Your brand voice is distinct and unique to your brand. It’s how potential customers recognize your content even if your name or logo is not anywhere on the page. When creating the marketing strategy for your company, you should also be defining your brand voice. This will help you ensure the tone of all of your content is consistent regardless of who is writing it.

Defining Your Brand Voice

You don’t necessarily need to start from scratch when determining your brand voice. The fact of the matter is that if you have been in business for any length of time, you probably have some semblance of a brand voice already. As owners and business professionals, you know and understand what works and what doesn’t work when communicating with your current and potential customers. Defining your voice just enables you to formalize that aspect of your brand so that it is consistent across all facets of the company.

You can find your brand voice through the five steps listed below.

Step 1: Conduct a Brand Audit

Take a look at all of your existing marketing materials and see if there are common themes in the way you describe yourself and the types of words you use. Perhaps you communicate more formally, so contractions and slang are rarely used. Or maybe you’re the new startup in a sea of corporate giants, so you are often using down-to-earth and plain speech to describe your products and services. Highlight the similarities and the discrepancies across your marketing content. Which pieces of content sound like they came from your competitors? Which ones just don’t sound like they were written by the same company? Which ones wouldn’t resonate with your current customer base?

Once you’ve compiled your list of content pieces that sound like you and the ones that don’t, it’s time to define your personality.

Step 2: Define Your Personality

What are three to four words that describe who your brand is? If your brand were a person, how would you describe them? Start with the similarities you listed in Step 1. For instance, if you noticed that you had a more formal way of speaking in your writing, then perhaps a personality trait would be “formal” or “professional.” If you don’t use a lot of marketing jargon or fluff in your writing, perhaps another personality trait would be “plain-spoken” or “straight shooter.” And, maybe your entire company gets excited about really nerdy things. Your third personality trait could be “geeky” or “nerdy.”

Using our examples above, list out your three personality traits and then add any qualifiers such as:

  • Professional, yet down-to-earth and not “stuffy”
  • Plain-spoken and honest, and willing to give you the facts, good or bad
  • Geeky, yet sociable and friendly

Step 3: Describe How You Will Showcase Your Personality

Now that you have your three or four words that describe your brand’s personality, it’s time to determine how exactly you’ll showcase that personality in writing. With each personality trait, there are things that a writer should do and things that they shouldn’t. Take each trait and list those things out.

  • Professional, yet down to earth and not “stuffy”: Use full names and terms instead of contractions and abbreviations, unless the abbreviation is more common than the actual term (ex. RSVP instead of Respondez s’il vous plait). But, don’t overcomplicate the writing with “SAT words.” Keep the reading level at or below 10th grade.
  • Plain-spoken and honest, and willing to give you the facts, good or bad: Don’t use marketing jargon or flowery language. Point out the good and bad of each product/service, where applicable. Use concise language and describe items in plain terms.
  • Geeky, yet sociable and friendly: Highlight “cool” aspects of our products that make us excited about them. Don’t use obscure references and try to stay away from pop culture references that may not have mass appeal.

Have as many Dos and Don’ts that you think are necessary for someone to truly understand how to write in your brand voice. Examples are a great way to solidify what exactly you mean for each Do and Don’t, so don’t be afraid to use them.

This brings us to Step 4.

Step 4: Create a Style Guide

Once you have defined your brand voice, you should create a style guide. A style guide is a document that defines who your audience is, your tone/voice, what official style guide you will be using (AP, Chicago, MLA, etc.), what words you should use or stay away from, and anything else that’s important to know when writing about and for your brand.

Some other things you may want to include in your style guide are which abbreviations and hyphened words are OK to use and which ones would always have to be spelled out. You may also want to include how the company should use words that are ambiguous in terms of being one word or two (backup vs. back up).

Step 5: Review and Audit

You’ve audited your current marketing materials, you’ve defined your brand voice and personality, and you’ve written a style guide outlining how to execute your brand voice. Now, it’s time to write. Make sure your writers (or you, if you’re the writer) are consistently using the guidelines you’ve set forth in the style guide. Periodically spot check pieces of work and plan on regular audits (like in Step 1) to make sure your writers don’t lose sight of your brand voice. It’s easy to forget to refer to the style guide and slip on consistency after your writers get used to writing for a company. Periodic reviews and audits will help ensure your writers remain consistent as time goes on.

Your brand voice is essential to providing a consistent and professional view of your company to all of your stakeholders. Once you have defined your brand voice, it will help you better differentiate yourself and create a more well-rounded perception of who your company is and how you communicate with your customers.

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