As a writer, it never ceases to irk me when people spend hours and hours obsessing over the smallest details of their logo–“Can you make it more black?” “Can you rotate this 360°?”–but then never take a single second to consider what they want their brand to sound like. As written content becomes increasingly important to your overall marketing success, you’ve got to put in the time and attention to making sure the way your content is written conveys who you are. Don’t know where to get started? Don’t worry. It’s really easy. Set aside half an hour each to complete these exercises, and you’ll be on your way to a slammin’ brand voice (note to self: never say slammin’ again).
1. Brainstorm Key Adjectives
- Take a sheet of blank paper. Set a timer for five minutes. Write down all the words you, personally, would use to describe your business. Try to stay away from nouns and verbs–don’t write “marketing” or “repairs furnaces.” Instead, write down the way your business feels, the way it runs. For Roundpeg, we might use words like “irreverent,” “personal.” Another company we work with would have words like “homey” and “classic” on their list.
- Set the timer again. Brainstorm another list, this time with the adjectives you think your customers would use to describe you. Again, we’re talking about the experience they have with you. Would they say you’re warm? Efficient? Knowledgeable? Be really honest here. Not every business excels in all areas, and that’s okay!
- Set the timer one last time. This time, brainstorm a list of words you would like customers to think about you. Maybe right now you don’t have a big emphasis on education. Maybe you know you need to make your customer service team more attentive. Write it all down.
Got it? Good. Now go through your list and circle one word from each category. Now you have a word which describes how you see yourself, how your customers see you, and how you want to be seen. This is the basis for creating your brand voice.
2. Personify Your Words
I’m gonna get a little creative writing on you, but stick with me; I know you can do it. What you’re going to do is think of a person who embodies those three words you picked out. That might be a person who already exists, like how Colonel Sanders personifies the voice of KFC, or it might be some composite of a person, different parts mooshed together. Think about your person. Are they a man or a woman? How old are they? Where are they from? What do they do? How does all of that influence how they speak and, more importantly for our purposes, how they write? If it’s helpful to you, draw a sketch of your person, or create a Pinterest board with things he or she would like. I know this might feel a little weird to some of you, but I promise it will help. Okay? Okay.
3. Role Play
You’ve got your words. You’ve got your person. Now you need to create the voice. How do you do this? You put some words in the mouth of your person. Imagine he or she were writing a blog post. How would they describe your business? What sorts of words would they choose? If it’s that homey, classic brand we talked about earlier (who I’ve personified as a warm, matronly grandmother), that means picking small words. Simple words. It means using short sentences. It means throwing in some Southern proverbs. If it’s Roundpeg, it means adding some snarky asides and tossing in at least a couple cat jokes, all while staying away from marketing jargon. By putting yourself in the head space of your voice, you learn what your brand really sounds like. Now take that same mentality and apply it to everything else, from your web copy to your website updates.
Now, what you don’t want to do is to go over the top or to become a parody. Use common sense and stick to the basic rules of grammar. But don’t be afraid to experiment with your voice until it says–without saying anything explicitly–exactly who you are.