Why You Need a Proposal Style Guide
Updated: Jul 16
Time for some existential thought.
Who are you?
What do you stand for?
What should others expect from you?
This may sound like Albert Camus suddenly popped up and wondered were your quarter life crisis has been hiding. No, I'm not suggesting any quit-your-job Kerouac-ing this summer. But these questions?
This is the stuff of brand identity.
Branding is what helps someone know who your organization is and what you stand for at even the quickest glance. The path to a great brand identity - think of your favorite clothing brand, for example - is consistency in visual, consistency in message, consistency in identity. Together, a few key elements like colors, fonts, and symbols can bring to mind a powerful narrative about what it means to be a specific brand.
Unfortunately for most organizations I work with, branding is something that lives on websites.
It's a message that exhausted creative and marketing teams try to share over and over again, to no avail.
Branding should be everywhere!
But when branding is hiding out in a marketing department files and isn't something that people can use and apply in their day to day work, the value of the brand is diluted. Instead of a donor picking up your proposal and knowing exactly who you are, you have to invest in refreshing their memory over and over again.
Business development professionals are in a unique position where upholding branding guidance is integral to succeeding at their role in the organization. This means jumping on team branding and ensuring that your proposals are sending a cohesive message.
A Proposal Style Guide does just that. It blends the corporate marketing guidance you need (logos, colors, fonts) with organizational standards (grammar, citations, common terms) and adds in a dash of business development best practices (page formatting and more) to create a concise but comprehensive resource for anyone working on a proposal team. Our helpful checklist can help ensure your guide captures everything you need.
I won't lie - most business development teams don't have a Proposal Style Guide.
Those that do? They're winning. And not #winning - really winning actual bids.
Make no mistake - a Proposal Style Guide can be the linchpin that moves your band of proposal writers from good to great. It'll also make your editors and proposal packaging team swoon, when they know that you've got official standards to pull from.
So what can you do to make your Proposal Style Guide particularly great?
Make it clear No Proposal Style Guide is going to be helpful if you leave readers questioning your guidance. Be as clear as possible about what you expect and what the standard is.
Make it accessible This is not the place for 30+ page documents. If you want people to follow your Proposal Style Guide, first you have to get them to read your Proposal Style Guide! This means making it short, to the point, and easily available where people in your organization will look for proposal resources. Making it searchable will also go a long way toward making it accessible.
Make it smart Your readers (probably) aren't writing for the first times in their lives, so don't pretend that they are. You can assume that most people understand basic grammar and punctuation. Instead, focus on where you've seen problems in the past. If there are grey areas, explain where they can read more on the topic.
The bottom line? A Proposal Style Guide is going to take your team to the next level.
Still need more? We've got you.