As a professional content writer, you’d think I’d have this “brand voice” thing licked. However, probably due to long summer days in my childhood spent reading Jane Eyre perched in a leaning old mesquite tree, I struggle with writing in an informal voice and tone.
Hitting the right voice for your brand and your readers is important because:
- Users are reading at an eighth-grade (14 years old) reading level
- Busy readers don’t have time to think about complex sentence structures
- It’s essential to hook visitors quickly and not turn them off with huge blocks of words
- A consistent brand voice makes all of your communication sound cohesive
Writing compelling website copy is an art, a genre all its own. You can’t shoehorn lengthy sentences into a pithy landing page headline any more than you can ram a turkey-and-dressing dinner into your kid’s lunchbox. And you won’t build an easily-recognizable brand with an all-over-the-place brand voice.
The trick is to sound professional and competent without sounding overly formal or unnecessarily complicated and to be consistent in speaking to your customers and about your brand.
Here’s what I’ve learned about identifying your brand voice and
Identify your voice & listen to your clients
If you haven’t already decided on a brand voice, now’s the time. Your brand voice will be determined by how you’d like your brand to be perceived. If you want your brand to be casual and approachable, you’ll choose informal language, you’ll have no problem using contractions or choppy sentences, and you’ll use slang words with abandon.
If you’re a more traditional brand or would like to attract a more formal customer, your language should reflect that goal. So be a bit stuffy, choose words that exude exclusivity, and don’t be shy about using technical language where appropriate.
While deciding on a brand voice that reflects your company values and goals is crucial, listening to what your customers say about you is also important. Reread your client testimonials to find positive words and phrases that your customers have used to describe your company. Some words may surprise you, and you’re sure to find unique ways to talk about your company that will resonate with other clients.
Large brands often list the words they’d like to use in their brand voice, called brand guidelines, and you should do the same. Don’t be afraid to consult a thesaurus to explore all the possibilities, and make a list of words you want to avoid as well. The more specific you can be in creating your brand voice, the more consistent you’ll be in using it and in communicating it with others in your company.
Now, armed with your brand voice guidelines, it’s time to write.
I find my voice is looser and more engaging when I’m well-rested but relaxed. I also find that the first few paragraphs I write when I sit down at my computer in the morning tend to be the most formal and stiff. After I’ve been writing for 30 minutes or so, I relax into the subject matter, and my writing voice relaxes, too.
You can’t write playfully if you don’t feel at ease, so be sure you’re in a comfortable writing place with plenty of snacks (snacks are an often-overlooked but critical component to content creation).
Put yourself in the reader's shoes
It’s so easy to get bogged down in the technical details of a product or service. But remember, the reader may not have insider knowledge or understand industry jargon. So although I told you above to do a lot of research and understand your topic thoroughly, you may need to erase a little of that insider knowledge to catch your reader’s ear.
Mentally take yourself through the thought process of buying the product or service. Imagine how a reader might feel, what problems they’re looking to solve, and what they’ll want to hear from a solution to their problems.
When you take yourself through this basic marketing exercise, you remove your “writer hat” and replace it with a “customer hat.” You start thinking in the language of a customer, not a marketer or a content writer. Pair that with the brand voice guidelines you’ve written, and you’ll create customer-friendly content that engages your ideal audience.
Use bulleted lists where appropriate
Writing parts of your copy as a bulleted list effectively makes complex or technical ideas accessible to your readers. Bulleted lists are more visually appealing than large paragraphs of text which can turn a reader off your content before they’ve even started reading it.
Bullets also force you to be concise. By writing in a bulleted list, you avoid complex sentences and break each idea into digestible bites. Bullets should never be more than a sentence long; four to six words is preferable.
Reread for brand voice consistency
ou can use a proofreading software like Grammarly to ensure your punctuation is on-point, but only you can make sure your content meets your brand voice standards. After you’ve completed a piece of content, reread it to be sure that it hits those brand guidelines you’ve developed. You want it to be clear, engaging, and reflective of your company’s unique brand.
And remember – if you’re really struggling to hit that perfect voice and tone, The Content Lab can help! Abby, our Founder and Head Content Strategist, is happy to talk to you about the ideal voice for your client base and the perfect content to engage them. Email her today to start discussing content strategy with the content creation experts.