Your brand voice is the words, tone, and attitude you use to communicate your personality to your audience.
Your brand voice should be distinct, authentic, and consistent.
If you are already feeling overwhelmed— don’t worry! Take a deep breath and keep going, because we’re going to break it all down. I promise you’ll understand what a brand voice is, why you need to take it seriously, and how to develop your own brand voice by the end of this post.
Your Brand Voice Should Be Distinct
The whole point of developing a voice for your brand is to stand out. It’s a tool to help others recognize your brand and understand what you’re all about it. Thus, the first rule of developing your own brand voice:
Rule #1: Don’t try to sound like someone else.
We all have brands we respect and try to emulate in certain ways. That’s fab! But the second you start trying to communicate like someone else, you lose your unique appeal. I can say this, with certainty, from experience. When I first started speaking as my brand on my business Instagram account, I tried to sound like what I thought I should sound like. Turns out that was basically me trying to speak as a specific person I really admired. The way her brand communicates isn’t wrong, it just isn’t my brand. I had a voice in my head telling me that people wouldn’t take me seriously unless I sounded intellectual and pondering and a little dreamy.
Here’s the thing: I am those things. I’m a dreamy ponderer of life and I also get super cerebral, especially when discussing literature in grad school courses. But that’s not my brand.
Rule #2: Your brand voice should be different from your personal voice.
Your personal voice and your brand voice are not the same. Depending on your brand, they may be similar, but they shouldn’t be identical. In my regular life, I use a lot of silly abbreviations, and I’m pretty goofy. A core value of my brand is being laidback and relaxed, but not goofy. My brand voice is a bit more serious than my regular voice, though it’s still not formal.
Your Brand Voice Should Be Authentic
You may feel like we just covered this above, but just because your brand voice doesn’t sound like someone else doesn’t necessarily mean it sounds like you. A big part of establishing your unique brand voice is the consistent repetition of a few key phrases or specific slang. This is where authenticity really matters. Don’t start throwing around words that you would never actually say out loud in real life.
Rule #3: Only use slang, phrases, and cliches that you would use in real life.
If you’ve never called someone “lady,” it’s going to feel unnatural typing that when you’re speaking for your brand. People are incredibly attuned to picking up on things that are fake or contrived. A good practice for developing your brand voice is to identify a handful of slang and cliches that you want to use. There’s no hard and fast rule here, but I’d say generally keep it under 10. It’s hard to consistently use a whole slew of sayings.
A few of my brand’s slang choices are: girl, ohhhh, hooray, and y’all. These are things that I would say in real life and that also fit with my brand. Feeling relaxed and joyful are key parts of the Emily Writes Well brand. I feel like these word choices fit right in with those tenets of my business. If my business’s brand was all about being in your face and a little tough, those words wouldn’t feel authentic.
Your Brand Voice Should Be Consistent
Rule #4: You don’t have a brand voice if you don’t use it consistently.
It’s really important that you get super clear on what your brand voice is: your tone, your slang, your attitude toward your audience. And once you’ve got that all figured out— stick with it. If you vacillate between being formal and serious and lighthearted and playful, your audience will end up confused. (Obviously, there are a few situations that may call for a different tone of voice. No one is suggesting that there’s only one way you can speak forever.)
The goal is that you use your brand voice so consistently that your audience starts recognizing it! They read an Instagram post and know it’s from you without having to check. They read your blog and feel like they’re communicating with the same person they chat with on Instagram. Your brand is recognizable.
In order to help you remain consistent, you need to develop a simple one-page brand voice document that lays out the basics. When you’re first getting started, you should look over your doc and then read your post, comment, or blog. Are you communicating in the brand voice you’ve described? Be super intentional about checking yourself and making adjustments where needed. If you do this well, soon you won’t have to think about it at all and your brand voice will become the distinct, authentic, consistent voice that your audience recognizes.
Creating a Brand Voice Document
Keep it simple!
- Slang/cliche/sayings you will make a signature part of your voice
- 3-5 movies, TV shows, and books that you will reference
- Industry or niche-specific words that connect with your audience
- Overall tone
- A handful of adjectives that describe your business
A quick note about tone. Your tone will change depending on the subject and situation you are writing about. That’s totally normal! But your brand should have a general tone that your audience comes to expect. That tone can be: cheerful, sarcastic, direct, intense, or any number of things.
The adjectives that you choose to describe your business will be used as a helpful checkpoint for you.
Read over what you’ve written and check: do the adjectives that describe your business describe your words?
If not, you’re probably missing the mark. I would describe my brand as joyful, easygoing, action-oriented, and straight forward. Every piece of copy I write will not demonstrate all four of those adjectives, but it should show most of them.
Keep this document handy and actually use it to guide your communication. Look over the copy on your website. Is it wildly out of line with how you’ve described your voice? Luckily for you, words are easy to fix!
Take the time to really think through and create a solid description of your brand voice and then take action! Hold yourself accountable and work to get your website, blog, Instagram, Facebook, and any other platforms up to speed. Your voice will become recognizable when you use it consistently across all of your communication.
If I preach anything in my business it’s this: words matter.
Developing, honing, and employing your brand voice will strengthen your brand and communicate your values, assets, and personality to your ideal audience. Your audience will understand what you offer, and who you are, in a much more concrete way when you communicate in a well-defined brand voice.
Want to learn more about your brand voice? Check out my guest post all about it over at Mint Magnolia Photography.