If someone saw your content on a different channel, or without your logo attached, would they know that it came from your brand? Without careful planning, you could end up with content produced in a jumbled assortment of tones and voices which may not use language consistently or provide a clear and consistent image of your brand.
More common in larger organizations and often exacerbated by external entities like agencies and freelancers, an inconsistent brand experience can nevertheless be a problem for businesses of all size.
Though some might think a brand that sounds human is more important than one with a consistent tone, a brand voice isn’t necessarily about sounding non-human: it just means creating a voice that is consistent, and positioning your organization as an authoritative and easily recognizable source of information for your area of expertise.
A consistent brand voice and vocabulary are vital for implementing intelligent content strategies and localized content.
One simple way to find your brand voice is create a brand voice chart. Below, we’ve outlined the five steps you need to follow to create and maintain a consistent brand voice.
Identify a representative sample of your content
After gathering all of your content, from web pages and videos to e-books and your social media, cast a critical eye over it and identify those examples that could possibly have come from your competitors, and set them aside. Try to identify examples of content that are unique to your brand, and those that embody what you want your brand voice to be. Print these examples and put them up on a whiteboard, grouping them together with other pieces that have a similar feel.
Describe your brand voice in three words
Working with your key content creators and brand identity owners, as well as other staff such as PR, customer service and sales teams, and review all of your example content, discussing any common themes and grouping these examples into thematic groups.
Imagine then, if your brand was a person, how you would describe its personality to another person. How do these traits make your brand different? For example, would you describe your brand as:
Define each personality trait further and try to identify how these characteristics show up in your content and topics, and in how you communicate with your audience?
For example, if you described your brand as quirky, is your content unexpected and irreverent? If you described your brand as passionate, is it heartfelt, enthusiastic and expressive?
Create a brand voice chart
Once you have defined your brand voice, you can illustrate the way it shows up in your content with a brand voice chart - an essential reference tool for ensuring consistent tone in all of your content. The chart should include three rows for your primary characteristics, and three columns for a description and do’s and don’ts.
A secondary row of characteristics can be added for extra explanation. For example, if your brand is described as irreverent, does this translate as snarky or “challenging the status quo”.
Make sure your content creators understand how to put your brand voice into action
Once your brand voice is defined and illustrated, make sure your content creators are on board with using it. This includes anyone who creates any public communication or content.
You can help them to understand by going through examples of content that exemplifies your brand voice, or demonstrating how to alter content that doesn’t. An electronic version should be made available to them, as well as, if possible, hard copies to keep in a visible spot for reference.
As the company grows and changes, revisit and revise the brand voice chart
As your brand grows and new competitors come onto the market, it is a good idea to revise your brand chart and make sure it still suits your business. Not a set-it-and-forget-it type of tool, it needs to grow as your brand does.
At regular intervals, gather your key staff to evaluate which voice attributes are working for you and which aren’t. Some, for instance, might be more aspirational - irreverence, for example, is easy in theory, but the writers may be uncomfortable with it, or higher ups may too nervous to approve snarky copy. Make sure all aspects of your brand voice are attainable, and revise them if they are not.