By Lori Smith
Your brand voice is what makes your blog or business unique and helps it stand out from the bazillion others out there. People want a deeper connection with the content they are reading and the person they are buying from.
One way you do that is by developing a unique brand voice, and not just through your story but also with the language you use. You wouldn’t write in a formal academic style if your audience is stay at home moms who hide from their kids in the bathroom just to get a break. The language doesn’t fit the audience.
Developing a consistent voice for brands is part of my job as a copywriter so over the years I’ve come up with a couple strategies for finding a unique brand voice.
Tricks I use, to help people just like you get past the boring-ass drone of worn-out buzzwords, trite cliche’s, and imitation nation to help you find your true voice. A voice that resonates with your target audience so you can build a tribe of followers who can’t get enough of your kick-ass content.
Driving traffic to your website is only part of the battle. Getting them to stick around and ultimately keeping them coming back is a crucial aspect to making money with your blog or business. This is why your bounce rate and percentage of returning visitors are so important.
In this article, I’m opening my vault of tips, tricks, and hidden strategies and whipping out two of my best secrets along with several other strategies for developing a unique brand voice because I’m cool like that.
The Easy Way To Develop Your Unique Brand Voice
Step 1: Define What You Want Your Brand Voice To Convey
Think about what you want your brand to represent. What kind of vibe do you want your visitors to get from your blog? Choose three words that capture the personality of the voice you want your brand to have. Then, place limits on each of those three words.
- Bold, but not arrogant
- Irreverent, but not offensive
- Sweet, but not weak
Step 2: Differentiate Yourself
Peek in on your competitor’s brand voice. See how they are expressing themselves to their audience. What is the tone and attitude of their content?
You want to distinguish yourself from the pack and studying their content will help you get a sense for what others in your niche are already doing in terms of style.
But avoid mimicking your competitor’s same brand voice. The last thing you want to do is end up sounding like some clone from a bad sci-fi movie.
When you write like everyone else, you’re sending the message that your blog, products or services are just like there’s. It doesn’t make you stand out nor does it differentiate your offerings from your competitors.
Why oh why then are there so many bloggers out there in blog land saying the same damn things at the biggest fricking party on the internet – the marketplace? Why should anyone come to your blog when there’s a bunch of others out there just like it?
But there are definitely a few bloggers out there who do have the whole “I’m so different I wrote the book on it”, thing down pat. Allison Marshall of wonderlass.com is one of them. She’s the epitome of unique. The girl knows branding like Kim Kardashian knows the perfect selfie pose. Allison has a fun energetic feel to her brand, and she conveys it through her brand voice and her images and graphics.
Another stand out is Kira Hug of kirahug.com. Kira is a copywriter, so it’s no surprise her brand voice is on point, but this chick took it to a whole other level. Everything about her brand including her images exudes a uniqueness that’s all her own. You know exactly who Kira is the moment you land on her website.
Jordan Roper of creativerevolt.com is a favorite in the freelance writing niche and there’s no mistake why Jordan’s brand voice is unlike any of her competitors. Her edgy rock-and-roll writing style and distinctive graphics are recognizable from a mile away. She knows how to use her unique brand voice to connect with her tribe.
Step 3: Listenting To Your Followers/Customers
Before you write anything, take the time to listen first. Listen to how your readers communicate. Are they formal, laid-back or do they talk like a sailor on leave?
Here’s where I’ll share my first secret with you. To get a feel for the language your audience uses read through Facebook posts in groups where your ideal readers hang out. Note the words, phrases or slang they use in their normal everyday speech.
When it comes to listening think in terms of music. You don’t want to sound like Beethoven when your audience is into Metallica. It might get a little weird if your readers are the uptight suit wearing types but your content sounds more like a band rockin’ out at a rave.
Pay close attention to your brand voice to set the right tone for your ideal reader. Your goal is brand affinity by using words, diction, and sentence structure that’s appealing to your specific audience and authentic to your offerings.
Step 4: Audit Your Existing Content
If you have a fair amount of existing content already, you can conduct an audit to identify your best and worst performing content. From there, you can then analyze your content for both voice and tone.
You want to look at your top content for similarities in terms of writing style, personality, diction, and words you commonly use. Then, do the same for your worst content. Yep, it’s just as important to identify what voice your readers don’t like.
This will provide a clear picture of what resonates with your existing audience – which helps you align your brand and offers with what they already like about you.
Take me for example. I use cuss words in my content. I make no apologies about it either. I’m not for everyone, but I have grown quite a large following of people who like me for who I am. They like the delivery of my information because the cuss words along with my self-deprecating sarcasm provide some levity.
Breaking up the monotony of heavy complex information with a little irreverent humor helps my audience stay more engaged with my content. If you’ve ever had to read a government document in its entirety, then you can appreciate content that is entertaining.
Another step to developing your brand voice is simply ask your audience to describe your brand’s personality. Again, the words they use will help you determine if you’re on the right track with the voice and tone your existing content conveys.
