Laura Petrolino

How to Craft a Winning Brand Personality Document

By: Laura Petrolino | May 15, 2014 | 
26

How to Craft a Winning Brand Personality DocumentWhat would it be like to go on a blind date with your brand?

If you can’t answer that question, you haven’t yet truly defined your brand personality.

Likewise, everyone in your organization should be able to answer that question pretty seamlessly.

And really, a customer relationship IS like dating.

Would your ideal customer want to date your brand?

Brand personality defines and outlines all of these things. It not only creates a brand persona for your customer to connect to, it ensures brand consistency across all platforms.

Why Brand Personality is Important

Imagine booking a stay at a new, modern hotel, touted for their customer service.

You walk into the contemporary and open design of the lobby and are greeted by a pleasant desk clerk who gives you a key to your room.

The bellman comes to help with your luggage, he rips your bag from your hands and yells something in a different language at you.

You are a bit taken back, especially at a hotel that brags about their amazing customer experience, but hey….you’re on vacation, you promised yourself you wouldn’t sweat the small stuff.

Your bellman throws your luggage into your room and storms out.

As you walk into the room you do a double take. It’s furnished with large heavy wood furniture, think, ornate drapery, and dark colors.

What happened to the modern design?

You need a drink. You head to the bar, but as you enter you realize everyone is using sign language to communicate.

No words.

Is this a dream? Are you in Las Vegas? What happened?

Here’s What Happened?

What happened is exactly what happens when you don’t have a consistent brand personality.

Customer experience relies on a consistent brand personality through every channel and touchpoint.

This is true in the:

  • Visual design of your logo, website, and other brand images.
  • Content you create to represent your brand online and off.
  • Voice and personality your team uses to speak with customers and communicate both internally and externally.

If a customer experiences a different look, feel, or voice in one or more of the channels your company uses to communicate, it instantly dilutes their trust and confidence.

The Brand Personality Document

Unfortunately, maintaining a consistent brand personality is easier said than done.

As your organization and team grow, it’s imperative to create guidelines to ensure everyone is on the same page.

That’s why when it comes to your visual identity, you create brand guidelines. And likewise, when it comes to your messaging, you create a personality document.

What is a Personality Document?

A personality document is a guide which lays out the voice and identity (or personality) of your brand.

It ensures brand consistency in voice and messaging across all customer touch points.

This includes both online (website, blog, placed content and guest blog posts, social media platforms) and offline (store locations, events, conferences, speeches), and by all employees.

It should be included in your PR plan and align with the objectives and tactics presented there.

It must be used by all team members and external partners speaking on behalf of your brand and through all four media types (paid, earned, shared, owned—per the PESO model).

A personality document includes:

  • Key messages, elevator pitch, and boilerplate
  • Mission statement and values
  • Target audience overview
  • Tone and voice guidelines
  • Qualifiers
  • Industry-specific lingo (to use and to avoid)

Brand Personality Documents for Every Organization

Brand personality documents range from the basic to the very detailed.

A good rule of thumb is the larger the organization, the more detail the personality document should be.

Why?

Team members are more degrees of separation away from the core leadership. Because of this, messaging and voice have a greater tendency to become altered and distorted.

Just think about what happens when you play a game of telephone.

In addition, the more nuanced or sensitive your industry, the more specific it needs to be.

For example in the financial, insurance, or medical industry, there are very strict guidelines as to what you can and cannot say. These need to be included in your personality document—along with any specific disclosures or language which must be used (or avoided).

The Elements of a Brand Personality Document

Let’s break down each of the main elements of the brand personality document to help you create a template for your own organization.

Key Messages 

Key messages tell your consumer who you are and how you can help them. They are written for the consumer and speak directly to their needs. You should have one overarching key message and several secondary messages.

Mission Statement 

Why do you do what you do? Why does your business exist? While the key messages are the external messages you want to project, the mission statement has an internally-directed focus. They must be clearly related and connected but can have slightly different perspectives.

Ideal Customers(s) 

Who are you talking to? This section is where you’ll lay out your buyer personas and any other information relevant to understanding your customer. If you have actual customer profiles,  include these here.

Voice and Tone Guidelines 

What five adjectives describe your company?

Would your employees and customers agree?

List these out and describe how your organization lives them. In the end, you should have several sentences formatted like this:

“Our brand is (insert adjective) because we (insert reason).”

Qualifiers 

These will relate to values and mission, but also help represent the unique aspects of your organization’s personality. They are the nuances that make you different and help define you. They also help provide structure for what is and is not OK when it comes to presenting your company voice.

These are “we” statements. And look something like this:

We…

  • believe _____
  • never _____
  • always _____
  • hate _____
  • like _____
  • provide our customers with _____
  • are at our best when _____

Industry Guidelines and Language

This is where you include any language, restrictions, or other guidelines specific to your industry.

