Have an opinion!
Stand for something!
Any of the above sound familiar?
If you’ve been hanging around the online business-building space for a while, you’ve probably had someone try to sell you on the importance of developing a unique brand voice.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a solopreneur hustling on your lonesome – without a unique brand voice that identifies you as YOU, you’re gonna have a hard time being recognized and remembered.
And last time I checked, being forgettable isn’t so great for business.
So today, I’m breaking it all down for you:
- WHAT the heck is a brand voice?
- HOW to find your own
- WHY it’s not as important as you think it is… maybe (I know, how cryptic of me)
WANT A BRAND VOICE? GROW A BACKBONE:
“How do I find my voice?" is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive. I think this question is code for what we really want the answer to:
“How do I stand out amongst the noise?”
The truth is that you can't stand out without consistently showing up - in person and online - in a way that is unique and memorable. Your brand voice is a big part of that equation.
This is why so many people choose to hire a copywriter - it's difficult to express who you are, what you stand for and why people should care, and to do it in a unique and compelling way... consistently. Reliably.
But here’s a #copywriterconfession: we don’t have a magical bag of tricks at our disposal that will suddenly MAKE you sound amazing and compelling.
Still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts.
Why? Well, no one can manufacture a brand persona for you, if you don’t have a personality to begin with.
That's why I work with all of my clients on establishing a clear brand voice and personality before we put pen to paper. I'll share a sneak peek of my process with you below, but first, let's clarify what brand voice really is.
Fortunately, some very smart people have already done the work of defining brand voice for us:
From Melissa Lafsky: "it's the soul of your brand, articulated onto and within your content."
Larsen Design says "it's the purposeful, consistent expression of a brand through words and prose styles that engage and motivate. It’s true: The personality of your brand is determined, in large measure, by the words you use and the sentences you write."
And my personal favourite, from Lacy Boggs: "Those things you say when you're most like yourself? That's your voice."
Notice a theme? Your brand voice isn't just about your tone.
It's about your opinions, your point of view, and what you have to say about the world. This stuff is way more foundational than word choice.
And this is where so many people get tripped up: they start by asking questions like, "how can I be more interesting, quirky, entertaining or engaging?" without taking the time to explore what they believe, what they value (and maybe even what they hate) and how it relates to their business, their offerings, and their audience.
THAT right there is the foundation of your brand voice.
So now that we've established the bits and pieces that go into making a killer brand voice... where the hell do you find yours? (Hint: they're NOT between your sofa cushions.)
HOW TO GET A BRAND VOICE SHARPER THAN A SAMURAI SWORD:
Remember that part above where I said that you can't conjure up a brand voice just by asking really nicely? It's true: you need coax those nervous little suckers out of their hidey-holes and into the light.
The very things that led you start your business, to offer the things you offer, to serve the people you serve... those things are your brand voice.
You already have opinions.
You already have beliefs.
You already have values.
It's time to shine a spotlight on them and get super clear on what you stand for.
So how do you do that?
You show up. You share what you know, what you believe, and what you feel.
Over and over again.
Seriously - start creating content that's related to your big message and your point of view. Just start.
Let it be imperfect and let it evolve over the weeks, months and years that follow (because building an unforgettable brand takes time, and overnight success is a myth).
If you’re not sure how to get started, here are some ideas:
Why did you decide to start your business?
What do you love most about your work?
- What do you believe is possible for your ideal clients and your audience - what do you want to see happen for them, in their lives?
Set a timer and just write about these questions for a couple of minutes (sometimes, that's all you need to break through the inertia). If you’re feeling brave, share your answers with me in the comments below.
Once you've started to clarify your underlying message, we can start digging deeper into the nitty-gritty of how you'll communicate your message and the type of tone you'll use in your copy and content.
Here are some excellent prompts to start thinking about your tone of voice and personality:
- Describe your brand voice in three words. Is it witty? Thoughtful? Irreverent? Warm? Sharp?
- If your brand was a person, how would you describe its personality to someone?
- Ask other people how they view your brand. What words do they use?
- What types of words and phrases do you find yourself saying often in real life, in emails, on phone calls?
And lastly, try using this, but not that language to describe your brand's personality. For example:
- Friendly, but not informal
- Loud, but not obnoxious
- Young, but not immature
- Fun, but not irreverent
- Simple, but not dumbed down
I WISH THIS WAS THE END OF THIS BLOG POST...
Wouldn't that be nice? Alas, we're not done here yet.
Here's where we're up to:
You're clear on what you stand for and your point of view. Sweet!
You're starting to feel confident in how you convey your tone of voice and personality online. Virtual fist-bump! Fire up the confetti cannons!
But there's one more thing you need: an audience who cares.
The most powerful, unforgettable brands are the ones who share what they believe, in a recognizable and consistent voice... and in a way that engages with what their target market wants.
Even the best brand personality in the world is useless if you're shouting into the void, talking to no one in particular, or worse yet - talking to your audience about stuff they can't relate to or don't care about.
Here's where the magic really happens: when you find a way to marry your personality, your story, and your point of view with your audience and the problems you help them solve (AKA - how your business actually makes money).
THIS is how communities are grown...
How followings are built....
How movements are started.
I've got a few more prompts to help you start thinking about the connection between your message, your brand and your audience:
Grab your pen and paper and take these for a spin:
What is my ideal client struggling with right now?
- What do they really want? Why do they want that? What will that do for them?
- What have they tried in the past to solve their problem? Why didn’t that work?
As you start writing, are you starting to notice a common thread between what you believe, your point of view, and how it relates to your audience and what they're dealing with?
This is where your magnetic brand voice lies. This is the sweet spot.
If you're stuck on the ideal client piece, stay tuned for part two of this blog: we'll be talking about how to (legally) stalk your audience online, carry out research, and figure out exactly how to captivate them with your message and your words.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below:
Tell me one BIG belief you have and how that relates to what you do. Let's start honing that brand voice.