Unleashing Your Authentic Brand Voice
This world is crowded! There are over 7 billion people living on Earth, all vying for a slice of attention. So how do you make your brand stand out?
In my opinion, we all say we want to stand out, but when it comes down to it, we fail to take a stance. From the people we serve, to our offerings and even the rules that guide how we operate, we need to get better at deciding who we are, and importantly, who we're not. There's a tendency to pick a logo, and say, 'this is the unique face of my brand' without actually making any important decisions about what's behind it. So, when the logo is taken away, we all sound exactly the same.
Chosen carefully and consistently, our words have the ability to build remarkability and memorability into our brands. We can use them to explain our difference, sell our value and convey what's important to us. They can also inject personality into our marketing materials, turning a faceless business into a loveable brand.
What is a brand voice?
Your brand voice describes how your brand writes and speaks consistently over time. It's the words and phrases you choose to communicate with your audience—from your blog posts to your website copy, social media captions, video scripts and brochure copy. Most of us have a way of speaking and writing that is unique to us—this is our voice.
A clear and compelling brand voice will showcase your personality and will help your message to cut through the marketing clutter to make a bigger impact. It can define your brand even when it's not accompanied by your logo or brand visuals. If you've ever read a blog article or book and known exactly who has written it without reading the byline, or heard a voice on radio or podcast and immediately recognised who it belongs to, this is the power of a consistent and unique brand voice.
While your voice is pretty consistent, your tone might change depending on the situation at hand or the person you are speaking to. For example, you might change your tone if you’re speaking to a stranger versus an old friend, or you might switch tone when someone is angry versus when they are excited.
Your voice should sound like you, not like someone else
I consider myself to be an ok writer, until I look at other brands’ voices, with their funny, witty blogs, or thought-provoking podcasts. Even when I caption an instagram post, I look at other brands with their perfect descriptions and think, 'these other people have this covered, and they make it look so easy!' Meanwhile, I have been sitting here for 10 minutes and all I have is a cacti emoji.
It’s easy to get caught in the comparison trap. It’s equally easy to read or listen to these wonderful, admirable brands or personalities and begin to emulate their voices. But it’s important to remember that a voice that sounds just like someone else is doing nothing for your own brand. The way one person has created something isn’t the only way it can be created. And a voice that’s not yours won’t feel or sound authentic coming from you.
I like to think of brand voices I admire and respect as my influencers, and when I find a voice I love, I consciously dissect it. This is a habit I’ve borrowed from Kane as he does this with his design work. Whenever he sees a design he likes or a designer he admires, he looks at their work, and analyses it. He thinks about why he likes it, what they’ve done really well, and then he thinks about how he might do it differently to fit within his own style. So, I do the same with my influencers. I consider what I like about their voice, what they have done well, and then how I might do or say it differently in a way that is my own.
Building an authentic brand voice
If you haven't yet figured out why you exist, who you're serving, what you're going to offer, and defined the principles and processes you'll use to deliver this offering, then that's the first, crucial step in your branding journey. It's important that your brand voice matches other components of your brand, like your vision, purpose, experiences and visuals, otherwise it will seem disconnected and inauthentic.
Nailing your voice and using it consistently takes time and practice. Every now and then, I’ll write something and think, this isn’t me. But, that awareness is golden, because it helps me to stay consistent and true to my brand over time, sprinkling that unique flavour into everything I write.
If you're ready to start defining your brand voice, here are my 5 big tips for building one that is authentic:
1. Tell your story
When you’re writing or speaking day to day, telling your personal stories will help you to make a real, genuine connection with your audience. Chances are, the subject you're covering has already been written or spoken about before, but, if you can include a story that comes from your real personal experiences, it will always be unique and authentic.
2. No one wants to hear from a robot
This one’s essential for any writing you do, especially if you have the tendency like I do to slip into "essay mode" and get overly formal and stuffy when speaking about a complex subject. There’s a reason people like reading about gossip, and that’s because it’s conversational. Remember to use conjunctions (e.g. 'don't' instead of 'do not') to make your voice sound more personable and relatable. Another good idea is to read it aloud. If it doesn't sound like you, or it bores you to tears, make it more human by writing it again, but this time, try to write like you would say it instead.
3. Be consistent: First, second or third?
Decide how you want to speak about yourself and customers and stick to it. Do you talk about your business in first person (I, my, we, our) or third person (they, it, he, she)? Do you address your customers in second person (you/your) or third person (they, them, their)? If in doubt, I prefer speaking in first person (when referring to the business) and second person (when speaking to customers) because feels a lot less stuffy and much more conversational. Finally, if you're a one person team don't try and make yourself sound bigger by saying 'we' instead of 'I'. Small is great! Own it.
4. Keep it simple & relevant
Keep it real and avoid complex words and industry lingo. Including commonly known and understood words will improve the clarity of your message. Complex language won't make you appear more intelligent, but being able to explain a complex subject in a relatable way will. Be sure to consider you ideal customer and how they might speak about your product or service. You don't have to mimic them, but using their terminology can make your brand less cold and faceless and more human.
5. Have an opinion
No one ever got noticed by sitting on the fence. Don’t be afraid to have an opinion or a perspective, your ideas are as valid as anyone else’s, and chances are people will agree with you. There will be those that won't, and that's ok too. Unless you are deliberately intending to stir debate, I suggest keeping your opinions online related to your business and area of expertise.
It isn’t going to be perfect
Striving to have the ‘perfect’ voice for your brand is unrealistic and limiting. It puts unnecessary pressure on yourself to get it just right. As I’ve already mentioned, building your voice takes practice. It’s something that will evolve and you’ll naturally get better at as you create more content. I’ll tell you this—I could mull over blog posts and other content for months while I perfect them. So they're never perfect. Instead, they are out in the world, hopefully helping others, and that’s what is important. Don’t get me wrong, I still pour a lot of time into my work, but there is a point where I have to stop and say, I’ve created something thoughtful, purposeful and well considered, I have done my best with the knowledge I have right now. And that is enough. If you aim for perfect, you'll never unleash what you've created and your voice will never have the chance to develop.
Have you given much thought to your brand voice? If not, it's time to unleash that voice of yours! I would love to hear more about how you define your brand voice, and any tips you have for staying consistent and authentic. Tell me in the comments!