Let’s talk about brand voice and why it’s important to everything we create, including blog posts, videos, and email marketing.
More than anything else, your brand voice provides the personality that makes your communications engaging and consistent.
Think about a generic company’s mission statement.
Something along the lines of: “We strive to offer the most innovative, customer-focused, technological solutions to thought-leaders and industry disruptors.”
That signifies nothing.
Your brand voice should convey something specific.
There will be some characteristics that fit into it and some that don’t.
And it’s better to figure that part out in advance.
Creating a Foundation for Your Brand Voice
Creating your brand voice might feel a tad overwhelming, but stick with me.
It’s not that hard.
First, come up with a simple sentence describing your brand.
A sentence like:
“Our brand is [ADJECTIVE] because we [REASON].”
Now, let’s go a step deeper.
Think about that adjective and what it means to your organization and customers.
If your brand is witty, for example, it might also be intelligent, eloquent, funny, knowledgeable, and observant.
You need to have a handful of descriptive words that help communicate your brand voice.
But words alone won’t do the trick.
You have to actually understand what they mean, and so do your customers and everyone else who’s working on your brand.
When It Comes to Brand Voice, Opposites Don’t Attract
We have a former client (and you’ll understand why they’re former in a second) who wanted their brand to be hip and cool.
Almost what you might call a frat house culture.
They wrote copy for their about page, and it was all about rooftop Cubs games during the summer and Xbox and video games during the day.
It sounded like a pretty cool place to work.
The problem was, they were the exact opposite of this environment.
When I read the copy, I said to the CMO, “Did you write about a client’s company?”
She laughed nervously and said it was how the CEO wanted their culture to be portrayed.
No regard to the stark difference between what they said and what it actually was.
Their culture was very buttoned up.
They wore suits every day and acted like bankers.
They had offices with doors, and it was so quiet in there you could hear a pin drop.
It definitely was not the culture they described online.
The brand characteristics they wanted to emphasize were fun, energetic, and cool.
And that didn’t match what they portrayed in their external communications.
As a result, they had a tough time finding the right candidates and the right clients.
I recently went to their website to see what they changed since we had that debate with them years ago.
Today it says, “We strive to create a happy, fun, and motivating work environment.”
So they toned it down a bit, but the brand characteristics still don’t speak to their real culture.
The Brand Voice Sweet Spot
When you’re developing your brand voice, choose between two and four adjectives to describe it.
That’s a good number and it helps candidates and prospects understand who you are.
As you build your brand voice, here’s a list of questions you can answer:
- I want my brand to make people feel _____________.
- Three words that describe my brand are ____________, ____________, and ____________.
- I want to mimic the brand voice of ____________. (Let’s not all pick Elon Musk. I know we all want to be Elon Musk, but let’s not all choose that.)
- I just like brand voices that sound ____________.
- Interacting with my clients and potential clients makes me feel ____________.
Small or Large Organization?
If you own your own business or are a solopreneur, it’s fairly easy to answer these questions and figure out which adjectives fit well with your brand voice.
They almost always emulate who you are as a person.
Think about how your favorite characteristics might translate into describing what it’s like to work with you and your team.
If you work for a larger organization, you can also do this exercise by inviting one person from each department to a short meeting and asking these questions.
List the responses on a whiteboard and circle the ones that are repeated.
Once you have a consensus on what those three or four descriptors are, it’s time to see if they resonate.
Ask other team members which adjectives would they would use to describe your organization?
I’m willing to bet they say the same things you agreed on internally or pretty close.
If your organization already has a brand voice as mine does, it’s still good to do the exercise with each new group of people you bring on.
You want to make sure everyone is on the same page.
In Your Own Brand Voice
Some elements of your brand voice may change as you build culture and add new personalities to the team.
But there will likely be some parts that are non-negotiable, such as ethics.
No matter whether your organization has one person or 3,000, every brand voice should be reviewed annually.
And it’s important to commit to the work to ensure your brand voice remains authentic—and yours.
We’d love to hear about your brand voice and characteristics and how you developed them. Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Or tell us is in the Spin Sucks community.
Not only can you brag about your brand, but you’ll get to meet other amazing communicators to network, workshop, brainstorm, talk shop and plan world domination while you hang out.
See you there!