I received a fabulous compliment from a client recently about my brand voice.
When I brief clients, I always ask how they’d like their copy to feel and sound. Jenna’s* reply was that she’d like it to sound similar to the copy on my website. She got a sense of trust and she felt like she was dealing with a person, even though she was only reading a website.
This blew me away! I’ve never really put much thought into my own brand voice. Basically, I write how I talk. And, as a copywriter, I know that writing conversationally is the cornerstone of engaging content.
This got me thinking. How do you find your brand voice?
What is ‘brand voice’?
Asking clients about their brand personality and tone of voice is what helps me jump in their shoes. It lets me write copy that reflects their business and appeals to their clients.
Could you imagine if I used a quirky voice in website copy for a funeral home that wanted to sound empathetic (*gasp*)? Or a comedic voice in marketing copy for a financial planner that wants prospects to trust them with their money.
Brand voice is how you communicate with your audience. It’s your brands distinct style and attitude.
Why does brand voice matter?
Sure, your business isn’t human but you can give it a personality that appeals to your ideal client. Importantly, a unique and consistent brand voice will help you build connections and trust with your ideal client.
According to a special report from the Edelman Trust Barometer, In Brands We Trust?, brand trust is a deal-breaker or a deciding factor for 81% of consumers when considering a purchase. Consumers want to believe they can trust a brand to do what’s right and a big factor in helping your clients to reach this point is through your brand voice.
If your brand voice isn’t communicating in a way that’s relatable, familiar and establishes your brand as trustworthy and credible, you could be losing business.
How does ‘brand voice’ differ from ‘tone of voice’?
Before we dive into defining your brand voice, let’s take a quick step back.
Your brand voice and the tone of voice you use in content, can be different.
When I describe my business personality in three words, it’s friendly, authentic and professional. These attributes form the foundation of my brand voice and are a guide for the content that I produce.
But just like in real life, your brand’s tone of voice will adjust depending on who you’re talking to and what you are talking about, but your voice remains the same.
For example, if your brand voice is passionate, the tone in an introductory email to a new subscriber might be:
- enthusiastic, and
But, you would adjust the tone if you’re writing a blog post on a more sensitive topic for your audience, like overcoming relationship or marriage problems. In this post, your tone of voice is likely to be more:
- encouraging, and
In both examples, you’ve stayed true to your ‘passionate’ brand voice, but adjusted the tone to suit a particular moment or type of content where you’re engaging with your audience.
Defining your brand’s voice
This is where the real work starts, but don’t worry, I’m going to ‘chunk this down’ for you.
Here are the five steps to defining your brand voice:
- Audit your existing content
- Know your ideal client
- Define a brand personality
- Create a brand chart
- Be consistent
Let’s dig into each of these further.
Step 1 – Audit your existing content
If your business is brand-spankin’ new and you have no content – congratulations you can skip to Step 2.
For those of you that have been in the business game for a while, you’re going to start by auditing your existing content. Specifically, I want you to go back over any copy that you’ve written for blog posts, social media, email newsletters/marketing, e-books etc. The goal is to find content with unique styles, tones, themes and words that represent how your brand voice sounds now. Write these down.
Also, pick out the pieces of content that best align with your brand’s values and how you would like your brand to be perceived and put them aside – you’re going to need them later on.
Step Two – Know your ideal client
Almost everything in business boils down to how well you know your ideal client – the people that you want to attract and work with the most. And your brand voice plays a big part in this.
If you understand your ideal client, you’ll know the best way to communicate with them.
Research. Research. Research. You want to see the world through their eyes and walk in their shoes.
You’ll need to understand their fears and their hopes. What keeps them up at night and what they’re wishing was true about their life right now, and in the future.
To gather this information, think about where your ideal client is hanging out online. What groups are they in? What questions are they asking? What comments are they leaving?
You could also develop a questionnaire and ask people (including existing clients) that fit within your ideal client persona.
Stuck for questions? Check out Finding Your Ideal Customer: 32 Questions You Should Ask.
Now that you understand your ideal client, you’ll have a good idea of the language (words, jargon etc.) they use. Using the same language as your ideal client will help on two fronts. One, you’ll be using keywords that match what your ideal client is using to search online for solutions to their problems. And two, you’ll be using words that resonate with them because they use them too.
Connecting with target audiences is something that we copywriters are darn good at – keep us in mind for your next copy project.
Step Three – Define your brand personality
With your brand audit complete and your ideal client research nailed, it’s time to define your unique brand personality.
A brand, just like a person, has unique characteristics that set it apart from other brands and makes it easily recognisable. It’s about personifying your brand in a way that makes it relatable to the clients you’d love to attract.
And you start by thinking of your business as a person.
How would you describe its personality using three human-like adjectives?
List your traits down on a piece of paper.
Now, take your three personality traits and consider how each of these can be represented in your communications using your brand voice.
- Quirky – irreverent, unexpected, humorous
- Passionate – generous, encouraging, helpful
- Sincere – down-to-earth, honest, friendly
You might find it helpful to refer to a brand personality framework similar to the one below.
Finally, before you settle on your brand personality, make sure it’s a good fit with your core identity as a brand. Your personality should align with your mission (what you do), your vision (why you exist) and your values (how you achieve your goals).
Also, don’t let all that ideal client research go to waste. Use it here to ensure that your brand personality will help attract them, not push them away.
Step 4 – Create a Brand Voice Chart
Congratulations! You’re well on your way to crafting copy that will help your audience self-identify, emotionally connect with and understand that you’re the person who can help them.
A great way to capture your newly discovered personality and your unique brand voice, is by creating a brand voice chart. This nifty reference is going to be a lifesaver in terms of keeping your brand voice consistent across all your content.
Here’s how you do it:
- List your brand voice characteristic on the left
- Include a brief description of the trait in the next column
- Explain how to use (and not use) this trait across your interactions with your audience
The Content Marketing Institute recommends adding a row for secondary characteristics that need more explanation. For example, in the chart above, “irreverent” is a related word to “quirky”, so they’ve defined it further in the row below.
Keep your brand voice chart in easy reach so you (and your team) always know how to communicate with your audience. If you’re working with a copywriter, be sure to supply this to them during your
Want some examples of different brand voice? Check out Brands that are totally killing it with voice, tone & style (and how you can, too) and 4 tone of voice examples to use when building your own.
Step 5 – Consistency is key
Are you ready to use your brand voice to breathe life into your brand?
The key to effectively implementing your new found ‘voice’ is to ensure that you’re speaking with it consistently. For example, if you use a sophisticated brand voice on your website copy don’t use a rugged voice in your email marketing. You’ll likely raise a few eyebrows or worse, your audience might question whether the email is from you at all (eek, spam!).
All communications, including video and social media, need to feel and sound like your brand.
Let your brand voice do the talkin’
Your brand voice is an important part of your overall marketing strategy.
Using this guide, you’ll be able to define a brand voice that sets your business apart from your competitors. Your Brand Voice Chart is your ‘voice bible’ when it comes to speaking and engaging with your audience and your clients.
Remember, consistency is how your unique personality and voice will become recognisable and familiar. And this familiarity, combined with relatable and useful content, will lead to deeper connections, client loyalty and more bookings.
After all, isn’t that what all service-based business owners want?
*Name changed for privacy reasons
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