5 Breakthrough Steps in Finding Your Brand Voice and Tone
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Ever get stumped not knowing what to say when facing a group of people? Companies that don’t know their brand voice and tone have a similar experience. Some have said the phrase to you, “Lost for words?” putting you on the spot and you panic, dripping sweat and feeling pressured by stage fright. We’ve all been there. Being “lost for words” basically means that we’re stunned to the point of being speechless.
What would it feel like though if you knew at the tip of your tongue, what to say, how to say it, and own every word? Would getting to “know and understand” your company’s brand in a more meaningful and intimate way help you and your team gain the confidence you all need when being put on the spot interacting with your audience?
If you’re building a brand from scratch or starting a rebrand, you’ll need to know who you are, who your audience is, and how to communicate your brand effectively. Your brand voice and tone is a vital part of your brand’s persona and your overall brand expression. Expressing your brand’s communication through written and spoken words can greatly influence people’s first impression of you.
In this article, we’ll cover the ‘who’ of your brand, how to talk the part, not just look the part, and some tips for finding your voice, gathering language, using the right tone, and speaking with confidence especially when you’ll begin writing content.
Face It, Your Brand’s A Person
A brand voice and tone is simply the verbal expression of your brand’s personality. It’s how you write your messaging and speak when communicating with your audience.
Your company verbally expresses itself the same way as you. It acts human, and that means your brand behaves and communicates just like a person. No longer are the days where corporate brand personnel hide within the walls of their office only displaying their brand through advertising. In order to survive in this consumer-centric world of online media where the customer shapes the brand, companies MUST engage with their audience and customers on a more personal level.
Engaging with your audience is about showing your company’s personality. Having a personality displays the words your brand speaks, how you speak those words, how you look, and also behave. It’s the part that makes your brand—a person.
Once adopted, your brand personality will directly impact the brand voice and tone. It will allow you to display characteristics even though the tone of voice is the delivery method of those characteristics.
94% of customers are likely to show loyalty to a brand that offers complete transparency.
It will be the words and images you use that shape how your customers view your brand. The more you engage, the more they will feel like they’re part of the conversation. They’ll feel more connected to your brand and more likely to buy from you.
You Look Great, Now Start Talking
Many companies start their branding with “looking the part”. They receive a logo, a brand style guide, some supporting graphics, and maybe some social media templates.
This is the visual expression of a brand, and it happens to be the last part of forming a brand. However, it’s the most needed part when starting up a business, because most operational tools require “insert logo” when setting up profiles.
Ask yourself, “If my logo wasn’t displayed with my content, could my audience identify my content as coming from my brand? Would someone viewing my content on the multiple platforms I use know it all came from my same brand?”
Companies that don’t know their brand voice and tone will end up with a random assortment of various voices and tones in the content produced across their branding and marketing efforts. It will all look and sound inconsistent making the brand experience chaotic for the audience and customer.
“62% of people expect brands to deliver a consistent experience, whereas only 42% think most brands do so.”
It’s pretty normal for company start-ups to not know their voice, but for more established businesses, not knowing your voice could mean you’re missing out on lost revenue opportunities.
Start talking by giving your words meaning. Most likely, you’re already using a brand voice and tone, but you just don’t understand how to fully embrace the power behind the words you speak, how to express those words, and how to own the language.
Why would your brand voice and tone matter?
Because customers don’t want to buy from brands they don’t trust.
Trust is what makes a customer want to buy, and brands that form trust (starting from its leadership) creates lasting relationships and even better—raving fans.
Consequently, if you’re not authentic, don’t follow through with what you say you’ll deliver, not correct a mistake, act unkind, and even worse, lie, chances are your brand’s reputation will suffer greatly.
Just looking great by having your visual identity already prepared won’t help you create your brand voice and tone. Creating a voice comes from building a brand persona by researching your audience and identifying what archetype best fits your brand. There are 12 brand archetypes to choose from: Rebel, Magician, Hero, Lover, Jester, Everyman, Caregiver, Ruler, Creator, Innocent, Sage, and Explorer.
