Content design

IHM Content Style Guide

A compass pointing to true north
for the wild, wild west (of writing)

A true story

Peel back the playful playwriting, and we have a real life story that transpired in Redding, California. 

surrounded by potential
With no one heading up content, Igniting Hope Ministries sounded like 100 voices speaking however they wished. No rules, no policies, no guidance. 

One of my first priorities crystalized itself: create a content-first culture.

DISCOVER - DEFINE - DEvelop - DEliver

Process Overview

      • User interviews with team members
      • Meet with stakeholders / founders
      • Content audit


Create style guide

Implement via workshops & office hours


Lean in to understand

To identify opportunities, I looked inward (staff interviews, content audit) and outward (competitor benchmarking). 

To understand the team’s pain points and needs, I asked the team questions about their experience with writing content. 

Interview insights
    • Everyone writes. A small but mighty team meant 0 dedicated writers. Every member is tasked with writing, be it emails, main website, or documents. 
    • Most don’t enjoy writing. The majority felt ill-equipped to write, a few felt nervous, and others expressed anxiety attached to communicating via the written word.
    • Hand-me-down content. Marketing, admin, and engineers alike looked at previous emails and landing pages to copy from. There was no standard to follow; just mimic something that was shipped before, inheriting a wide range of content styles.


Instill confidence

Insights from interviews made it loud and clear: fear, doubt, and imposter syndrome plagued our team, lying to them about their writing skills. 

To combat this, I started off the guide with strategic encouragement. If what we do flows from who we are, we need to start calling ourselves writers. 

I dove into all things written by IHM to see where we stand.

Content audit findings
    • inconsistency throughout in tone and voice 
    • lack of information architecture 
    • incorrect grammar and punctuation 
    • various kinds of English, depending on the writer 
    • copy is too lengthy 
    • overuse of favorite words (amazing, awesome, very, exciting)

For a competitor benchmarking of sorts, I drew inspiration from MailChimp, Shopify, and 18F.


How might we

set a writing standard that is easy to follow? 

Goals & Constraints
    • give direction for content messaging
    • must be easily passed down to next year's team (yearly turnover of interns and volunteers)
    • educate "non-writers" and non-native English speakers while empowering them in their ability to communicate in written English
    • streamline English from the variety (South African, British, Australian, etc.) spoken amongst staff


Iterate, over and over

The beauty of creating for your own team is getting to interact with them in real-time dialogue throughout the process, build relationships, and truly understand each human more.

After creating a low fidelity style guide, I could test it, ask questions, and make improvements. Rinse and repeat.



Simply hitting “send” on an email with a PDF attachment or Figma prototype link would not get us very far. Who’s going to read it all the way through? 

To drive impact, I opted for a more engaging route. After getting buy-in from the top, we made space for conversations and teaching moments in presentations, workshops, and office hours. 


Closing time

  1. Defining moment for brand voice -- a unified brand voice for all touchpoints. The style guide also came at the perfect time, right before new products began to be built out and a revamping of the main website.
  2. Clarity up, confusion down -- customer service received fewer emails.
  3. Empowered writers -- team members gave a thumbs up to the helpful guide and reported an increased confidence even in their own personal writing.