Have you ever bought (or borrowed) a book just because its cover caught your eye? Maybe it was super pretty, or there was something quirky about the design. Either way, it caught your eye and you bought it even though you had no idea what it was even about. No? Just me? Ha, didn’t think so. There’s no shame in it. Human beings are incredibly visual–even this word nerd will admit that. But how often have you found yourself disappointed with what’s beneath the surface when you have been led by the pretty instead of reading the blurb on the back of the book first? Your brand might be a little similar. It could be that, until now, you’ve only really considered your brand in visual terms. Things like your logo, your brand colours, the kind of images you share – these are all ways that people typically think about a brand. But what about the way your brand sounds? Given that you use all kinds of words to share your brand and business, developing a strong brand voice is so important. But what is brand voice, and why is it so important?
What is Brand Voice?
It’s a great question and you’d be forgiven for thinking of voice purely in terms of speaking. But, when we talk about a brand voice, we’re delving into all the words you use to talk about your business, your brand and what it is you do. It’s the personality and tone you use which sets you apart in your industry.
When you look at various businesses and their websites, social posts and so on, you might think they all say the same things. But take a minute to read the words and hear their voice. The way they share what they’re talking about will differ from other businesses out there. And, if it doesn’t, then they need to work on their brand voice!
Think about it. If you were out with a group of friends and a few people you were meeting for the first time, as you listened to each of them speak, you’d only be drawn to a particular few. It might be the way they tell certain stories. It might be the language and words they use. It could be how fast they speak, whether they use short, staccato sentences or long, winding ones. How they speak, their unique voice, will be something that either attracts or repels you to or from that person.
Well, it’s exactly the same with your brand! How you talk about what you do, your values, who you work with and how you help them is precisely what some people will love, and others won’t connect with at all.
Why Does it Matter?
It’s that last little comment I mentioned just now that you should be focusing on. As much as any other part of your brand, brand voice is there to bring out the true personality of your brand. And, in doing so, it’ll be one of the things your fans and adoring clients and customers will love. But, at the same time, it’ll put off the kinds of people you don’t want to be working with.
This is important. Because if you’ve ever had to work with a less than ideal client, you know it’s not a fun experience. And I’m betting you finish the project thinking to yourself, ‘Well, I don’t want to work with anyone like that again!’
This is where brand voice can help weed out those clients you don’t enjoy working with.
Let’s say, for example, you’re the kind of person who loves super relaxed clients who don’t mind getting a bit sweary over a meeting. Of course, the last thing you want to be doing is minding your language when chatting with a client. So, bring a bit of what they can expect into your copy! I’m not saying you need to fill it with every swear word under the sun. But a well placed “f*ck” will show potential clients a little of what you’re about. And those that don’t like it won’t bother contacting you.
What About Tone of Voice?
Ooh, now there’s a question. First, it’s worth noting that brand voice and tone are two separate entities, not to be confused.
Brand voice is, effectively, what you’re saying. It’s the message that conveys your brand values. So, if one of your values is to be a trustworthy brand, you can define how to share that in your brand voice.
Tone, though, changes from message to message. For example, you might use a conversational, relaxed tone with social media posts. But when you’re responding to a customer complaint, you’re likely to take a more formal tone.
And you’re now delving into a whole new world of copywriting that I’ll have to make time for in another post!
So, stick with figuring out your voice for now. The rest will come.
How Do I Find My Brand Voice?
You got all the questions today, lovely, don’t you? 😉
#1: Brand Values
I would start by exploring your brand values. Typically, most small businesses have around 3-5 values that they hold most dear to them. For example, it might be that you pride yourself on being a friendly brand, a brand someone can trust, or a brand that knows its stuff. So, dig deeper into those values and see what that might sound like in words and your voice. As an example, if ‘friendly’ is one of your values, you’ll want a warm voice, using positive, upbeat and happy language to convey that. So, start there and see what you can come up with.
#2: Look At Your Words
Read through what you’ve already got written down. Words on your website, your social media posts, blog posts, emails to clients and so on. Which of those words feel most like you? Which kind of match the voice you’d like your business to have? And how do they match up to your brand values?
#3: Describe Your Voice
From everything you’ve gathered together, give your voice a personality. If it was a person you were introducing to the room, what personality traits would you give it? Is it fun, loud and extrovert? Or is it more subtle, friendly and romantic?
#4: Get It Down
Write those traits down – put it on paper or create a new Google Doc and list those traits. Now, for each attribute, describe what you mean, how you plan to convey that in your words and what kind of things you won’t include.
#5: Things To Cover
Think about whether you’ll write in a first, second or third person narrative. Are there particular ways you’ll greet your audience? What words do you use a lot of? What words do you never use? Be as specific as you can. This is the document that will guide you when you write your words in the future. It can also be the document you hand off to other members of your team or people you outsource work to so that they can also write with your brand voice.
And there you have it – you’ve got yourself a brand voice! Now go, my pretty, and use it freely!
Ok, that’s an oversimplification and there really is a lot more to it, but having a strong sense of everything above will give you a great place to start from. Another option is to work with me and have me fully develop and document your brand voice and your messaging in one helpful place! Clients who have booked this service with me have told me it’s the best thing they ever did for their business because now they always know exactly what they’re going to say about and how they’re going to say it, consistently and confidently. You can find out more about Brand Voice & Messaging Guides here.