Barbershop quartets and Beyonce. Garth and Mick. A mezzosoprano and a mountain yodeler. They could all sing the same melody, but, oh my, what a world of difference. What is the brand voice of your business? Does it have one? Why does it matter?
A business’ brand voice isn’t audible, at least not in writing. Voice is an intangible quality of communications that includes style, tone, and point of view.
Voice matters to your marketing. It makes you sound like you and nobody else. To illustrate, think about singer Tony Bennett. His distinctive voice has been popular with fans for longer than some of us have been alive. He has used it to record beautiful duets with artists as varied as George Strait and Lady Gaga, but Tony Bennett still sounds like Tony Bennett. He might sing with Willie Nelson or Aretha Franklin, but he will never be mistaken for them.
Brand voice is not exactly the same as branding, but successful branding includes developing a voice and maintaining it consistently across all content and channels because voice communicates to customers that you are human, authentic, and trustworthy.
“Brand personality is a set of human characteristics attributed to a brand name, and something to which consumers can relate. If your business were a person, what personality characteristics would it have?”
How can you develop your brand voice?
To strengthen your business’ brand voice, ask yourself these questions.
What can we learn from our existing content?
Collect a representative sampling of your email campaigns, blog posts, web pages, social media updates, and any other content you have created. Make it a team effort. Pick out the ones that you think sound the most like your company. Go to the white board and ask what about those examples represents you well.
What are our values and vision?
Jayson DeMers writes in Forbes, “Your voice takes your inner life and makes it manifest; gives it shape and substance and meaning for others.” Is your primary concern improving your customers’ lives with practical solutions? Perhaps you have wisdom to share as a thought leader, or you strive to inspire others. Once you’ve identified what is important to your business, you can create the energy in your voice to match.
What do we want to sound like?
If your business were a person, what personality characteristics would it have? What you are doing is creating a persona for your business (and this is different than a customer persona). Erika Heald of Content Marketing Institute recommends choosing three words that you believe describe the personality of your business. Then use each of those words as a header and drill down to identify several supplementary words to each. Discuss among yourselves to come up with the closest list that will best reflect who you are.
What tone appeals to our ideal customer?
Your brand voice should feel comfortable for them, should speak their language, if you will. Depending on your audience, too much formality can come across as trying too hard to impress and therefore inauthentic, or too casual can come across as flippant or condescending.
How will we ensure consistency?
Share the answers to these questions and supporting guidelines with your whole team, including contributing freelancers. Then plan to revisit how you’re doing on voice once a quarter. Continue to ask for input and don’t be afraid to adjust it. The more you practice, the stronger your voice will get. Tony Bennett didn’t get to be Tony Bennett overnight.