5 Simple Steps to Maintain a Powerful Brand Voice8 min read
Your brand's voice is like picking an outfit: it doesn’t have to match perfectly, but it should all be cohesive.
How can you pull it off all the time?
You publish a lot of materials in your marketing mix.
You may even have different people writing your website, blog posts, emails, and more.
You might find yourself wondering: Is my brand voice powerful? Just telling your writers to "copy our voice" might not drive the message home.
Here are 5 simple steps to maintain a powerful brand voice:
- Research to find relevancy
- Create a style guide
- Define your value proposition, then copy and paste it everywhere
- Proofread like a pro
- Make voice a company-wide effort
Now, I'll show you exactly how to complete each of these steps.
1. Research to find relevancy
You want to create a brand voice that resonates with your customers.
Where should you start?
With your customers, of course!
This is important:
Your brand voice depends on your audience's preferences and experiences.
For example, at SparkReaction, we educate people on inbound marketing strategy. Our audience is a mix of marketers who are somewhat knowledgeable, but learning new skills.
So, we write about in-depth inbound topics in an enlightening, easy-to-understand way.
Our audience drives these style guide decisions:
- We make sure we're explaining jargon as we go so that newcomers can feel educated.
- We spend time elaborating, and we link to helpful "learn more" resources.
- We don't use in-depth acronyms and industry methodology without explanation.
All this came from understanding our audience, and creating relevancy with our brand voice.
Where is your audience at, and what resonates with them?
That's the million dollar question. You can answer it by identifying and summarizing your buyer personas.
Buyer what? Buyer personas are fictional representations of your target buyers based on real data. They're often given a name ("Designer Deborah" or "IT Ike"). Check out this handy template from HubSpot to get a jumpstart on creating your own.
Here's an example of a buyer persona named RV Betty used in the HubSpot training program. She'd be the target buyer persona for an RV company.
Notice that these aren't all just professional traits — the persona's personal life is important, too.
This persona includes things like role, company, goals, chalenges, and more.
Having a stock photo is helpful, too, so you can visualize your reader and get personal!
If you don't have personas of your own, how can you create them?
Here's how to create your own buyer personas:
- First, identify your top customer profile
- Interview/survey a sample of these top customers
- Snoop on the sources where they consume information, aka "watering holes"
- Compile the data and identify common details — what are their goals, obstacles, daily patterns, interests, etc.?
- Write a fictional "buyer persona" story for each persona you identify, including how your brand helps solve a pain point
When you assign any writing job, it's just as important to share your buyer personas document as your brand style guide.
You can now say to a writer: "Here's who you're writing for, and your goal is to help this person specifically."
Buyer personas create a unified target audience segment — which, in turn, makes your writing more cohesive.
You'll create a consistency for the knowledge level and preferences of your audience... just as important as the tone, language, etc. of your writing... which is next!
2. Create a style guide
You might not think things like punctuation or acronyms matter that much for your brand voice.
But the truth to a powerful brand voice is:
The devil is in the details.
Small discrepancies can throw a big curveball at your audience.
Simple things like, does our brand use exclamation points in content? Is it "eBook" or "e-book"?
These are the types of rules that go in a brand style guide.
A brand style guide includes decisions like:
- Spelling — What should be capitalized? Abbreviated? Oxford comma, yes or no?
- Tone — Are you funny? Clever? Straightforward? In-depth?
- Content — Is your content bite-sized? Longform? Driven by testimonials? Image-heavy?
- Language — Will you use lingo? Industry acronyms? Swear words? Emojis?
Differences in these areas can lead to a totally different brand experience.
Look, for example, at this brand Tweet from Slack responding to software issues:
What words would you use to describe Slack's brand voice?
Probably "clever" or "confident." They're taking an issue seriously, but making the updates unserious.
Now look at a competitor, Basecamp, handling the same issue on Twitter:
How is Basecamp handling the same issue? The voice is a little unsure, and seriously straightforward.
