COPY WRITING - FIND YOUR BRAND'S VOICE
The name of my blog is #thesensecheck because I believe we best live our lives, and do business, by checking into the power of our human senses. If you think about it, every experience we encounter as a human is absorbed through one of them; you see something, you hear something, you taste something, feel something or think something. Each sense is like a different channel with a different remote, the vehicle through which the information is processed. Each one is powerful in its own right, but together they make up the general human experience. So, from a brand perspective, if you want to attract your target customer (ie. a human) it makes sense to appeal to each one through your brand’s identity, otherwise known as your brand personality.
When you think of your brand as a person, it becomes quite easy to do this. Most obviously, what does your brand look like? What are its colours, font, logo and all the creative visuals. Or, how does your brand make people feel? Is it cool and elusive, or open and approachable? And one of my favourites, what does your brand smell like? Scent is one of the most formidable but underutilised senses of all, capable of inducing powerful and hence memorable reactions almost instantaneously.
But today, I want to talk about voice. What does your brand sound like? Audio, tone of voice and language are all essential communication elements that are required to work together in order to deliver your brand message. And in 2018, this means conveying your message correctly and consistently across both real and digital realms.
Likely, your brand is a reflection of you and so your voice naturally becomes your brand’s voice. But as your brand grows, you need to be able to articulate that voice so that other people can speak it too. Most often, this starts with copy writing, the language of your brand. Just think about all the different places your brand’s voice is delivered through copy; on your website, blog, social media, text messages, newsletters, email and advertising. Quite simply, words are the way we communicate and for now, reading those words still plays an enormously important role in your business. Voice, as sound, is set to become the next frontier which is already evident in the rise of mediums like podcasts and in-home devices such as Alexa. Get your copy right, and saying those words out loud will naturally follow.
So, how do you write the best copy for your brand? Well, it’s a process. And like all skills, it takes practise. The more you do it, the better you’ll become. As you might imagine, I love to write and have done it for pretty much my entire seventeen-year career as a marketer. So along the way I have found that these six tips are essential for finding your voice.
1. SPELL CHECK
I start with this because there is nothing, and I mean nothing, worse than trying to read copy, or a caption or a newsletter, that contains spelling errors. It sounds simple but it still amazes me how many people get it wrong. Spell check and predictive text is a blessed curse. I think it’s made us a little lazy to be honest and it also lets the wrong ‘version’ of a word slip through the cracks. I just can’t even cope with the wrong “their, they’re, there” being used. Of course, the occasional typo in an email is par for the course when you’re moving quickly, but please please please double and triple check anything that is consumer facing. I certainly learnt this the hard way and once had to reprint an entire national direct mail campaign because I had spelled ‘aficionado’ incorrectly. Yep.
2. BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
As I mentioned earlier, your brand’s voice is probably an extension of your own voice. So you need to consider your audience (see below) while not straying too far from your natural inflection. Just like trying a whole new makeup look on your wedding day is a bad idea, so too is trying to write in a way that doesn’t come naturally to you. Forced copy doesn’t flow and will always be awkward to read. The best way to find your default tone is to practise. Notice the way you speak and tap into that rhythm when translating to the written word. This is how you will achieve authentic communication.
3. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
In saying this I am going to assume you know your brand. The two are inextricably linked in that one serves the other and then vice versa. In essence, you will attract and engage the right audience with a voice that reflects your brand definition, and your brand will then appeal to that audience because you’re using the right language. For example, the way you might talk to an audience about buying the new Doritos crackers is very different to the language you would use in describing a beautiful new night cream. In other words, when writing copy, think about the person who is going to read it and write it for them.
4. REFLECT THE MEDIUM
You naturally act and interact differently on different platforms and via different mediums. For example, when you login to LinkedIn you most likely wear a professional hat and when you play on Instagram you are probably a more casual version of yourself. Your brand’s voice needs to reflect, and respect, these different platforms. Think of it as different dialects of your brand’s language. It’s essentially the same language, but its slightly different depending on where you are. If you’re writing for a direct mailer or newsletter you are going to be more serious in tone and if you’re crafting a clever caption for social media you can probably be a little more casual and creative.
5. STRAIGHT IS THE WAY FORWARD
Be concise and say what you mean. People are time poor. They need to understand what you mean quickly. Every time you write an email or a caption or a blog post, you are communicating your brand’s values. So remember the way you say something has a huge impact on the way someone feels when consuming that message. For example, be incredibly careful of saying “I’m happy to…” because it actually sounds like you’re not happy about it at all but are begrudgingly compromising on doing something far below you. That might not actually be the case but it’s likely how your reader will feel. You want them to feel warm and invited by your copy so be sure to use language that is positive, inclusive and genuine.
6. BAN THESE WORDS
This goes hand in hand with the above. ‘Filler’ words take up valuable real estate when it comes to delivering your message in a clear, concise way. One of the most interesting examples of this is the overuse of ‘ing’. My sister, who is a lawyer, taught me this. Instead of saying ‘I am having…’ you would rather say ‘I have…’. It is essentially the same thing yet ‘I have’ is a much more confident expression. Its extraordinary how often you realise you do it when it is brought to your attention. Other culprits are ‘just’ ‘but’ ‘like’ ‘actually’ and one I particularly loathe ‘does this make sense’. All come from a place of patronising uncertainty. Own your language. Articulate your message in a considered way and you will be well equipped to find your brand voice.
ACTION POINT – create a style guide that will forever direct your brand's language and what your voice should sound like.