Which words would your friends and family members use to describe you?
Witty? Kind? Helpful?
Now, which words would you use to describe your company? If this is a hard question to answer, your company needs to work on developing its brand voice.Which words would you use to describe your company? If this is a hard question to answer, your company needs to work on developing its brand voice. #contentmarketing #branding Click To Tweet
Your brand’s voice is representative of your brand’s personality. It is consistent and steady. This is particularly important in a sea of digital media messages where content often starts to look and feel the same.
The best way to break through the noise and ensure that your audiences interpret the messages the way you intend them to be understood is to develop and establish your brand’s voice — then stick with it.
Kate Spade New York CMO, Mary Beech, shared the following thought with the Columbia Business School: “Your voice starts with your brand promise. It starts with your customer… It’s your story —your content — and what you deliver in every medium in which you engage and in which [your customer] engages with you.”
These seven meaningful activities will help you develop your brand voice:
1. Review your brand promise.
Your brand promise is the essence of your brand. It isn’t something you say to your customers — it is the backbone of how your organization promises to relate to those who come into contact with it. Without a strong brand promise, your ability to develop a brand voice will be stymied.
If you have not yet developed your brand promise (also sometimes referred to as a brand positioning statement), see our guide for tips.
Some good examples of brand promises from major organizations include:
- Wal-Mart: Save money. Live better.
- Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
- Coca-Cola: To inspire moments of optimism and uplift.
- Apple: Think different.
Your brand promise is a vital part of your content vision. Once your brand promise is set, you are able to develop your brand voice as part of your content strategy.
2. Audit — and purge — your existing content.
Regardless of if your organization is a start-up or an established company, it is imperative to get a handle on all of the searchable and available content your brand has published and evaluate if the content matches with your brand promise.
While you perform this audit, look for excuses to purge any content that does not represent your brand promise.
Despite your best efforts, you cannot develop an improved brand voice if the older content that people pull up on web searches doesn’t align with your brand promise.
3. Ask your audience.
“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” — Jeff Bezos
No matter what you think your brand is, if your audience doesn’t agree, then you need to work harder to develop a consistent brand voice.
Find out what your audience thinks about your brand and reconcile what they think with what you want to communicate. Creating a simple survey for your audience to react to can go a long way in helping you understand if your efforts to develop a brand voice have resonated with your audience.
Some of the questions you can ask include:
- If our company were a person, what would it sound like?
- Why do you use our services?
- What do you want most from our company?
4. Describe your brand in three words.
The purpose of describing your brand in three words is to get down to the essence of your brand. If your brand were a human, how would you describe it?
Once you have defined these three words, share them with individuals throughout the organization. Any time an individual creates content for the brand, he ought to be able to measure it against these three descriptive words to know if it is on-brand.
5. Develop a brand voice chart.
Now that you have determined the three words that represent your brand, create a chart with three columns — one for each word.
Then, include the following rows in the chart:
- Do not
For each descriptive word, proceed to fill in the blanks about what the voice characteristic means to you in the “Description” column. Then, in the “Do” column, include what your brand will do to live up to that description.
Lastly, in the “Do not” column, make clear what your brand will not do, in order to avoid becoming something different from the descriptive word you defined.
An example could look like this:
- Descriptive word: Bold
- Description: We take risks. We don’t hide our passion. We look for opportunities to share what we are about.
- Do: Look for ways to shake up the status quo. Be proactive in encouraging our customers to try new things.
- Do not: Shy away from risk. Take the easiest path.
6. Look for inspiration.
If you are just now developing your brand voice, the good news is that you have many other organizations’ examples to learn from.
Some are informative. Some are snarky. Some are respectful. Read and learn from the content developed by other brands who have established their voices with consistent content.
A few of the organizations with solid brand voices to learn from include:
7. Document everything.
As you complete the exercises to help you develop your brand voice, document everything you learn. Then make these findings available to everyone in the company — especially your executives and content creators.
When you include brand voice guidelines and best practices in your company style guide, you ensure there is a standard against which communication coming from the company can be measured. If you don’t have a documented style guide with a “Brand Voice” section, see this handy guide for inspiration.
Though undertaking these activities can help you develop your brand’s voice, even that won’t be enough if you don’t remain consistent in your efforts.
Continue to reiterate your brand voice to your company’s employees and be a proponent for it. When you do so, a strong, consistent brand voice can become part of your company’s culture.