From style manuals to content marketing blogs, you’ve probably heard plenty about the concept of “voice.”
As a concept, the idea of creating a voice doesn’t sound all that difficult. However, when you sit down to start writing, you may find yourself at a loss.
Here, we’ll discuss what, exactly, a voice is, how to identify the voice you should be using and how to seamlessly integrate that voice into every piece of writing.
What is a “Voice?”
Simply put, voice refers to the personality of your writing. If you’re writing personal blog posts from your own perspective, finding and sticking to a voice is a fairly straightforward endeavor. After all, in writing told from your own point of view, your voice is a direct reflection of the personality you already have.
On the other hand, finding and sticking to a brand’s voice can be a bit more challenging. Companies don’t have natural and distinctive personalities in the same way that individual humans do—rather, the personality of a company has to be created from scratch.
The best way to understand what a voice means is to take a look at the voices of other organizations. For this instance, we’ll be using tweets as examples.
The voice of Adult Swim, a programming block on the Cartoon Network channel, is casual, sardonic and oh-so-cool:
The voice of mega-retailer Target, on the other hand, is playful, friendly and lighthearted:
Finally, the voice of upscale fashion magazine Vogue is precise, refined and articulate:
With each of those three examples, the brands’ tones and target demographics become almost immediately clear.
Find Your Voice
At bizbuzzcontent, we have clients answer a few essential questions when we get started with their content strategy. If you’re unclear about your brand’s voice and what it should sound like, try asking these of yourself:
- How does my target audience prefer to communicate with each other? Would they rather write heartfelt messages on Facebook or send silly photos on Snapchat?
- What sort of lifestyles do my readers belong to? Are they laid-back and outdoorsy, stay-at-home parents or ambitious and career-driven?
- How do I want my readers to view this brand? Should they see us as a funny friend, a helpful mentor or a sophisticated celebrity?
- What do I find annoying about other brands’ voices? Does it irritate me when they use too much slang, or when they give unsolicited advice?
- What do readers want from this brand? Do they want entertainment, convenience, affordability, luxury or perhaps a combination of those things?
Once you’ve answered those questions, take a look at your responses. Something should be starting to take shape now, but it still isn’t quite clear. To bring your brand’s voice front and center, write down a list of words related to the voice that’s beginning to emerge.
For example, if you’re working for a company that sells handmade wood accessories, your list might look something like this:
- Quality over quantity
- Friendly and familiar
If you’re having trouble thinking of answers, grab content samples from a magazine, website, blog post or any other form of content that you like and want to emulate. Sometimes it’s much easier to find something you like to help you explain what you’re looking for.
Once you’ve identified your brand’s voice, you can start to incorporate it into its social media posts, blog posts or any other type of content. In the case of the handmade wooden accessories company described above, you might say “rustic treasures” rather than “great products,” or “folks” instead of “people.”
Although you certainly shouldn’t overuse your brand’s voice to the point that it feels forced or inauthentic, maintaining a consistent voice is absolutely essential.
One of my favorite ways to come up with relevant words to use is to plug a basic adjective or phrase into Thesaurus.com:
Then, I’ll select a few of the best words from the resulting list and sprinkle those throughout my writing. Instead of using the word “rustic” a dozen times, I can describe one thing as “simple” and another as “homey.” Then, once I’ve finished my first draft, I can go back and alter anything that feels awkward or out-of-place.
If you’re struggling to adopt and create a signature voice for your brand, remember that finding a voice is the hardest part. Once that’s over, all you need to do is refine, revise and polish your voice until it sounds natural and organic.
Are there any techniques you use to discover and utilize your brand’s voice? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!