a caring and nurturing voice in that blog, you need to ensure your homepage (which a patient is likely to visit next) echoes that same tone.

If, for example, your homepage abandons a caring tone and relies instead on scare tactics, patients may lose faith in your brand–and, as a result, your healthcare business.

Or think about it another way: Maybe you talk about how you have access to the latest technological treatments and innovative healthcare techniques, but your website and logo look like they’re from the 1990s. This lack of cohesion can cause patients to question just how up to date on the technology you really are.

That’s not what you want rattling around in a potential patient’s mind while they decide where to seek healthcare.

Am I Too Small–or Too Big–to Need a Style Guide?

The thing about style guides is that they are easy to scale based on the needs of your business. Which means whether you’re a marketing team of one or one thousand, a style guide will make your job infinitely easier. That’s because:

  • A style guide can easily help you keep vendors on brand. (And you won’t have to exchange dozens of emails about what colors to use or who your audience is.) This means projects will move more quickly and vendors will be on the same page.
  • It’s easier to keep teams on the same page and to help them avoid working in silos. In fact, a style guide can represent important connective tissues for marketing teams. With a style guide and proper enforcement of that style guide, you don’t have to worry about your print team or social media team going off brand. Which means it’s easier to keep everyone working from the same script.

Whether you’re big or small, a style guide can help keep your projects on track and on brand.

What Information is Included in a Brand Style Guide?

So, what are the specific types of information included in a style guide? This will change from brand to brand, depending on your specific needs. However, most style guides include the following information:

  • Your logo design, the fonts associated with your logo and any taglines. Most style guides will also explain how your logo should be deployed in different media (print vs. website vs. social media, for example).
  • The logos of any sub brands you might have, as well as how and when to use them.
  • Your brand colors and how to deploy them. This could include colors to use on CTAs for your website or communications with patients. Often brands will have multiple colors that they regularly use. Most style guides will include:
    • Primary colors
    • Secondary colors
    • Clearspace, whitespace, and padding
  • The fonts associated with your brand and how to deploy them.
  • The kind of graphic style your brand uses (for example, should you rely on animation graphics or realistic graphics?)
  • How to best deploy and use photography, illustration, and other graphics.
  • Word choice and written style guidelines. This can help define your brand’s “voice.” A consistent voice will help patients better understand and internalize your values.
  • Templates for a wide variety purposes and activities, such as presentations, internal communications, websites, QR codes, and more.
  • How your branding should appear on clothing (for example, if the logo appears on your clinic’s scrubs).
  • Incorrect usages of logos, style, and more. Sometimes it’s especially useful to provide examples of what not to do.
  • Personas: This could include information on your target audience or who your brand is trying to reach.

This list is not exhaustive; your style guide should encompass every possible way your brand may interact with your marketing campaigns, be perceived in public, or be used for other purposes. Additionally, most style guides are living documents; your organization should add to it as needed over time.

What Happens Without a Style Guide

A style guide is intended to allow your brand to take a thoughtful approach to communicating–without having to stop and think about ten million things a day. Decisions become easier because the strategy and tactics are already laid out.

Without a style guide, there’s a greater chance of mishap. These mishaps could include the following:

  • A miscommunication that can turn patients off.
  • Inconsistent branding that makes you look less professional. In the healthcare field, patients aren’t going to want to see providers who are not professionals. Your credibility is key here.
  • Another brand might co-opt or dilute your messaging: It may not even be on purpose. Maybe another healthcare brand will corner the market on the caring and compassionate voice that you developed–but did not use often enough to truly make yours.
  • Patients who expect one thing due to your branding may experience something else in your office. These unmet (or even unrealistic) expectations can lead to a disappointing patient experience–and a deteriorating reputation.

The primary danger is that when your brand isn’t consistent, it does not communicate anything particularly well. In these cases, your patients may make a negative assumption about your values–and derail all of the careful marketing you’ve done up until then.

Of course, it’s one thing to have brand guidelines–it’s another to enforce them. In order for your style guide to be as effective as possible (and for your carefully constructed strategy to bear fruit), you have to follow your own rules.

Maintaining Your Brand

Brand guidelines may take some work to get off the ground, but they’re an excellent way of making your job easier. You’ll have to think about marketing less often–which means you can spend more time interacting with patients or running the day-to-day of your clinic.

Need to get your style guide going? Talk to an experienced healthcare marketing team today–and contact PatientX to get started!

POSTED ON: May 4, 2023
By Becky McElroy | Branding

About the Author:

At her core, Becky, Chief Marketing Officer of PatientX, is a creative, but there’s much more to her than meets the eye. She was formally trained as an artist with an emphasis in graphic design, but her curiosity and passion for learning have had a great influence on her career. Becky claims working in design and marketing has been like an encyclopedia to the world, because she’s learned many things she wouldn’t have picked up elsewhere. She has found her greatest enjoyment in learning about people and ideas, fostering relationships with clients, and creating meaningfully designed campaigns. Thanks to her depth of experience and mastery of design and strategy, PatientX is transforming healthcare by using marketing to improve the patient experience.