Which is a huge mistake. Because your voice is just as important as your image.
The Importance of a Brand Voice
If your logo didn’t appear with your content, would readers recognise that content as being part of your brand?
If you’re not careful, as your company grows and different people are responsible for different channels of communication – emails, web copy, social media, marketing, etc. – you could end up with a random assortment of voices. And that lack of a clear voice will drag down the overall image of your company.
A brand voice is both the words you use and your tone of voice – the way you express yourself. For it to be truly effective, it has to be consistent throughout your communications.
This is because your brand’s voice gives your customers an insight to the people and personalities behind the brand. It demonstrates your values and is an indicator of what drives you. Which is great, because people want to do business with other people, rather than faceless corporations. Having a brand voice builds familiarity and trust; it sets you apart from your competitors, demonstrates how unique you are, and helps to make your brand truly memorable.
It must be authentic and sound natural. For a brand voice to be really successful people should be left thinking what a great business you run, not debating the quality of your writing.
How to Establish Your Brand’s Voice
You can’t decide to pluck a brand voice out of thin air – it should be something that grows organically from your company. So the best place to start when establishing that voice is with your brand values. Think about who you are as a company, your motives for setting out, and the basic human values you offer. How do you differ from your competitors? Try to boil it down to a few key values that really sum you up.
Before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keys!) spend some time listening to your customers. Are they casual and conversational when they write or very formal in their language? What’s their general level of education, and how tech savvy are they? If possible ask them how they view you as a company. You want your brand voice to really speak to your customers, in a language they recognise and can relate to, as well as being authentic to your products and services.
Defining Your Voice
Now it’s time to get to the nitty gritty of the matter and define your voice; figure out how you’re going to translate the sound of your voice and let your personality shine through your writing.
Decide on your average word and sentence length. Writing needs a tempo and rhythm, and variation is the key here – otherwise you’ll sound monotonous and boring – but you probably want to avoid really long sentences, especially online where people typically have short attention spans. Long words and technical language also need to be addressed. Some technical terms may be required, but you probably want to keep things simple and use everyday language that your audience can relate to.
Formal or informal? One is more professional, although can come across as stiff and dull, while the other is easier to infuse with warmth and personality but can appear unprofessional. Of course, this will change depending on the platform and context you’re using, but you need to identify a middle ground and work out how far you’re prepared to stray in either direction.
Use of colloquial words, slang and contractions are all great for keeping things informal and injecting a little personality, but you need to ensure you keep your marketing and web copy evergreen and don’t fall pray to references that are likely to fall out of fashion and date your content.
Finally, while a good grasp of grammar is key for any written communication, breaking the rules and playing with language can have a remarkable effect, when done well, and can help to make your branding stand out from the crowd. The key is to write in a way that’s authentic to your business and values, and communicates your message effectively.
Setting the Standard
Once you’ve defined your brand’ voice, you need to ensure that all your employees are on the same page. The simplest way to do this is by producing a short one-page guide that sums up your brand values and tone of voice, and gives clear examples for different contexts and situations. It should also include any words, phrases and other things you wish to avoid, such as swearing, clichés, particular terminology and jargon, and regional or slang terms.
This will act as a point of reference for editors, and provide a great training tool for new employees. But don’t write it and forget about it. As your brand evolves, your image and voice will also develop and grow, so ensure you regularly revisit your guide and refresh it with new examples.
Developing your brand’s voice is just as essential to your branding as your visual identity. This is your opportunity to express your personality, and turn a faceless company into a group of people with a unique way of working. By establishing a consistent voice, your writing will become familiar to your customers, so they will feel more at ease with you and develop a greater trust in what you have to say.
While you need to ensure that your brand values and message are consistent, with each piece of content you produce, consider who it’s intended for and ensure you write with the appropriate familiarity for the person on the receiving end – an email to a loyal customer will differ from a piece of marketing copy designed to drum up new business, just as a tweet will differ from your customer complaints material.
You know what your brand looks like, but how does it sound? How did you establish your brand’s voice, and how do you ensure it stays consistent across platforms? Join in the discussion below…