Once the archetype and audience has been identified, you can then go deeper into finding your brand voice and tone. Keep in mind what you’re trying to achieve. You really want to bring your brand to life. That means you’ll want your audience to grow feelings towards your brand and start to see it as a real person.
Companies that create a brand voice and tone stand out as “different” from the competition, they build brand authority, and they personally brand their business like a human entity.
• Standing Out As Different From The Competition
The stronger your visual expression of your brand, the easier it will be to stand out as “different” from your competition. Pairing that up with a strong brand voice can captivate audiences and make people want to interact with your brand even more. As far as comparing yourself to the competition, ask yourself, “Is everyone in the industry sounding the same? How can we be different?”
You’ll want to additionally ask, “What is their projected and perceived personality based on their content and marketing communications?”
Becoming different means you’ll need to find that uniqueness that others just don’t have. You might be able to identify it in other ways, but your voice might just be that unique way of differentiating yourself.
• Build Brand Authority
Brand authority is earned by the respect and trust of your audience. When a brand has authority, it means the company has the power to start conversations, contribute ideas and solutions, and make decisions that others in the marketplace space will invest in using their time, money, and other resources. Basically, brand authority becomes brand influence and influence in a consumer-centric economy becomes the leader in the market.
To build your brand voice and tone you will want to speak with clarity, accuracy, and depth. Brands that build authority are not afraid to speak not only in depth on a subject, but to speak about it passionately. Informing and educating an audience with passion around ideas that provide clarity with accuracy can create lasting rippling effects of change.
• Brand Personally
Don’t get this confused with a personal brand. A personal brand is about the process of creating a brand identity for yourself as an individual or business entity. It’s for solo-prenuers or small businesses that intend to stay small with 5-10 employees or less.
What “brand personally” means is speaking to your audience on a personal level. Think of it more like how you’d communicate face-to-face with someone. Because we live in a consumer-centric economy, customers will often reach out to brands on social media or online chat rather than call with a customer service representative. This is where you can emulate your tone of voice. Many brands take additional action by proactively responding to customer complaints that mention their brand name on social media.
Follow these steps below to start the brand voice and tone creation process:
Step 1: Start With The Heart Of Your Company
The heart of your brand starts with your company’s purpose, mission, and core values. They can help you determine some key characteristics of your brand voice and tone. No one wants to interact with a generic, faceless corporation. Humans want to interact with other humans at an emotional level. Even though your brand is not one single person, a strong brand voice can help you break through that wall and cultivate an emotional connection.
As you review your purpose, mission, and values, extract out the snippets of your personality traits. You’ll be able to identify specific pieces of vocabulary and phrases that you can use to speak to your customers.
86% of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support.
Step 2: Research Competitors, Industry Leaders, and Buyers Personas
Once you have built up a collection of vocabulary and phrases from your purpose, mission, and values, you’ll want to research and gather snippets of copy from your industry, your competitors, and buyers personas (aka Ideal Client Avatar). You won’t be using this language verbatim, but because there is a shared language throughout the industry, it will be a beneficial part of your brand voice development process.
As you gather content, ask yourself,
- Who are we trying to reach?
- What do they need from our brand?
- What can we offer them that no one else can?
Your research can help you determine other types of content that connect well with your audience. Consider sending out surveys to your audience or use an analytics tool like Google Analytics to determine other websites your readers visit.
Another effective way is to study your audience on social media. How are they interacting with competing brands and the industry altogether?
The more you gather and learn about who your audience is, the deeper the connection you’ll make as you develop your brand voice and tone.
Keep in mind that the characteristics you’ll want to display through your personality and tone of voice will shape the language and vocabulary you use in your messaging. You’ll be building a library of vocabulary that will form the foundation of your messaging framework.
