Humans have a fascination with voice.
Before we dive into brand voice, let’s examine voice in a familiar context.
We use voice to differentiate between friends who are talking to us at the same time, and we feel comfort- or, anxiety- when we hear specific people speak.
We use our voices to share life’s greatest joys and our proudest accomplishments.
But, we also utilize our voices to pass along grave, tragic news.
Voice is powerful. Voice is ‘us.’
A voice on paper isn’t any different. Writing is a form of branding for your business, and the voice your content has is as instrumental to your brand as your logo.
Your brand’s voice IS your brand’s power.
What is a brand’s voice? (And, where does ‘tone’ come in?)
Before we dive in, it’s vital to mention that voice and tone are often (erroneously) used interchangeably. Developing a powerful voice for your brand requires clearly understanding the difference between these fundamental concepts.
A brand’s voice refers to the mix of words, language, personality, and emotions that uniquely combine to form a company’s communication style.
On the other hand, the tone your brand uses to deliver a message is essentially the method of transportation your message is utilizing to travel from Point A (your company) to Point B (your customer).
- Voice is unchanging.
- The tone is changeable.
- Voice is the personality behind a brand.
- If there isn’t a voice, there can’t be a tone.
Tones are the many different ways to convey a brand’s personality*.
If someone says, “Ginny is hilarious and has a great sense of humor”, there are several different ways that aspect of her personality could be channeled. Whether she tells a joke with a dry tone, a dark tone, or a sarcastic tone, the ‘hilarious part of her personality doesn’t change; the delivery of her message (in this case, hopefully a great joke) is what changes.
*The context, format, and the emotional impact the subject matter is likely to have on a customer are all moving parts behind “tone.”
Understanding Voice vs Tone
EX: Another way to put it: Think of a king and his kingdom.
On the big-picture side, there’s a brand’s voice (in this example, a king).
Nestled cozily within the confines of the king’s world are many tones (in this example, each tone is represented by a separate messenger).
In the king’s employ are multiple messengers specialized in proclaiming different types of information from the king to the masses.
While all the messengers can relay the king’s information, one messenger is usually more suited than the others to optimally deliver a specific message. For instance, if the king needed to discuss significant new legislative changes, he’d send the messenger that was well-versed in communicating serious, dry matters. For something joyous, the king would send his messenger that talks about lighthearted topics in a warm, friendly manner. The king does not change, nor does his personality. However, the messenger he enlists does change each time, depending on the content (and, context).
In your business, you are king (yeah yeah, we’re sure your paychecks don’t reflect that but humor us for a sec). The tone you choose is comparable to deciding which messenger is best suited to relay the message.
How to Successfully Find (And Lock Down) Your Brand’s Voice
How many friends do you have that change personalities frequently?
Unless there’s something deeper going on behind the scenes (hopefully therapy is involved if that is the case), your friends probably have one personality. We value consistency and stability in our business, familial, and personal relationships, so this makes sense.
It’s exhausting and frustrating to deal with unpredictability. If your brand continually appears to be experiencing an identity crisis, kiss your credibility “goodbye.”
Working towards channeling these qualities is how connections turn into friendships, relationships, and mutually beneficial business transactions- successfully finding your brand’s voice starts with knowing “what you’re about.”
Tips for Success: What are some of the best practices to keep in mind?
#1 Lock down your business’s answer to “What three words describe my brand’s personality?”
Your brand’s voice is your business’s personality- if it were a person, what are three words you’d use to describe its personality?
#2 Understand the personas behind your buyers.
Metrics like age, gender, and education are indeed necessary to keep in mind when communicating with your audience. Taking it a step further, however, and discovering your audience’s hobbies and favorite topics will personalize your messages even more deeply.
#3 Understand 1) how you want to appear to the masses, 2) how you think you’re currently appearing, and 3) how you’re actually appearing. (Hint: If there’s a discrepancy, there’s a problem.)
This is HUGE. Regardless of your product or service quality, or the caliber of your customer service/marketing team, if there’s a disconnect between expectation and reality, there’s a huge problem.
#4 Run a ‘blindfold’ test. When you show your business’s messages to someone without your company’s name or logo present, is it still obvious that it’s your company talking?
It’s great when customers like or share your company’s social media posts. However, if you’re able to establish a personality for your brand that stands out, you’ll know that customers are aware of YOUR brand being behind the great content.
#5 Utilize audience identification software such as Prizm by Claritas
Software and programs designed to provide deeper insights on a demographic segment can help you craft a more defined communication strategy and brand personality.
For instance, PRIZM breaks a region into segments to offer extremely detailed pieces of information on several different groups of people.
#6 Go easy on the guerrilla-marketing type tactics. ‘Weird’ and ‘provocative’ are memorable, yes, but that isn’t always the best thing for your business.
Just like in social situations, there’s a fine line between original and downright weird.
#7 Create a voice chart and make sure all your writers are on the same page voice and tone wise. (Extra tip: Constantly revise and evaluate the chart as time goes on.)
Especially in a larger organization with multiple people contributing to message-crafting, it’s vital to ensure everyone correctly understands what the company’s voice and communication style is.
Potential Problems: What should you watch for?
#1 Robotic, generic, jargon-infused language and content.
It’s quite easy to give in to temptation and play it safe by using a conservative, bland communication style. However, while a tried-and-true, dry voice can effectively relay valuable information, it isn’t best to use all of the time. Creativity isn’t easily substituted!
#2 Weird, inappropriate, colloquial-blanketed content.
On the flip side, it’s also easy to overdo the “original” approach by crossing over into the realm of “weird”. In addition to content that’s too weird or “out there”, it is a common mistake to overdo colloquial terms. Doing so undermines credibility and professionalism.
#3 Content that very closely mimics the content of your immediate competitors.
While it is incredibly useful to examine what your competitors are doing, parroting another company’s style usually doesn’t bode well in the long run.
#4 Inconsistencies in voice across multiple platforms (or, even within just one!)
As mentioned earlier, cohesive collaboration among all message-creators is at the foundation of a unified, powerful brand voice. Ensure that the entire team- be it 2 people or 20- understands what is acceptable and unacceptable by implementing a voice chart and/or collection of guidelines.
Fusion Group USA
Fusion Group USA understands that digital marketing is an incredibly powerful tool for today’s businesses. With so many social media platforms and ways to market your message, it’s incredibly easy to accidentally skip steps or neglect to pay attention to important processes.
From in-depth analysis of factors such as reach, exposure, and audience to “big picture” strategizing, Fusion Group USA is here to put your business on the center stage. Contact us today to learn how easy it is to succeed with us at your side!
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