Brand Voice pt. 1: 3 Steps to Defining Your Brand Voice

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If someone covered up your logo would they be able to differentiate your content from a competitor? Would the reader recognize your brand through the article’s voice and tone?

We get it: when you’re first trying to get a content marketing program off the ground, simply publishing any content can feel like a struggle. Worrying about brand voice seems like a problem for corporations with millions to spend on their marketing budgets, not your business.

Don’t write off the importance of brand voice quite yet, though. A common problem we run into with clients is that they invest in blog content, white papers, and social media campaigns before codifying their brand guidelines. They rush to publish content and then wonder why this content ultimately doesn’t generate any traction or engagement with their target audience. They come to us frustrated about the lack of traction and feel like they’re just throwing content at the wall, wondering why nothing is sticking. When we begin to dive deeper into the reason why it turns out there’s a fundamental mismatch between content messaging and customer/client needs or a lack of message coherence across the content. The culprit: the lack of a clearly defined, distinctive voice.

What is Brand Voice?

Let’s say you’re attending a dinner party with 10 people you’ve never met before. At the end of the party, you’ll want each of these people to leave with a certain viewpoint or opinion about you. Consequently, you’ll act a certain way, you’ll tell specific stories or jokes, and you’ll intentionally emphasize traits like your intellect, humor or charm.

Your brand's unique voice is no different. Brand voice is the intentional, consistent communication of your business identity through words, tone, and messages. If your brand were a person attending the dinner party, who would your brand be? Would your brand be the tech-savvy guest offering pointers on how to be an Excel power user? Or, would your brand be the driven athlete who’s always working out and striving to unleash untapped potential? Maybe your brand would be the kind, welcoming host who wants everyone to feel at ease. These examples may sound hyperbolic, but they’re a useful starting point for considering how brands, like people, prioritize certain traits to build a reputation.

Why a Consistent Voice Matters

As businesses grow and work with different agencies or freelancers, inconsistent voice can become a problem. It’s a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen all attempting to make the same dish without a single, unifying recipe to guide them. Scattered messaging and conflicted brand voices can confuse your audience and hurt your brand reputation.

A distinctive and unwavering voice is essential for a strong online brand presence. And in order to communicate that distinctive and unwavering brand voice, you need to first define it.

How to Define Your Brand Voice

Strong company values are the origin for a strong brand voice. Start by asking yourself, “What does my company stand for? What are our values, mission, and goals?” As you write down answers to these questions, identify recurring words, phrases, and emotions.

Next, think about the emotions or behaviors with which your business does NOT want to be associated. For example, many B2B brands want to strike a balance between professionalism and approachability. These brands want to be viewed as subject matter experts without being seen as rude, stuck-up or cocky.

Finally, codify these words and emotions in a brand guide. This guide does not need to be lengthy. It can be a short, straightforward statement: “We use clear and intelligent language that reflects our product sophistication. We never talk down to our readers or explain rudimentary concepts. Our blog posts balance professionalism with engagement and approachability. We convey genuine enthusiasm and excitement for the cutting-edge work being done in our field with a focus on how these advancements benefit our customers.”

Maintaining brand voice is not just about the words you write in a blog post. It’s also about the action you take in response to a question on social media or the service you provide your customers.

We’ll tackle how you bring your brand voice to life in our next post in this series.


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Aleks Vizulis

As operations manager at 21 Handshake, I bring an analytical perspective to the discussion table. My vision is to take projects from 'just strong' to superb. Often you will find me capturing behind the scenes photos in the 21 Handshake office or at a clients location. I play a fierce round of 18 during warm weather and catch me on the slopes during the other months of the year!

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