Brand voice is something that we talk about in passing quite often. What we realized is that the one thing we haven’t covered is how you can establish one for your company. Or for that matter, what exactly a brand voice is in the first place.
So, with that in mind, today’s article aims to bring you up to speed on what brand voice is, why it’s so important we talk about it all the time, and how you can go about developing a brand voice of your very own, one that will set you apart from your competition and put you on the road to content marketing success!
Brand Voice: Just What is it?
Ask yourself this question:
“If someone read our last Facebook update, without seeing our brand name or logo, would they know it was us?”
If the answer is, “nope, probably not,” then your brand voice needs some work.
In short, brand voice is how your brand represents itself to the wider world. There are two primary aspects that, when combined, give your brand content it’s unique voice: Style and Tone.
Style: Front and center in your brand voice
This is how your content is written. Grammar, diction, sentence structure, et al. Style is based in large part on what you know about your target audience and their preferences. For example, if your audience consists mainly of upper management, decision makers, and C-suite folks, you might want to keep the style formal. Using professional language, complete sentences, and full paragraph structure; staying away from internet slang or abbreviations; and using clear, concise diction are all strong ideas here.
OTOH, if you’re targeting the rank and file software developer, using slang is probably not only fine, it actually shows that you get your audience and can help them connect with you and your content. Short, punchy sentences are awesome, too.
Tone: Follows style closely
Technically a subcategory under style, tone has a feel all it’s own. Consisting of the attitude, or feeling, of the writing, the tone is what, well, sets the tone of your content.
Many newbies forgo this in favor of composing grammatically perfect content. This inevitably leads to dry, boring content. Make it your own! Just be sure all contributing writers are well versed in your content guidelines so they can stick to the established tone in their pieces.
Humor is often seen as taboo in content creation. It absolutely is NOT true that you can’t make a joke, be witty, or even a tad sarcastic in your content. Look at Wendy’s Twitter feed for a great example of humor used right. We’re not saying that level of snark is appropriate in all settings, mind you. If you write mainly for B2B audiences, you might consider keeping on topic. Maybe an occasional dad-level joke is enough to endear you to that audience and keep them reading.
How to develop a brand voice of your own
Do your research.
To be honest, that’s really the first, and last piece of advice we want to you take home today. In order to create a brand voice that resonates with your audience, and that represents your company and your product in the best light possible, you need to know your audience, product, and company inside out and upside down.
Step 1: Know your audience
This is where you’ll want to spend the bulk of your research efforts. We truly believe that research lies at the heart of every good content marketing strategy, targeted ad campaign, and social media presence. Not to mention every product that’s ever sold millions of units or become “the next big thing.”
You’ve done your marketing studies, right? That means you should have buyer personas, and they make an excellent starting point for researching your brand audience. Talk to the marketing department, find out who they’ve identified as their target buyer. What can you glean from their data?
- Age bracket
- Education level
- Where they spend their online downtime
Each of the parameters defined for your buyer persona is a parameter you’ll want to take into account when developing your content audience as well. After all, you are aiming for people who will ultimately convert to happy customers.
If you find out that your audience spends their free time on Reddit and Twitter, you’ll know that internet slang and memes are your secret weapons to resonate with them. Alternatively, you may discover that their preferred platform is LinkedIn and that they’re mid-career professionals with advanced degrees. See above for style tips for that audience. Suffice it to say here that it’s not the same as the Redditors and tweeters.
Step 2: Know your product
This may sound redundant at first. Trust us when we say the amount of content out there that clearly indicates the author had never touched, or even seen, the product they’re supposed to be touting is mind-boggling.
Schedule some time with the product team, designers, developers, etc. Anyone who had a hand in designing and producing your company’s widget, sit down and pick their brain of its detailed widget knowledge. Then sit down with the sales team. Find out what questions they’ve been fielding from buyers, what language is working for them, and how they’re positioning the company among your competitors.
Ask questions. Then truly listen to the answers.
Get your hands on a widget for yourself. If it’s a software widget, install and configure it yourself then poke at it. And if it’s a hands-on, tangible widget, get your hands on one and poke it. Really dig in, use it how it’s intended, then see if you can use it in ways not intended, but that you think your audience is likely to try.
All of this serves a couple of purposes. First and foremost, it will make you a near expert on that widget. And in order to talk to your audience appropriately, answer their questions on social media, and connect with them in the comments, you need to know that darn widget. And second, this process will give you deeper insights into that audience. Seeing how they’ll interact with your product will help you connect on that deeper level that will lead to more conversions.
Step 3: Know your company
Our third category of research may sound...funny, at first. You do work at this company, and unless you started last week you probably have a pretty good idea of how it works, who powers it, and so on. But do you really?
When you sit down with the product team, sales team, and others in the process of learning all you can about your product, also watch the people. See how they interact. See how they work with, and off, each other. Jot down the org. chart for each department you work with, and your own for that matter. Look for the overlaps and gaps.
All this will give you further insight into the people behind the product, many of whom are also pretty good representations of your target audience as well.
Think of your brand voice as a friend, and ask yourself how you would describe it in 3 words. Quirky, smart, and stalwart? Witty, charming, and outgoing? When you and your team can do this for your brand voice, that’s when you know you’re good to go.