February 5, 2021
Brand Voice is a pretty hot buzzword. You’ve probably heard it thrown around your circle of business friends. But most creative entrepreneurs aren’t sure what it means to have a brand voice for their business. Ask yourself this: If your content was featured without your logo alongside your words, could people tell the message coming from your brand? If that same messaging appeared across different channels, would they know it was from you? In other words, do you have an identifiable brand voice? But more than words, your brand voice is the heart and soul of your message. Your brand voice is the tone in which you speak and communicate with your audience.
And friends, an authentic connection should always be your goal in defining your brand voice!
It’s not uncommon for brand messaging to get a little muddy and even take on multiple voices – especially as your business grows. Brand evolution is what every small business strives to see, yet remaining consistent throughout that evolution will help keep your followers connected. And as a result, they’ll continue to and join you on your business journey. But that leads us to the looming question, “How do I find my brand voice?”
Start this exercise by determining three words you want your brand voice to represent. This is a popular exercise for creative entrepreneurs looking to define their brand aesthetic. But it applies to brand voice as well, regardless of your industry. Defining your messaging goal will serve as a measuring stick of sorts. Does your content evoke these three words? If you are a passion-driven business striving to work with mission-minded folks, your brand needs to inspire passion. Businesses built on sentimental connections (looking at you wedding photographers) would use heartfelt words because personal connection is always your end goal. For example, you might choose Romantic, Intimate, Free-Spirited as your three world’s if you are a photographer who loves to capture intimate elopements with couples who love adventure.
You’ve chosen your three words, so now what? The next step involves inviting people who know your brand well to test your messaging against those three words. This activity allows you to see how others view your brand, which is an important perspective.
Now that you know where you need to adjust your messaging, define your three words even further. How do your three words show up in your communication? How do they affect the tone you are trying to create. I recommend creating a brand work bank to have quick access to authentic language to your brand. It will make finding the right words a little bit easier whenever you’re feeling stuck. In my recent post to creating a better About Page, I included some helpful links to words that create an emotional impact. It’s a good place to start building your brand work bank!
Never underestimate the power of emotional impact! It’s the primary reason we make purchases in most situations. Why do you think Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, and other brands have had such success? It’s how we feel when we are making the purchase. Coffee didn’t taste right? No problem, we’ll make it again! And here’s a free coupon for your next drink on us! Sure it’s just coffee, but they made us feel seen and valued in that simple gesture! They have mastered the art of making us feel something! So much so they don’t even have to talk to us anymore – their followers do it for them. It’s every entrepreneur’s dream – turning those followers into fans, and it starts with creating an emotional connection. Following that emotional connection with an unforgettable experience is where the real magic happens. But first, you have to connect!
Just as important as knowing who you are as a brand knows who you aren’t. Are there buzz words you hate? How about phrases you want to avoid? If you have never uttered the words “I’ve got you, Boo!” in real life, chances are, you shouldn’t put them on your website! Taking a look at what the opposite of your brand voice would look like will help you avoid messaging that is popular but just not authentic to you. This exercise is also helpful in beating imposter syndrome. Sometimes it can be so tempting to look at what everyone else is doing and think you have to do it too.
To help define who you are vs. who you aren’t, I like to take my clients through a simple exercise. Together we will define their brand through a series of positively framed statements comparing their brand against another in your industry. For example, a dark and moody photographer might say, “I am a photographer that uses darker edits to pull people into the deep emotions of a moment. Because I believe darker images connect with the soul.” While a light and airy photographer might say, “I use bright light and soft colors to draw people into the joyful moments on a wedding day. Because I believe love is ethereal.” The key is to keep them positive. We never elevate our brand by trying to take someone else down.
Client avatar, brand archetype, there are lots of fancy ways to say it, but who we are talking to is YOUR PEOPLE. You know, those folks that want what you’ve got – your fans, if you will. When creating a brand voice, it’s pretty helpful to know who you’re talking to. I’m not just referring to demographics here. This is deeper than age and gender, and it helps to shape it around an actual person from one of your target audiences – for my business, it’s artists and creative small business owners. To hon in on your message, answer these questions for each person you choose:
Do you know what your client looks like?
What do they care about?
Describe your client’s occupation?
What do they do for fun?
And most importantly, what do they want from your brand?
If you can get into their heads, you can get into their hearts. And friends, that is where the good stuff happens!
Now that you have taken a deep look at who you are talking to, it’s time to turn the microscope on yourself. It would be best to answer some questions about what makes you feel connected and invested in brands you admire. When you tune into your intrinsic buying motivation, you gain valuable insight into how you sell. Fact is, most people sell the way they like to buy. This is only a problem if your ideal client prefers a different buying experience than you! Now that you have a lock on that ideal client, it’s time to evaluate how you are serving them. Are serving them how YOU like to be served. Or, are you custom tailoring their experience?
The fundamentals of brand voice simply come down to personality. What are you trying to portray about your brand? Think of your website as a dinner party full of potential customers. How are you going to show up to that party? When you say goodnight, you hope the new people you met are left with a favorable impression of you. The same rule of thumb applies across any channel of communication your brand employs. Does the way you communicate match the personality you want others to associate with your brand?
Do you want to show up as the life of the party, a good time but responsible enough to get it done? Or maybe your brand is all about a luxury experience and lush gifts with every purchase. Perhaps you want to show up as the expert, the person everyone in your field seeks out for advice and coaching. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s consistent across every touchpoint your client’s experience.
Finding your brand voice isn’t a one and done kind of deal. You can’t do it once for a rebrand and call it good. Think of it like this: Say you went on an incredible date, and the conversation was flowing. Connection, passion, the whole experience is a dream. But then the next time you meet up, it’s a total flop. Maybe you’ll give them another chance, or maybe you’ll move on. The last thing you want is a customer to move on because they aren’t sure who will show up next. Is it going to be the engaging version of you or the one that hopes slapping some words on the page will do for now?
Regularly, take stock of how you are communicating with your audience. Social media can be a great tool for measuring engagement and interest in your brand messaging. Google analytics has great feedback as well for what content is connecting with your readers. Look for your tone and make sure it matches your 3 brand words, and if it doesn’t, get it back on track. Also, keep in mind, language evolves, so does social relevancy. Does your message transcend the time since it was first written? If not, it’s time for an update!
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