Unlike Slack's log, this message comes off as apologetic; More "Whoops" than "We're in this together."
Each set of messaging resonates with a different audience — and your personas are unique! Don't feel like you need to crack jokes or spew emojis because a competitor does.
The important thing is consistency, not the voice itself.
Use your persona research to choose the main components of your brand voice.
Then, document them.
Your style guide document should be straightforward and easy to read. Even better, write the guide in the language of your brand voice!
Stick to a handful of pages so all content creators can easily find and understand it.
And make this a digital file, stored on an internal or cloud server so everyone has access.
Here are some resources to get you started on your style guide:
- Download HubSpot's style guide eBook, with an easy template you can customize.
- Head on over to GatherContent's complete style guide how-to, which includes examples.
- Try one of these six proofreading tools to keep your spelling consistent.
3. Define your value proposition, copy & paste
There’s nothing wrong with repurposing remarkable content across platforms if it has already nailed your brand's voice.
In your marketing mix, you're probably:
- Sending promotional emails
- Blogging about your offers
- Commenting in forums or chatrooms to build backlinks
- Posting on social media
- Repurposing for other platforms, like Medium or SlideShare
When you promote your business and content across platforms, don't be afraid to steal from yourself!
Copy and paste a poignant line, phrase, or section across channels.
With repeat phrases, you encourage your audience to follow the conversion path by leaving familiar "breadcrumbs."
At SparkReaction, we created an email course for busy inbound marketers to stay educated, and we loved that thing!
Unfortunately, we couldn't spew shiny adjectives all day, so we settled on the top takeaways of the offer:
The free email course was an easy, 9-step way to learn inbound for busy marketers.
As you set of promoting an offer, there are dozens of wonderful things you could say. But, stick to the main 2-3 takeaways for all of your promotional materials.
We kept that value proposition constant in all of our promotion materials:
This is an excerpt from our landing page, above...
And our social media posts...
...to our call-to-action copy.
Our promotional emails and blog teasers all followed suit, too.
This kept a consistent voice for all of our promotional materials... and meant less copywriting, too!
4. Proofread like a pro
Every brand voice must have one thing:
Complete clarity and consistency.
You have lots of content to manage, and may have many writers, too.
This can lead to sloppiness in pushing content out the door.
But with lead generation content, clarity is mandatory.
This writing trick has always been and will always be a golden rule: Read your content out loud.
This helps you find clunky sentences, repeated words, and off-voice phrases. You can fix errors before ever hitting "publish."
Speak what you've written, and you'll make sure your writing sounds like something a person would actually say.
Better yet, read everything out loud to a colleague or pass it on to be proofread.
You'll get a second opinion from someone who understands the brand voice.
In a pinch, or need a hand? Try this list of top proofreading tools that help with a variety of writing struggles.
There are even services for contracting a proofreader, like EssayRoo (pictured below) so you can grow your copyediting team on the cheap.
5. Make voice a company-wide effort
You may only have one copywriter in charge of managing your website, blog, and social media accounts.
If you're a one- or two-man band, congrats! You do tough work.
But that doesn't mean only one person needs to understand your brand voice!
All of your employees should be familiar with voice standards, so other departments can contribute well-rounded content.
Company-wide content can include:
- Your product team contributing posts to your marketing blog.
- Your sales team advising on selling points for web pages.
- Your marketing team creating premium content with sales questions in mind.
Learn more about a must-have sales and marketing alignment here!
Employees should also keep your brand style guide and personas in mind when sending emails and meeting with clients.
Since we value personal relationships at SparkReaction — and build strong bonds with our buyer persona — we sign off all promotional emails with a real person's name and photo.
Train your employees to use buyer personas. As a company, you'll learn more about your ideal audience through research, not just gut or intuition.
And, like all things, continually improve:
Don’t forget to frequently assess how well your voice is resonating with your audience.
Spend time observing how people respond to your voice, and adjust accordingly. It will make all the pieces of your marketing campaign solid!