You can also poll new subscribers or customers. Send a brief follow up email within a few days of their sign up thanking them for becoming a subscriber. Include in your email a short list of a few adjectives and ask them to pick the one that best describes how they feel about your business. Both these tactics will give you insight into how others view you and your brand.
Step 5: Define Your Core Personality
Now that you’ve established how you want to represent yourself and
how your audience sees you, it’s time to figure out what exactly that
sounds like. In other words – tying it all together into a theme. I like to
look at it as your “voice persona.”
Just like you create personas for your ideal audience or customer, create one for the embodiment of your brand. I want to make it very clear here though, DON’T go all rogue on me and think you have to be someone you’re not or that you have to copy someone else’s voice.
When developing your brand voice it should embody YOUR true self. You should never put on an act just because you think people will be more drawn to a particular personality. Authenticity should always reign supreme in every aspect of your brand.
Next, you want to decide on your persona’s mood, personality, how you describe things, and how you see yourself. And be honest. Trust me, there is an audience out there for you no matter what type of personality you have so don’t be afraid to keep it real.
- Conversational (code for Chatty Cathy) with a penchant for going off on a tangent or do you keep it short and simple?
- Focused on facts and statistics (AKA geek) or more of a storyteller?
- Daring and adventurous (don’t give a damn) or cautious and risk-adverse?
Take the “voice persona” you created and lump it together with the three main bullet points above that describe your brand. Congratulate yourself because you my friend, have just defined your brand’s core personality.
Step 6: Define Your Tone
It’s time for something that gets screwed up a lot: taking the overall theme and voice and specifying what tones you will use in different scenarios or types of content.
It’s easy to define one voice, but you wouldn’t necessarily use only one voice for everything you write. Think about it personally, your voice is your voice, but you use different tones depending on:
- Who you’re talking to: Your tone will be different when talking to your grandma vs. a child.
- What you’re talking about: Your tone will sound different telling a story vs. responding to a complaint.
- How you feel: The tone of your voice when you are confused vs. when you are clear-headed will also be different.
Step 7: Document The Specifics
Once you have a clear picture of how your brand voice should sound in different contexts, you need to lay out actual specifics. This is the part where you will specify the nitty gritty stuff. You want to create a well-defined guide for executing your brand voice consistently. Your guide should specify the following:
How To Use Branded Terms:
If you have slogans, taglines, specific content or catchphrases for your business then you’ll want to play those up throughout your brand.
And this brings us to the second secret I dug out of my vault just for you. If you’re not sure what catchphrases, slang, etc. you use most often in your content, then you’ll want to create a word bank. Hmmm… What’s a word bank you say?
A word bank is simply a document you create with a list of the most common unique words you use when writing any content. To create your word bank, re-read all your content (web copy, blog posts, emails, etc.) and make a note of the catchphrases, slang or words you tend to repeat.
We all have little sayings or a way with words that are unique to us. This is what creates your unique brand voice because no one else talks like you do.
Spelling + Grammar
A great section to include in your brand voice guide is to outline any technical writing details and style preferences. You know, the stuff most of us hate.
If there’s a certain industry style guide you use such as The Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook then include it in your guide.
You also need to address preferences for any of the many “there’s more than one right way” language rules. Think email vs. e-mail. Both are correct but will you use it with or without the hyphen? Make sure you establish guidelines for spelling or abbreviations of industry words as well.
Consistency is what you should always strive for in every piece of content you write. Having guidelines for even the smallest details of spelling and grammar are important to maintaining a consistent brand voice. You want your audience to recognize your content by your voice alone.
Step 8: Multimedia (Images – Graphics – Videos – GIF’s)
Online communication nowadays is rarely text-only. Images and graphics play a huge role in how we convey our information and message to our community. So you’ll want to document out how you will use different types of media you might supplement your written content with. Having guidelines for your multimedia will help keep it aligned with your brand voice.
Things you’ll want to have guidelines for:
- Using images or graphics within content such as blog posts
- Including or embedding videos in your content or on your site
- GIF usage
- Use of emojis in content and what types of emojis you will use
- Any other accepted forms of media
Step 9: Staying Agile
I’m ending on one of the most important aspects of creating your brand voice. You shouldn’t even try to finish creating the perfect brand voice. You probably think I’m crazy to even say something like this after I’ve just detailed eight steps for how to do it. Nope. I’m not crazy. Okay, maybe a little.
You see, brand voice is not fixed – it’s fluid. It’s an ever-evolving process and your knowledge about brand voice should evolve, too. You always want to keep pace with your changing audience across all communication channels and communicate with them in fresh new ways.
The world of blogging and online business is forever changing and you have to be willing to adjust to new ways and new strategies to stay connected to your audience and keep them engaged. Never stop analyzing the voice of your competitors or your own.
If you’ve made it this far, let me present you with a gold star. You fricking deserve it. But I am sincerely glad you did because –
You need to know this stuff and I genuinely want to help you understand it. Your brand voice is one of the main defining elements of your blog or business. Get it right and you’ll have butt loads of readers who love you and your content.
If you haven’t already downloaded your Brand Voice Style Guide, get it now below and be sure to follow me on social media where I get wild and crazy sharing little tips on writing insanely good copy.