Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Should you make a situational stylebook?

The Associated Press has developed a unique stylebook for coverage of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. I'm not sharing it just because you may find it useful per se, but because you should be thinking about creating similar style guides for reporters and others with whom you share information. From the Nieman Lab post:
The guide is intriguing — not only as a useful tool for the many journalists who will be, in some way or another, writing about 9/11 over the next few weeks, but also as a hint at what a stylebook can be when it’s thought of not just as a book, but as a resource more broadly. AP’s guide (official name: “Sept. 11 Style and Reference Guide”) is a kind of situational stylebook, an ad hoc amalgam of information that will be useful for a particular set of stories, within a particular span of time.
Notice that a short time frame isn't a liability for this highly focused stylebook. I'm thinking of a few clients and friends who could use this approach when:
  • A long-planned event will bring a lot of reporters or bloggers to your company or organization. That might be a conference, a commencement, or a contest, but if it includes many reporters who don't normally cover you, a special stylebook can come in handy.
  • An unexpected crisis or event draws coverage. In these cases, you might just need a standing shorthand stylebook in your back pocket to share so that reporters covering a crisis reference you and find out what they need quickly. Those who are handling communications for natural disasters might want yet another kind of stylebook.
  • You're marking a major historic moment.  Maybe it's occurring on your doorstep, or your company or institution played a major role. If the anniversary's big enough, it might warrant such a guide.
How might you use this approach as a communications tool? Share your ideas in the comments.

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