5 steps to finding that elusive brand voice (so the right customers can hear you loud and clear)

The predominant form of communication on the Internet is textual. But, that doesn’t mean people can’t hear your brand voice.

Your brand voice is made up of the tone and the words you use when communicating with your audience. It is a strong factor in deciding how the audience perceives you and extends to all forms of brand communication- be it blog posts, social media, the comments you leave, email newsletters, online content, etc. 

A consistent and carefully crafted brand voice helps the audience to recognize you in the chaotic babble of the Internet. If your name or your company logo wouldn’t appear along with the content, could your audience recognize it? It would, but only if you have a consistent brand voice.

How to find this (seemingly) elusive but crucial brand voice? The simple system outlined below will help you to find it and use it.

Why is the brand voice important?

Can’t we just make do with how we talk? After all, our voice needs to sound human, right? 

Sure it does. But it doesn’t need to sound like it’s coming from different humans every time.

In a survey, brand consistency was attributed to increasing revenue by 23% and was also credited as making a brand memorable. The no. 1 that can make users feel that consistency and feel the human in you is through your brand voice.

How to go about creating your brand voice?

brand voice

Gather everyone. Especially the CEO, the brand strategist, the content strategist, the writers, editors, designers, freelancers (if possible), and the creative director. Anyone who would be responsible for crafting communication with people needs to be a part of this activity.

Here’s the starter pack on what you’ll need to start developing a cohesive brand voice:

  • A deep knowledge of the company culture and values
  • Analytical skills for audience research
  • Writing skills to convert the findings into indisputable and crystal-clear language
  • Systems and/ or processes to get everyone on the same page for the language usage

And now, here’s the full-fledged work:

Question 

The first and most important step is to know who you are. Are you a funny company? A wisecrack company? A witty one? A rebellious one? Who are you?

What does your CEO/ content head keep reinforcing about your company content? When do they point out mistakes? When do they applaud? How do you want your audience to perceive you?

Ask questions about your brand. Begin with these 3:

  • Why did you start your company?
  • What is its USP?
  • What do you stand for? What are your values?
  • What values do you want to share with your audience?

Be clear about yourself so you can be further transparent with your audience. 94% of consumers are likely to be loyal to a brand that is transparent with them. Authenticity is an important trait for this. Do not fall into the trap of sounding like someone else. Hence, do NOT carry out any competitor research.

Distill it down to 3

After the free-flowing imaginative exercise above, it’s time for some concrete insights. 

Here, imagine your company as a person. If your brand was a real person, how would you describe its personality? What would it like/ dislike? How would it speak? What would its mannerisms be? What would be its aspirations and vision? Storyboard the heck out of it.

Then distill its most overarching traits down to 3. For example, you might discover that your brand essence is captured in the following 3 words:

  1. Passionate
  2. Adventurous
  3. Rebellious

Expand on them further. 

  1. Passionate- walk the talk, heart-centered
  2. Adventurous- stepping out of the comfort zone often and willingly, not taking things so seriously all the time
  3. Rebellious- breaking the rules and challenging the status quo

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we could have the following 3 characteristics:

  1. Honest
  2. Knowledgeable
  3. Inventive

Expanding them further, we get:

  1. Honest- telling the truth
  2. Knowledgeable- knowing what comes from where
  3. Inventive- experimental and carrying out own tests to see how something works

Define the do’s and dont’s within it

These will act as a guide on how to go about putting your brand voice in action. You can convert it into an extensive document as well and include it as part of an onboarding process for freelancers and any writers or marketers you hire. Continuing from the example above:

Do’s for each of the traits:

  1. Passionate- speak up about issues that we feel strongly about in the industry and the world, use active voice, be assertive
  2. Adventurous- use visuals and words that speak of the wild and the unexplored
  3. Rebellious- take a few industry/ business practices and flip them on its head

Dont’s for each trait:

  1. Passionate- don’t get defensive and aggressive
  2. Adventurous- don’t sell the idea of adventure for adventure’s sake alone. Tie it to growth and self-discovery.
  3. Rebellious- if something is useful, don’t be afraid to admit it

For the other 3 traits,

  1. Honest- do tell it like it is and be friendly.
  2. Knowledgeable- do reveal obscure but useful knowledge through a carefully crafted funnel like free articles, ebooks, and paid courses
  3. Inventive- be smart and know where to spend time innovating

And for the donts:

  1. Honest- don’t be brash or insensitive
  2. Knowledgeable- don’t flaunt, show off, or try to one-up people
  3. Inventive- don’t try to fit a square peg in a circle, or don’t try to fit solutions where none are needed

As you can see, the above list will help content creators to get starter concrete ideas about how to communicate.

Create a handbook/ document to track progress for brand voice

After creating the above snapshot, sit with your content team for a few days in a row and create a handbook that details the nitty-gritty of your brand voice.

Include examples that highlight what you are aiming for. But, be sure to not include mentions of where they can be found. Else, you run the risk of unintentionally or sometimes intentionally copying.

Also, include content pieces where your brand voice was captured perfectly and where it wasn’t. Where it wasn’t, tweak it to show how it could’ve turned out. Revise it ruthlessly and filter it through your 3 guiding words, then the dos and dont’s. 

You can also include graphics and visuals that capture the overall feeling that the 3 words evoke. These will also act as guiding images for the designers so that the created visuals don’t fall out of line.

The compiled document doesn’t need to be hefty or 50-pages long. Make it easily readable by including tables, bullet lists, and colors and images that help to get your brand feeling across. Have it both in a paper and an electronic format.

Keep revising it

 

Your brand voice will change and evolve. You cannot hope to be done with it in one go.

Quarterly, convene with your key communicators and content creators to revise which aspects of your brand voice worked and which didn’t. Maybe audiences are responding to one aspect better and not to the other. Maybe your writers are uncomfortable integrating some guidelines and they aren’t working well with their voice.

So, keep revising the handbook, refresh it, and make changes to the dos and donts if you feel they are needed.

The above are 5 simple steps to find your brand voice and have your audience engaging with it enthusiastically and with trust. Congratulations, you are on your way to standing out a sea of Internet cacophony now.