Follow my 4 steps and it will change the way you communicate with your customers and increase their loyalty to you.
Writing for your brand is difficult, no doubt. To help you, I have put together a guide, which enables you to discover your brand’s unique voice. This will help you to market your brand effectively.
“Why is this so important?” you ask. Because writing is branding. Your communication represents your brand and what it stands for. It communicates your identity and your values. Consistency in your voice builds trust and credibility and sets you apart from your competition.
Let’s get started right away!
Step 1 - Research to find your voice
You probably already know the answers to the following questions, so this will be easy. We start by gathering key data about yourself and your industry. Ask yourself:
What is your market segment?
Define it by dividing your target market into smaller categories, grouping them by demographics, interests, needs and location.
Who are your competitors and how do they sound?
Note down your findings, the good and the bad. It’ll give vital information on what works and what doesn’t.
The first step is asking the right questions and gathering information, so you can draw upon those insights and start creating your voice. Ask yourself:
Who am I targeting?
What is my personality?
How do I want to sound?
By answering the above, you will get a clear picture about how you want to present yourself to the public. You can then narrow it down a bit more:
Can I use humour?
Can I be conversational?
What voice might a customer expect of me?
Step 2 - Create your voice
Now it gets interesting! By keeping in mind the information you gathered in Step 1, do the following:
Decide on your language - formal or informal?
If you are targeting legal or banking professionals for example, you should definitely keep things formal. That doesn’t mean you can’t be conversational, open and friendly, but addressing your customers with “How y’all doing?” certainly won’t cut it. 🙊
You want to be:
approachable and true to who you are
targeted and never lose sight of your customers needs
If you have to keep things formal, fine, but that doesn’t mean you have to sound boring.
Do this instead:
keep your sentences short
write in an easy to understand way
refrain from overinflated words such as revolutionary, fascinating, amazing
make your communications easy to read
be conversational to keep your audience engaged
write in an active voice, not passive speech
Good practice is also to:
note important vocabulary that you use
If there is relevant jargon in your industry, write it down. Also note the words that you don’t want to use. If you have several products, catalogue them. Then write down, how you want the product names to be used. This ensures consistency. Also include branded terms such as slogans and taglines or catchphrases from marketing campaigns.
Next task is ⬇︎
to create guidelines that you and your staff can use
Document the specifics, so everyone has a clear picture of how your brand communicates. This will be helpful and can be reviewed as your brand evolves.
Examples to get you going:
Some big brands that started out small, have developed a unique voice and tone right from the start. Have a look at UK smoothy maker Innocent Drinks, now partly owned by Coca Cola. When I lived in London, a friend of mine did an internship with them in the late 90s. I used to live around the corner from their offices, which they call Fruit Towers - so cool, right?
I visited my friend at work and I clearly remember the two guys who started the company: young and creative with a passion for sustainability and healthy eating. The brand’s voice and tone echoed their quirky personalities, even when the company was in its infancy. To this day, there’s synergy between who they are as people and how their personality transpires into the brand.
Another great company with integrity in their voice is US ice cream brand Ben & Jerry's. The two founders have a very clear idea about who they are as people and how to portray their personalities through their brand. From slight hippy beginnings in the 70s, these guys always had strong opinions and are pretty outspoken about their views, even today.
Neither Innocent nor Ben & Jerry’s appeal to everyone, but that is ok. Middle of the road is safe and doesn’t stick to people’s minds. They might alienate a certain breed of person, but are authentic and targeted instead. It sets them apart from their competition and they clearly speak to their audience.
Step 3: Create your tone
Whilst your brand’s voice should be consistent across the board, the tone of voice will change depending on the situation. The tone you use whilst speaking to a customer when things go wrong, will be different to how you speak to your audience during a new product launch.
So, ask yourself:
What is unique about your brand identity?
Defining your core personality is a bit like defining a persona of your customer. Create one for the embodiment of your brand. If you have a mascot like marketing platform Mailchimp, base it off of them. Decide on the mood and personality.
Are you a story teller and interested in people?
Do you have a keen eye for data and facts?
Are you bold and courageous or more discreet and cautious?
These attributes will determine your unique tone of voice. Pair them with adjectives such as thoughtful, proud, bold, empathic etc.
Identify your company culture - shared values, goals, attitudes and practices
Company culture is much more than generous employee benefits. A company’s culture is intrinsically intertwined with its brand and the two should be in synergy. If your brand and your culture is aligned and driven by the same ethics, beliefs and motives, people will identify with you. Assign adjectives to those cultural attributes and see if they match the core personality of your brand.
My top tip 💡
Try out different tones until you are happy, but keep your audience in mind. If you are operating in the legal or banking industry, using a chatty and informal style is not appropriate. You can still be friendly though.
Have fun creating your unique tones of voice!
Look at trying to express the same thing in different ways. Using positive language and keeping it interesting and engaged is key, regardless of who you are talking to. You need to sound authentic, so tweak it until you feel it’s right.
Step 4: Draft your voice & tone guide
Document your findings so you can refer back to them, teach new staff and keep developing your tone of voice. Here are the points you should cover:
Do’s and dont’s
Use real examples - for an ad, for a customer e-mail etc.
Your tones for different situations
Once you have created your guide, use it so you stay consistent. Develop it further and keep refining it.
For inspiration, have a look at these two examples of voice and content style guides:
Tone of Voice Guide Virgin Mobile
Content Style Guide Mailchimp
I’m sure the brands I linked to, will get your creative juices flowing. Be inspired and find your true voice!
Let me know how you get on, I would love to hear about it. If you need help in defining your brand’s identity and develop your voice, get in touch!