You may hear it often these days. Your “brand voice” is everything online.
It helps people connect with you, engage with you and (hopefully) come to trust you.
As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
But a brand voice is nothing more than the personality of your brand, and while we largely view this as an online requirement, it transcends to any other medium (print and broadcast included) where your brand may express itself.
Here are eight tips on how to find your brand voice so that you can be consistent and engaging.
Start with your company’s mission statement
The purpose of your brand should drive the type of tone and voice you create. In other words, your personality should reflect what you care about.
For instance, self-esteem is a big part of Dove’s mission statement, making its voice empowering and uplifting to connect with its customers and potential customers. Themes of self-empowerment and body positivity can be seen in a lot of Dove’s messaging, but Dove also delivers it in a soothing, inspirational and friendly tone.
Review your current messaging
If you’re not starting from scratch and already have content created, it’s a good idea to perform an audit. You’ll want to look over your website, any blog posts, social media posts, videos, etc.
Is there consistency among the tone and messaging? Or, is it a bit all over the place? Take note of the best-performing pieces because they could be a signal of what is already connecting with your audience.
Deep dive into your audience
Begin with the tools already available to you, such as Google Analytics (or any other website performance tool), social media analytics from the platforms you’re using and any customer database information you already have in-house.
How old are there? Mostly one gender or evenly split? Where do they live? Education? Occupations? How did they hear of your business? And whatever other data you have is helpful.
While not all of those questions might be answerable, you’ll want to gather as much as you can to understand who you are reaching. Once you do, you should compare this to who you want to reach, your target audience. This will help you decide whether what you’re currently doing is on track with what you should be doing in regard to brand voice.
If you’re looking to reach more middle-aged women, this voice looks a lot different than if you want to reach more college-aged men.
Play the ‘We’re this, not that’ game
Okay, it’s not exactly a game. But it’s a great exercise to narrow down what your brand is about.
Simply fill in the blanks: “We’re ________, but we’re not __________.”
You’ll want to do this at least a half dozen times to drill down to the essence of how you want to sound. For example: “We’re laidback, but not lazy.”
You can and should take your audience research and most successful content into consideration while working through this.
Choose three words to describe your voice
If you let yourself go on the “We’re this, not that” exercise, there hopefully are a few keywords that now stick out to you.
If your brand was a person, ask yourself which three words you would use to describe this person’s personality. And how do these traits make you different?
Make a ‘brand voice chart’
Once you decide on the three traits that best represent your brand’s personality, you can build a chart so that you can flush out how each one should be used in your messaging moving forward.
Create a table with four columns. The first column is the list of brand characteristics you’ve already decided on. The next column is a description of how that trait relates to your company or brand. The third column are all the “Do’s” related to accomplishing that (such as using strong verbs if you’re passionate or being playful if you’re irrelevant, for example), whatever actions will reflect that trait. Then, the last column should have all the “Don’ts.” These are the actions you’ll want to avoid in the pursuit of reflecting that trait (such as using too much slang if you’re quirky or over-promising if you’re authentic, for example).
You’ll want to work through that chart for each personality trait, essentially creating your road map for your brand’s voice and tone that can be referenced moving forward.
Translate your ‘brand voice chart’ into guidelines
While a “brand voice chart” is incredibly helpful and definitely an asset you can present to your team, consider taking it a step further. You can create clearly documented guidelines to help enforce consistency well into the future.
Because as we all know, it’s one thing if it’s just you communicating as your brand. It’s a whole other world when bringing a team together to share and express a single brand voice.
It’s great if your guidelines can be boiled down into a one-pager (or have a Cliff Notes version that’s accessible on the fly), but it doesn’t have to be. This is especially true if you’re including:
- A deep dive into your brand’s core personality
- A reflection on tone (how you’re communicating that personality, especially on different platforms)
- A look at the specifics (that can be formatted as a “do this, not that” and even include recommended spelling, grammar and jargon use)
- A description on multimedia use (ranging from videos to emojis)
The power of your guidelines does come from the time you invest in it to make it the “holy grail” of communication for your team.
Be ready to evolve as your brand does
Just like people, brands can grow and change over time. Be nimble about what this could look like for your brand and ready to adjust your ‘brand voice chart’ and guidelines as needed.
On the flip side, you don’t want to change too many things too quickly. It could confuse your team and your audience.
If you’re looking for a little inspiration from brands doing it right, take a look at Wendy’s, MailChimp and Red Bull. Check out their websites and social media pages. They’re all very different brands but extremely consistent, as well as creative, in how they project their individual brand voices.
And above all, know that discovering and conveying your brand voice will be filled with some trials and errors no matter how much planning you do. Just keep an eye on your content’s performance across platforms and pivot as needed.