If there was no logo or no company name next to your posts on social media or your blog items. Do you sound different, unique—like yourself? Or do you sound like everyone else… including your competitors?
Would someone who is viewing your content on different channels know it all came from the same brand? Could your potential target audience identify the content as coming from your brand?
In a previous post, we already talked about How to Create an Authentic Brand Story and 5 Easy Steps For Building A Great Visual Brand as part of the process of building your brand. And just as you took the time to think off, create and test your brand story and the visuals elements that make for your brand, if you don’t pay attention, you can end up with a scattered and non-consistent tone of voice in the content you produce across your entire marketing ecosystem. A non-consistent tone of voice that doesn’t provide a consistent picture of your brand.
This inconsistent brand experience becomes even harder to keep under control when your organisation grows. You start hiring freelancers, or more people to help produce content, and how do you keep it consistent when you’re not the only one anymore who creates your company’s content?
You may ask yourself, why a brand voice matters. Isn’t it enough to make your brand sound more human? The tone of voice of your brand, though, isn’t about sounding more human. It’s about being consistent with the voice you’re creating. Being recognisable for the people reading your content, ranging from social media posts to newsletters, to “What’s New” messages in the app store.
Making sure that even if you forgot to include your logo or name in one of your writings, people would still know it is about you.
Just like creating your Brand Story and your brand visual template, you need to create a Brand Voice Template to have something to fall back to. Here at Inbound Rocket we got you covered though and outlined a seven-step guide to establish, create, and maintain your brand’s tone of voice to drive consistency in your content marketing efforts.
Step 1: Start with your Buyer Personas
When you start working on your brand’s voice, it’s already a great start knowing who you’re talking to. Besides some basic idea about your brand customers, who are your customers? If you’ve did not create Buyer Personas yet for your company, the time is now to start building them.
If you’ve got multiple different target customers, pick one “person” from each of your audiences, (for example, university students, single mothers or football players) and answer these questions:
- What does your ideal customer look like?
- What does your ideal customer care about?
- Where does your ideal customer work?
- What does your ideal customer do for fun?
- And last but not least, what does your ideal customer want from you and your brand?
Understanding the people that you’re talking to is a great way to get started thinking about your brand’s voice!
Step 2: Describe your Brand using Brand Personality Adjectives
Maybe you’ve already created some content for your company, either in the form of article or blog posts on your website or by posting content or maybe even a video on social media. If you gather all those posts and stick them on a wall, we can try to start identifying patterns in the way we talk in those posts.
Which of these posts could be posted by any of your competitors? Take those off the wall again. The goal here is to try to find a couple of pieces that you (and maybe even your team) would say are unique to your brand. Discuss coming themes you see in these items and group the items together that you think are similar.
If your brand was one of these persons from step 1, how would you describe its personality to someone? Next to your personality, how would you describe your competitors as people? Is one of your competitors maybe the most popular boy or girl in high school? Another one maybe the whizzkid? How is your brand personality different than them?
Remember your Buyer Persona from the previous step? Answering the questions, we provided there helps you to define the various traits of a person. The different traits we’re going to be using here are:
- Personality (for example straightforward, intuitive, helpful, etc.)
- Language (for example personable, concise, informative, etc.)
- Tone (for example: helpful & prescriptive, friendly & reassuring, confident not cocky, etc.)
- Purpose (for example inspire, support, delight, etc.)
The easiest way to help you describe your brand personality, language, tone and purpose is by using the Brand Personality Adjective list we introduced when we were coming up with the name for our startup or company. So let’s revisit that list again and come up with three to five adjectives for every trait that fit your brand.
If you’re having, difficulties trying to identify the correct words on how to describe your brand. Maybe the following sentences can help you out a bit more. Just fill in the blanks:
- I want my brand to make people feel _______.
- _______ makes me feel this way.
- I want people to _______ when they come into contact with my brand.
- Three words that describe my brand are _______ , _______ , and _______.
- I want to mimic the brand voice of _______.
- I dislike brand voices that sound _______.
- Interacting with my clients and potential clients makes me feel _______.
Because you want your brand’s tone of voice to be genuine and natural, most of the times filling in these sentences will reflect your voice. So pay extra attention when filling in the blanks.
Step 3: Go into more details using our Brand Voice Template
After you’ve identified the three to five adjectives per trait that fit your brand, it’s time to write them down for future usage on your Brand Voice Template.
The Brand Voice Template will be an essential reference to in the future to brief potential newcomers in your organisation or freelancers you hire to brief them how to create content for your brand. And is a place to reference back to yourself from time to time to see if your messaging is still consistent.
As you can see the Brand Voice Template is an easy to use template for you and your Brand’s Voice.
In the first column, you write down your brand’s adjective linked to the trait as you identified them in step 2.
In the next column you can write a brief description to make the adjectives a bit easier to understand, why did you choose them? How do these relate to you and your brand?
The third and fourth column is for describing do’s and don’ts for these adjectives. Go ahead, print it and fill it out for your earlier found words.
Step4: Run tests
In life, your friends and family can often help with a reflection of yourself. Pointing out what you’re missing. You can use the same approach when looking for the tone of voice for your brand.
Try to get some of your (ideal) customers together, and ask them what excites them most about your brand. What’s, is making you unique? What kind of words or phrases do they associate with your brand?
Based on their feedback, have a look again at what you wrote down in the previous step. Does their feeling about your brand, reflect the way you want your brand to be?
As an exercise try writing down your Unique Value Proposition using the different brand voices you might have identified yourself and the ones based on the feedback. Which one feels the most natural to you? Which one do you get the most excited about?
Once you’ve got a couple of examples, you could ask the same target group again to see which resonates the most with them.
Step 5: Find Your Muse
Once you’ve got the feeling you’re on the right track and have your Brand Voice Templates nailed down, it’s interesting to look around to find other brands who have similar voices.
There are companies out there like MailChimp, who placed their complete Content Style Guide online to look into and review.
Making a list of businesses with similar voices like the one you’ve identified makes it easier to include some concrete examples, which in return helps you visualise and brief other people working on your content.
Step 6: (optional). Make sure your content producers understand your Brand Voice Template
You’ve identified your brand’s voice. You’ve written it down using easy to review templates. You’ve identified other players on the market with the same tone of voice as the one you want to achieve. Time to get the people on board needing to work and create content for your company.
Meet with the team, walk them through the templates, through the examples of other companies that you think hit the spot in the same way as you want your content to hit the spot.
Make sure to print out your Brand Voice Templates so they can keep a copy with them to always refer too!
Maybe even show that some of your existing content as well, and show them how you would revise some of that content that isn’t that reflective of the voice you want your brand to have.
Step 7: Revisit and revise
A brand is a living thing, as your company evolves over time so does your brand changes little by little. The Coca-Cola logo from a hundred years ago and the messaging they had with it is not the same as it is right now
A Brand Voice Template is not something set it stone; it too can evolve over time. That’s why it’s good to regularly take a look at your template and refresh it with new examples; new do’s and don’ts.
Check in every couple of months, for instance, to find out if any of the voice attributes haven’t been working that strongly as expected and change or update them with different words.
That’s it. You’ve nailed down your brand’s voice. Now it is time to keep the consistency. You want people who follow you on Twitter, visit your website, or interact with your customer service department to have the same experience.
Time to start talking!