Don’t underestimate the power of a brand voice. Though somewhat subjective in nature, your choice of words, tone, and direction throughout all forms of your company’s content can have a major impact on how many people read that content (as well as how they react to it). Unfortunately, you can’t choose a brand voice for your company the way you choose a flavor at an ice cream parlor. There are too many variables and options to consider, and even when you’ve crafted the ideal starting point, you’ll still likely have to make tweaks as you get comfortable with it.
To start things off, try asking these 10 important questions. They’ll help you understand the nature and intention of your brand voice, as well as how to start writing in it effectively:
This question will feed into several of the others, so it’s the one you need to ask yourself first. Writing a voice for a brand that caters to teenage boys must be different than writing one for a brand that caters to retired women. Different generations, sexes, belief systems, economic and education levels all have different perspectives on life and different values, so you need to keep those in mind when you start developing the voice that will be speaking to them.
The formality of your voice can dictate a reader’s initial reaction. Do you want to speak formally, with precise, professional language and an almost stoic tone to give the impression that you’re an absolute professional with old-time values? Or do you want to speak informally, with conversational, casual language and a playful tone to connect with younger audience or seem more approachable? There’s a lot of gray area to work with here.
How familiar is your reader going to be with your industry and your topics? This should dictate what level of vocabulary you choose to use, as well as what topics you select. For example, if you run an automotive repair shop, will you speak to readers like they’re in the habit of fixing their own mechanical issues, or like they’ve never driven a car before in their lives? You could instantly turn someone off by choosing the wrong level of complexity.
This is a big one. When readers think about your brand, what emotions should be conjured up? Should they get a warm, cozy, home-like feeling? Do you want them to feel energized and excited? Should they feel challenged and inspired? These feelings need to come across in your voice.
Why does your company exist? Most companies have a succinct mission statement already—if you do, use that as inspiration for developing your brand voice. Make that message a part of what you say at all times. If you don’t already have a mission statement, it’s time to create one. What’s the most important duty your company performs for people? What do you give them that they need?
Run a quick search for your competitors and see what their brand voices are like. Read a few of their blogs and see what they’re posting about on social media. What kind of tone do they use? What kind of audience are they speaking to? If they don’t seem to have a consistent voice at all, you’re already ahead of the game.
Now that you have a good understanding of what your competitors are doing, you need to ask yourself how your company is different. Are you more casual and less formal? Are you more exciting and inspiring? There needs to be some differentiating factor here, or your customers won’t care who they end up buying from. Choose your factors carefully.
Most brands do well with a careful balance of useful information and entertainment—such as jokes, informal language, and interactive images and videos within content. The question for your brand voice is how much entertainment are you willing to provide? Too much or too little could skew the image you’re striving for.
Think of at least two or three different statements, topics, or content types that would be completely out of character for your brand. Sometimes, imagining what your company wouldn’t say is easier than imagining what it would say—use this exercise to help you figure out the latter.
This is the most useful question on this list, since it’s easy to answer and can help you develop a natural-sounding voice without overcomplicating things. Think of your brand as a human being. Is your brand male or female? How old? What educational background? How does he/she dress, act, think, and talk? What are his/her friends and family like? Give your brand a real, personified character and use that image to feed your streams of content to come.
Remember, above all else, your brand voice needs to be consistent. Deviating from your brand’s standard will make your customers feel alienated, and won’t ever give them a firm grasp of “who” your brand is. Carry this voice across all your chosen platforms, including not only your blog but also your advertisements, your social media channels, your press releases, and all other forms of company communication. Make tweaks gradually and only when necessary, and eventually your customers will come to know, love, and appreciate the personality of your brand.