Finding Your Voice: How to Identify and Develop Your Authentic Brand Identity
Every piece of content has a voice. When we talk about voice, we’re talking about the tone and style of your written, spoken, and visual content.
For example, this article is informal, friendly, inviting, and helpful. Articles written on Forbes are generally formal, informative, and engaging. Buffalo Wild Wings is irreverent while Apple is bold and simple. Voice is a defining feature of content, and it’s vital that you use the right voice for your brand.
The truth of the matter is that every brand has a different voice. No two are exactly the same, and it’s how you differ that either makes you stand out in the crowd or fall by the wayside.
The problem is that many companies don’t take the time necessary to develop their voice. They just start creating content without thinking about how it will come across, but that’s a big mistake. Your brand voice is one of your most identifying features—as important as your logo and your website. It’s the personality of your brand, so you want to ensure that your voice gets the results that you want.
How do you do this? First, you have to find and create your authentic brand voice.
5 Steps to Developing Your Brand Voice
1. Analyze Your Brand
Who are you as a brand and what do you value? That’s what you need to know to find your brand’s authentic voice. Think about such things as “What does our CEO repeat over and over again?”, and “How do our customers perceive us?” It’s at this point that you want to figure out your brand’s fundamental beliefs so that later you can use your content to reinforce these beliefs.
This is your chance to storyboard your brand. Figure out everything that your brand likes and doesn’t like. Determine your end goals and define who your brand wants to be at the end of the day. This can and should include everything from how you interact with customers to what your employees think of you.
It’s also essential to personify your brand, which means that you should think of your brand as a person. What do they look and sound like? What is their job? How old are they and what type of personality do they have? In some cases, your brand persona will be similar to your audience, but not always. Instead, think of who would be most effective at reaching your audience—that’s who you should be.
2. Review Your Competitors
If you want to stand out in the crowd, then you don’t want to sound like your competitors. This is why it’s valuable to look at how your competitors communicate—their attitude, tone, and voice—and decide what you like and don’t like about them. While you’ll probably recognize certain industry standards right away, that’s not to say that you have to follow everyone else’s example when building your content. You can distinguish yourself by developing a unique voice.
There are two things that you can do that will really help you out. Find your muse, a brand that has a similar voice to what you want and how can provide inspiration. And find your opposite, a brand that you don’t enjoy and want to avoid being compared to. The good news is that your muse and opposite don’t necessarily have to be in your industry. You can find witty, informative, and approachable brand voices everywhere.
Some great competitors and brands to pay attention to include:
- Nike: This company has built their brand around the idea of inspiring people, and they’ve been successful at it for decades. “Just Do It!”
- GE: Surprisingly, GE is a brand with a voice that offers a little bit of everything. You can find content that’s inspiring, informative, witty, and fun. And it all works.
- Whole Foods: Known for everything to do with healthy living, the Whole Foods voice is a mix of authoritative and approachable.
3. Define Your Target Audience
Your voice is only valuable if it reaches your customers in the right way. This is why it’s so necessary to nail down who you’re talking to—your audience. First, you want to know basic demographic information such as:
- where they live,
- how much they earn,
- where they work
- their age and gender,
- and what they do for fun.
Most importantly, you want to define your audience by what they want from your brand. Try and get into the heads of the people you’re selling to and figure out what they’re looking for from your brand. Do they want information, help, expertise, fun, etc? Most often, you can find out what your audience wants by listening to them.
On social media, look at the type of questions that your customers are asking. Look at what type of content gets the most engagement and views. Also, pay attention to how your customers communicate with you. Are they casual and conversational or formal and focused? Your audience won’t be shy about telling you who they are in their interactions with you.
4. Determine Your Goals
Next, you want to figure out your business goals. In particular, you want to pay attention to the goals you have when communicating with your customers. What is the end result you’re looking for? Do you want more customer engagement and a broader reach, or are you looking to become a thought leader in your space?
Some questions and statements you should fill in the blank include:
- I want my brand to make people feel _________.
- I want my audience to think ________ when they interact with us.
- Interacting with my audience makes me feel _________.
- What are the three words that I would use to describe my brand?
- What brand voices do you like? Dislike?
- What service standards does my brand have when interacting with customers?
By figuring out what you want, you can ensure that you’re more consistent in your customer interactions and messaging, which will inspire more confidence in your audience for your brand. Well defined goals will also help you avoid falling into the trap of accidentally tricking your customers (66% of customers have felt tricked by a brand) by sending out different and unrelated content
5. Outline Your Voice
Finally, it’s time to figure out your voice. By the end of this step, you should have a list of adjectives that you’ll use to define your content and your brand behavior. When trying to figure out your adjectives, keep in mind Sprout Social’s Q2 2017 Index, which outlined the behavior most sought after by consumers.
- Honest — 86%
- Friendly — 83%
- Helpful — 78%
- Funny — 72%
- Trendy — 43%
- Politically Correct — 39%
- Snarky — 33%
Now, these results aren’t to say that snarky isn’t effective. For certain brands such as Cards Against Humanity, snarky is why they exist, but it’s important to recognize that there are more niche adjectives that you’ll either want to avoid or jump into with both feet. The key is to match your messaging with your company’s beliefs. They should parallel each other so that your audience has the same experience every time they interact with you.
This is also your time to define how you’re going to communicate with customers and leads. For example, when talking with an angry customer on social media do you direct them to customer service or do you have pre-prepared responses to answer directly on social? Also, how does your brand speak on subjects? Do you use technical jargon or do you speak in layman’s terms? Are their buzzwords your love or hate? Things to pay attention to include:
- Length: Do you use short, pithy statements or do you prefer more eloquent and authoritative content?
- Vocabulary: What slang, jargon, swear words, and industry buzzwords do you feel comfortable using or avoiding?
- Tone: What tone do you want to come across? Do you want to be bold but not arrogant? What about irreverent without being offensive or formal without being stuffy?
Keeping Your Voice Consistent
Once you have your brand voice figured out, now it’s time to use it. Just remember that it needs to be used 100% of the time in every type of communication. To ensure that you do this well, figure out where your brand voice is most often highlighted and ensure that you have a plan of action for using your voice appropriately. Areas to review include:
- Customer Service Replies: Whether on social media, on your website, or via phone you need to ensure that your brand voice is consistent across all customer replied.
- Calls to Action: Don’t switch tones with your calls to action no matter if they’re on a landing page or social media. Every CTA should match your company’s beliefs, goals, and voice.
- Bios: Every about section is your brand’s chance to define who you are and to showcase your voice. Make sure your bios are well-written and use the same messaging everywhere they exist.
- Visuals: Voice isn’t just limited to the written word. Your brand’s voice can also be detected in your visual content, so make sure they link back.
To ensure your brand voice remains consistent, you should create a brand and voice guideline that you can send out to anyone and everyone who speaks for you. This includes when you use freelance writers. They can only write like you if you tell them what that looks like. The good news is that platforms such as nDash you can search through a database of freelance writers until you find the person who will best communicate the way you want and need.
There are so many different brands online vying for attention that it can be hard to stand out. And the truth is that it’s a lot easier to create a bad or forgettable impression than to leave your customers wanting more. By creating an authentic brand voice and sticking with it, you can promote your company everywhere without worrying about how your audience will see you.
Editor’s note: This post was written by nDash community member, Kelly Vo. Kelly writes a variety of business articles and website copy on topics such as Cloud computing, business safety, B2B & B2C marketing, entrepreneurship, e-commerce, and more. To learn more about Kelly, or to have her write for your brand, check out her nDash profile page.