“Oh, I’m just here as the intern.”
That’s how a past marketing intern of mine introduced herself when I brought her into her first meeting, a touchpoint with a key vendor partner.
She said it quietly, a deflective response to the large man’s hand extended to shake hers, choosing to instead remain hunched protectively in her seat with her hands in her lap. After a raised eyebrow, our vendor representative quickly moved on to the business at hand. She stayed quiet the rest of the meeting, and he ignored her presence in the room.
My intern had the chance to brand herself at the start with a strong, compelling voice worthy of attention. But instead, she set the tone to be overlooked.
Brands can be like that, too.
Uncertain of where they stand – or where they want to stand – their identity often gets overpowered by the crowd of bolder brands raising their voices on the web.
If you’re nervous you’ll fail or attract the wrong attention by speaking up, I’m going to give you the same advice I gave my intern.
Decide who you want to be tomorrow – and act the part today. Or you’ll never get there.
Why brand voice is important
One of the most important parts of establishing a strong brand identity is to develop a distinct brand voice that communicates your identity across all of your content efforts. It speaks to the purpose of your organization, its vision and values, and its goals.
This voice makes your message instantly recognizable as your own, setting you apart from your competitors and fostering one-on-one relationship with your target audience.
But how do you develop a strong brand voice that will get heard?
Ask yourself four simple questions.
1. Who are you already?
First, you need to get a feel for what you’re doing currently and what that says about your organization.
Look at existing content you’ve produced such as blogs, social media posts, white papers and webpages. Do they have commonalities in style and tone?
- Average length
- Word choice
Do you favor long, formal pieces or short, casual blurbs? Do you write with a serious, academic tone, or do you inject lighthearted humor?
Most importantly, how do your customers respond to these elements?
Every company has a voice – even if you haven’t taken the time to analyze it before.
2. Who do you want to be?
Once you’ve identified elements of your existing voice, decide if it speaks to who you want to be and what you want to achieve as a brand.
Because no matter what your brand voice “sounds” like, it should serve the same goals and objectives as your content itself, says WordStream.
If it isn’t resonating with your readers, it’s time to make changes.
Check out this WordStream blog for examples of how companies are using style and tone to drive their content goals.
3. Who do your customers need you to be?
So you’ve identified who you want to be and what you want to accomplish.
But as Jayson DeMers asks in a post for Forbes.com…
… so what?
While your voice has to resonate with your business’ vision and perspective, you also have to be able to connect that voice to what’s most important to your customers, he says.
That’s where having distinct buyer personas for your main audience is key. You need to understand your consumer – their wants and needs, concerns, buying behaviors and demographic influences – then hone your brand voice to speak to those elements.
Otherwise, why would they listen?
4. Who is speaking on your behalf – and how?
Once you’ve developed a voice for your brand, it’s important that it stays consistent across all channels to maintain the connection with your audience – regardless of who’s contributing content.
This can be difficult for companies who have various team members contributing to their content marketing strategy across departments and locations.
To keep everyone on the same page, develop clear guidelines to manage your content team that include voice and tone preferences.
The Content Marketing Institute suggests creating a personality chart to clarify your preferences.
Brainstorm key personality traits you’d use to describe your business, then create a chart with these characteristics listed as row headers. Across the top, create three columns to further flesh out a brief description, do’s and don’ts for each characteristic.
See their example below.
The most important element of your brand voice
When factoring in the various perspectives that go into brand development, the most important element for an effective voice is authenticity.
Don’t get caught up in what you think you should do. Have clear reasoning for each element.
- Remember your founding mission and values
- Don’t lose sight of your company goals and core competencies
- Use defined buyer personas to drive customer influence
- Skip the jargon – write real content for real people
- Stick to content platforms relevant to your audience
An authentic voice shines through the abundance of crap out there and builds trust with consumers – while a weak brand voice won’t get heard much, if at all.
Still have questions on how to write with a strong brand voice, or do you have additional tips to share? Let me know in a comment below or shoot me an email!