They’re the planet’s most recognisable and notorious motorcycle club, founded in California in the 1950s and with hundreds of charter clubs all over the world.
The Hells Angels sure have an unmistakably unique and uncompromising culture and style – which likely adds to the biker fraternity’s sense of mystery and menace.
But here’s something else you probably don’t know about the club : there is NO apostrophe in their name! Not Hell’s or Hells’ – just Hells !
A visit to the FAQ section of the international Hells Angels website will bring the visitor to a paragraph that addresses, rather aggressively, the matter of the missing apostrophe.
“Missing apostrophe in Hells Angels? Yes, we know that there is an apostrophe missing but it is you who miss it. We don’t.”
That’s a real take-it-or-leave-it response. And whether or not you agree with their decision to ignore the apostrophe and indeed with their attitude toward the question, you have to agree that it typifies the culture of the club and meaning of their message. You’d almost expect those sorts of sarcastic and aloof responses from a Hells Angel, wouldn’t you? I love their response on another level because the last word in the answer contains an apostrophe!
The point is – they have set a tone for all their communication. The Hells Angels website and all their publicity material is factual, blunt and firm. It is deliberate messaging that reflects their culture – that of brotherhood and sisterhood – with a no-nonsense approach to their club goals.
Something that very few companies or organisations consider as part of their marketing strategy is the creating of a Writing Style Guide or a Communication Style Guide. We spend a great deal of time and money on our Corporate Identity (CI) Guides to ensure that our company’s branding is used consistently, but what about the way we communicate? How does it sound when your team members prepare press releases, write articles or copy write an advertisement or social media post?
Do the messages all sound the same? Is it a good reflection of your culture and does it suit your target market? Below, are a few things worth considering when you compile your Writing Style Guide.
WHAT’S YOUR DRESS CODE?
Dress code is about writing in your brand’s voice. Your company should sound like your company, no matter who is writing the content.
Typically, your voice is determined by how you want your target market to perceive you. It should reflect the type of industry you represent, but it should also set you apart from your competitors.
For instance, I know the difference between the content style of Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, simply by the language style they use. Virgin uses a less formal, conversational style, while BA relies on a formal, decorous tone. They never compromise their brand dressing!
WEAR A HELMET!
You cannot assume that the people that project your messages or communications to the outside world are doing your brand voice justice. So protect your brand by being specific in your style guide, and give examples.
Explain writing Best Practices for different formats and content types. Choose and outline expectations for the types of content your marketing team will create.
There are many different types of content that you can create a guide for, be it; blog posts, case studies, infographics, podcasts, video scripts, social posts, website content and more.
CHECK YOUR BLINDSPOTS
Your employees’ everyday e-mails and letters form part of your marketing message by virtue of their outbound nature. In many cases, the way your brand is carried in something as mundane as an e-mail, can do a fair bit of damage.
It’s not intentional on your team member’s part, but sometimes the way they address the client or the way they describe your product or service could rub the client up the wrong way.
You don’t want to be a control freak, but you should almost certainly do an audit and then set out guidelines for daily communications.
KEEP IN THE LANES
Identify how branded terms must be spelled and formatted. A section of your writing style guide should identify brand names, trade marks, and so forth that must be spelled a specific way every single time it is mentioned.
For instance, if your brand name is HellsBELLS, then you’ll want to specify that it is always one word with no apostrophe, and that ‘bells’ must always be capitalised.
If your marketing material references other suppliers that you may have a license agreement with, such as Intel etc., establish how the brand name should be used as well. Does it require a trade mark symbol, for example?