cookie-cutter

The road to success is paved with templates

Now that you’ve completed your strategic communications audit, you’ve likely discovered a few deficiencies that you’re in the process of figuring out how to handle.

One of the possible culprits is your brand’s consistency – or its inconsistency, to be more accurate. The look and feel of your organization does not begin and end with its public facing materials. For your brand to truly grow and flourish, it must be lived throughout the organization, in every conceivable incarnation, including your internal documents.

Some of the most revered company cultures in the world have work spaces, and work processes, that are creative extensions of their brand. It can be a big factor in attracting and retaining top talent, and it flows through to your employee’s interactions with the public, other organizations, and with each other. Employees become more effective at their jobs when your brand’s promise is authentic.

One of the best ways to address that inconsistency is with templates. They help us to standardize the way we capture and present information. So, while template design might not make your list of sexy, high-profile projects like advertising or product design, it pays to pay attention to the details.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the templates you need to ensure success.

Presentation materials

Many organizations skimp on the internal messaging because employees should already be onside. They already know and understand how and why their company is the best in their industry. The reality, however, can be disturbing. Employees need to be sold on new products and initiatives to make sure they are effective in carrying the message. If your internal communications are a hodgepodge of disconnected slides, even veteran speakers can fail to tell a compelling story.

Design a series of presentation templates that are consistent with your brand, and your products and services. Make sure the look and feel accurately reflects the external brand and the internal mission, vision, and values of the organization.

Anticipate their use by the different departments in your organization. Finance will have completely different requirements than Human Resources or Marketing. Give them the room they need to include graphs, charts, images or screenshots, without sacrificing the overall clarity of the slide.

Curate a library of stock information that employees can access and incorporate into their presentations. The less time they have to worry about company background, features and benefits, the more energy they can spend on the narrative.

Provide training for the templates’ use, and make available general presentation best practices so they are equipped to deliver an effective presentation. The tools can only get you so far!

Business forms and reports

Most wouldn’t associate great design with templates for everyday business forms and planning documents. Typically, businesses only revisit their templates once they hit a critical mass of unwieldy forms, or as part of a larger rebranding effort. If done well, you’ll have set of clear and concise documents that are suitable for your operations. If left ignored, you end up with a series of disjointed documents that are difficult to capture and convey information, leaving you, your employees, and your customers in the dark.

Adjusting or updating templates is a good indication that your forms need to be revisited. If your employees can’t trust the information they find, then you’ll find that they don’t use the templates.

Well-designed forms increase productivity! Standardized forms are fast, efficient, and accurate. Customer-facing forms with a specific and intentional flow are particularly helpful as they can help prompt conversations about additional features or benefits your company provides.

So, if you’ve started digging and don’t know where to start with your template design project, consider outsourcing it to someone who understands their importance. Establish a strong presence and process now to save yourself time and effort in the long run.

photo credit: Tiling the Plane with Escher Butterflies via photopin (license)

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Published by

Ashley Brown, APR

I have seen and done it all, on large and small scales, including communications planning, event coordination, print production, digital presence management, media relations, and more. Bringing in an outside perspective, with an objective set of eyes to pour over your organization's communications programs is considered best practice and yields actionable results. I gather anecdotal and empirical evidence to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of your current communications programs, and make suggestions about how to improve your planning and execution processes, as well as your communications products and materials.

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