When thinking about what to include here, consider the following:

  • Are there legal guidelines you need to follow?
  • Are there certain words or phrases that must be avoided? (Either for legal reasons or because they project the wrong message or are offensive to certain consumers.)
  • Are there restrictions as to advice you can give or how you can represent yourself?

Brand Personality is Evolving and Collaborative

A personality document must be a living document, and it cannot be created in a vacuum.

Create your brand personality document with input from team members at all levels and through all customer touch points.

Combine the values, mission, and goals of the organization with real-life interaction with consumers.

The information both of these sides provide creates the perfect knowledge base to guide your organization’s voice.

Distribute it to all team members and revisited semi-annually.

Smart organizations continue to evolve the way they communicate with their audiences.

Your organization’s personality is an important part of who you are as a company. It defines you for your customers—don’t be afraid to let it shine!

It’s Not Secret Document

Distribute your brand personality document to all current employees. Provide it to all new employees and outside contractors or partners. Review it at regular intervals with the entire team.

You have personality. Don’t be afraid to show it (consistently).

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • What’s not bad is Vanilla Ice’s hair because I am banking on that style coming back……

    So true Laura and with all the different platforms and potential different sources of information/content you better have a handle of what that looks and sounds like and definitely want some consistency. Otherwise, too much potential for epic fail.

  • bdorman264  Stop Bill, collaborate, and listen. Vanilla Ice hair is back with a brand new invention (and I don’t even want to know what that might be).

    And your right inconsistency is one of the biggest challenges brands face and possibly the definition of “epic fail.” And way to bring the phrase “epic fail” into a comment, we all know it is used way to rarely among non-tweensters. Let’s change that.

  • I read this headline and at first I thought you were instructing us on how to craft a winning personality. which, in reality, you could probably also teach classes on.

  • This is so cool & fun…what a great idea to craft a personality doc for brands! Speaking of personality & returning styles, I read today that scrunchies are now acceptable fashion accessories, even in Manhattan – take that, Carrie Bradshaw!

  • Laura Petrolino

    I’m killing your brain like a poisonous mushroom!!!

  • Laura Petrolino

    I’m killing your brain like a poisonous mushroom!!!

  • I am showing my personality!  😛 
    I think one company that his this “personality” thing down pretty well is an e-newsletter company called UrbanDaddy.com. I remember when I was applying for an internship with them a couple years ago, they specifically stated that they wanted you to write your pitches as if you were a “sugar daddy” leaving them some love. (Much like what they do with their e-newsletters, since that was the point after all — to shower their subscribers with gifts, coupons and other VIP exclusive offerings.)

  • Never heard of a personality document before, Laura. This is why I need you in my life. 🙂

  • Laura, you definitely have a winning personality. #IceIceBaby

  • Thanks Laura, very insightful, I learned something new in terms of brand development.

  • Yes! Lord God yes! Words and phrases stick in the mind. Using the IMPERSONAL pronoun “you,” write a nice piece – something that reinforces the mission – then right in the middle of it throw in the “f” word. Personally, I’m done with you no matter how good your product is. AND remember this, “you can’t unring  the bell!

  • This is really good Laura – esp. because process and rules alone won’t protect any org from potential problems. You can bet that the Applebees, Skittles, and Nestles of the world would have been in much cooler water if they had a flexible, useful personality doc.

  • Also you didn’t mention but I think it’s fairly obvious that you should not be evil, either.

  • JoeCardillo  Correct! I mean would you rather buy something from Cinderella or the Evil Step Mother?

  • jdrobertson  “You can’t unring the bell”, that quote applies to so much in business, marketing, branding, and overall organizational development.

  • Digital_DRK  My pleasure, sir!

  • biggreenpen  I actually wrote this in your honor because you asked about it on a previous blog of mine. So thanks for being my muse!

  • JRHalloran  Hahah! They sound amazing! Thanks for that! I’ll go check them out!

  • Eleanor Pierce  Ahhh! You’re the sweetest (although I think none of us would argue there are many people out there that could definitely use some general guidance on crafting a better personality! 😉

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  • Ann07

    Personality document is very crucial in every business, as what I’ve learned from the article above. It allows you to certify your consistency in both voice and messaging across all of your digital channels such as in your website and social media platforms.

    You’ve shared some relevant and valuable ways to put a personality document together. I must remark that you have insightful thoughts there.

    Thanks for these wise words! 🙂

    Best,
    Ann07

    By the way, I found this post shared on Kingged.com

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  • I agree that creating a voice for your brand is just as important as the branding itself. I suppose it’s all part of making your branding consistent. A funky brand with a serious tone may not work as well as one with a more up beat voice to the content.

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