Step 3: Write With Emotion
Once you finish your research, the next step is to write with emotion. You’ll want to rewrite that information with your characteristics you gathered in and pair it up with your visual expression (your brand logo, colors, and imagery). Ask yourself the question, “How does my brand want to express this information based on how it feels?”
Remember these two points:
- We are not writing for marketing at this part of the process. This is not your website copy and we are not copy/pasting content to use as your content. You are only using industry specific sentences to draw out your brand’s vocabulary and tone of voice that it will use to influence your messaging.
- Your brand is a person. It has a
- an opinion
- and an outlook on the world.
- Be authentic. The more you represent your brand based on the heart of your company, the deeper the emotional connection you’ll have with your audience.
As you write, drawing out the industry specific words you would use, you’ll then want to expand on those words using a tool like Thesaurus.com. Just type in the words, and look at the synonyms. Expand on that vocabulary and you’ll have a list to cherry-pick from for your industry specific vocabulary. These words should be based on the personality you’d want to portray to your audience.
Customers who have an emotional connection with an organization are 52% more valuable than those who are highly satisfied.
Now, along with the vocabulary, you’ll want to identify your tone of voice and the style with which your brand will be speaking. You’ll want to ask the questions,
- Is there an attitude in the tone?
- Is it aggressive or soft-spoken?
- Is it refined or articulate?
- Or is it gritty and rough?
- What about the formality being used?
- Is it exceptionally corporate?
- Does it use slang?
- Is it simple and conversational?
- What about the pitch?
- Is the pitch of the voice deep and intimidating or is it soft and sultry?
The more detailed you get, the more realistic your brand personality becomes. Because just like an author developing a character, they’ll want to really get down in the nitty-gritty of the details. They will detail out where that character has come from, where they are going, what their feelings are, what their hopes and dreams are, what they had for breakfast that morning, what they like and what they don’t like. It’s in those details that the character really comes to life and the same is true with your brand’s personality. The more detailed it is, the more believable it is as well.
Step 4: Create Your Brand Voice Chart
Answering these questions above along with fully understanding the heart of your brand will help you form a ‘do’ and ‘don’t’ list. As you see in the example, it outlines what a voice chart looks like.
With your brand’s voice defined, this chart outline will organize how your brand voice will turn up concretely in your content. It is also an essential reference tool to ensure your content is cohesive and consistent across your various marketing platforms.
Create the chart as a table including three rows for each of the primary vocal characteristics accompanied by three columns. Add a brief description with your do’s, and don’ts.
Step 5: Rollout With Your Team Using One Voice
After you create your brand voice and tone chart of your do’s and don’ts, you’ll want to refine it down to make it more meaningful and not so rule heavy. Regardless, brand voice guidelines will be necessary when rolling out your messaging and content plan.
You’ll want your brand voice and tone to be cohesive and consistent across all marketing platforms, from web pages and emails to social media posts. It is essential to document your brand voice and share it with all the right people. This ensures that all company personnel can confidently write and speak with one voice. They’ll “know and understand” their company’s brand in a more meaningful and intimate way, therefore making the audience feel like they are engaging with a trusted brand.
In the 28Lions brand strategy process, our tone of voice was formed from all these steps and refined down to how you see it below. Even in this blog post, you can resonate with the words and tone we use in describing this plan of action. Our goal is to educate, empower, and equip you to take action by owning your brand and applying what we teach.
Company brands that fully know their brand voice and tone have the advantage to get ahead of their competitors and emotionally connect with their audience. They know who they are, who their audience is, and how to communicate their brand effectively.
Great brands start off with strong content. Deeply connecting with your audience, your team, your customers, and your affiliates will set you on a trajectory for success.
Work with us to put your business on the path of success by creating a brand voice and tone that communicates personally with your audience and makes it meaningful for you and your team.
Nicole Andrew is a 20 year brand designer, Level-C certified brand strategist, educator, and co-owner of 28Lions, a branding & marketing consultancy agency.