8 sure-fire ways to define a strong brand voice

8 sure-fire ways to define a strong brand voice

We all have our own unique personality. How would you family and friends describe you?

Friendly? Down-to-earth? Approachable?

But what about brands? How would you describe your brand’s personality? If you’re struggling to answer, then it’s time to roll up your sleeves. But how do you define a strong brand voice for your company? Sure, it takes time to develop, but it’s also crucial part of creating the best multilingual content marketing strategy and stand out from the rest.

Why? To ensure that your brand’s personality is always consistent and true. Whenever you write, talk, post, comment, email. Your customers should reconise your brand and resonate with your communication, every time.

How do you define a strong brand voice?

To make things clear, let’s look at the difference between brand voice, style and tone:

  • Brand voice reflects your brand’s personality and purpose: friendly, approachable and down-to-earth? Or perhaps serious, professional and traditional? Your brand voice should never change, no matter who you’re writing for.
  • Style is the way you communicate your voice, the words you use (formal, slang, informal, etc). Your brand style should always be consistent.
  • Tone of voice: the emotional inflection that’s suitable for each piece of communication (fun, helpful, warm, ironic, angry, etc). Your tone can change depending on which buyer persona you are writing for, or the topic you are writing about.

So, we’ve established above that your brand voice shouldn’t change, no matter who you’re writing for. But who are you writing for? Who exactly is your audience?

1. Create your buyer persona(s)

Before you can define your brand voice, it’s vital that you know exactly who you’re talking to.

First, look closely at the data you have. Data is the answer to discovering who your existing customers are, and to identifying your buyer personas.

Demographics: if your main customers are aged 45 and over, then you may not want to sound too “young, hip and cool.” This may work well with the under-25s, but a mature audience requires a different approach,

Psychographics: does your audience share certain values, attitudes and interests? Even within the same age group, people can have totally different outlooks, just as people from different age groups can share the same views. A brand selling ecological technical sportswear may appeal equally to a single, eco-conscious 22-year old woman, as they could to a 50-year-old married man who enjoys sport and has the same environmental concerns.

There are a range of tools to help you create visual buyer personas for your brand. Here are our two different buyer personas created using HubSpot’s Make My Persona Tool.

2. Ask your customers

One essential step to defining your brand voice is to find out what your existing customer think of your brand. Send them a simple survey to get a feel for how they perceive your personality, why they buy from you and what they expect from you as a brand.

Your brand is what your customers say about you when you’re not in the room

– Jeff Bezos

If you have a customer database, send them a simple survey via email. There are many different software platforms around, although soe of the most popular and user-friendly include SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo.

Another approach is to automate surveys from your website, which are triggered according to customer behaviour.  One company that offers this functionality is Survicate.

3. How do your customers communicate?

Customer demographics, for example, may heavily influence which communication channels will work best. Younger audiences might prefer Tic-Toc, Instagram and Whatsapp, whereas an older audience may respond better to email or Facebook.

To get even more out of your social media marketing efforts, you can also define specific buyer personas for each social media channel. By creating an audience-aligned social strategy, you can personalise your communication and adapt your brand voice even further across each channel.

Facebook generally attracts an older audience than Instagram, for example. But by observing each channel’s analytical functions, you may find that there are even different buyer personas within each channel. That’s where segmenting comes into play, where you can produce different content or ads, targetted to different buyer personas and post them at the most suitable times for that segment.

Read more about how to use social media personas to boost brand engagement, in this in-depth article by Sprout Social.

4. Keep your brand promise in mind

Remember your brand story, or your “WHY,” when defining your brand voice.

As Simon Sinek advocates: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Your personality is rooted in your brand story, and this is the foundation of all your marketing efforts. Define your brand personality in a three carefully selected adjectives. Take a few examples of some well-known brands:

  • Apple: innovate, inspire, dream
  • Red Bull: adventure, try, adrenaline
  • Skype: generous, interested, proactive.

LIDL Ireland also did a great job of communicating their brand promise “From our house to yours”, in their Christmas advert in 2016. A family gets the country house ready for Christmas supper for their recently widowed Grandad as guest of honour. This one-minute ad with now words deliver their brand message perfectly, touching customer emotions and strengthening the brand in their hearts and minds.

5. Perform a brand audit to analyse your current brand voice

Set set aside some time to assess the content you already content has performed, the consistency of your brand voice and whether any improvements can be made. This means all your public-facing communication, such as website, press releases, social media channels, video and audio content, brochures, trade material, presentations, and even recruitment websites where you advertise to potential talent.

Is your brand identity clear? Are the adjectives you use to define your brand being represented in your content? For example, if your brand is “trendy, upbeat and informative”, is this reflected in your video voice-overs, word choice and visuals?

Look at the best performing pieces of content to gauge what resonates with your audience the most. Their a great source of information for nailing your brand voice across all channels.

6. Adapt your brand message in times of crisis

It’s not always plain sailing. At the time of writing, the world is going through an unprecedented crisis: COVID-19. A radical shift in behavioural trends has altered consumer position from acquisition to protection. We’ve yet to see how this will shape customer perspective in the coming month, or years. It may even change things forever.

Brands that take on a commercial stance during this time will not be welcome. It’s time to adapt to the times, and your brand voice accordingly:

Be true to your purpose: your purpose as a company is on your DNA. Stay true to this and adapt your message so that it’s relevant to the current moment. Nike have done an awesome job of reacting swiftly, while remaining rooted in its purpose to innovate and inspire by fostering physical and mental health through its vast digital network.

Do good and share it: a radical change in demand and consumer behaviour has led many brands to refocus their production to help the community. Louis Vuitton transformed its French workshops into hospital gown and mask-making factories.

Crocs, already a mainstay in the medical profession, offered a free pair to every healthcare worker in the US. It has aldo given them some positive user-generated content to share, like this post on their Instagram account:

Make sure your voice is appropriate for the times: you may have worked hard to establish your brand voice, but it may not be wise to continue with it right now. Customers will expect a more thougthful, human and transparent approach from you.

You may be able to go back to your original, more upbeat brand voice when its all over. Maybe not. The key is to step up social listening and tracking your customer behaviour to ensure you stay on course, in touch with your audience’s emotions whilst straying true to your purpose.

7. Document your brand voice guidelines

In the fast-paced world of content marketing, brands rely on any number of content writers to contribute to their content marketing strategies. But how can you ensure that they all “think“ and “talk” the same way? Or guarantee that they all “sound” like your brand.

Create brand editorial guidelines that clearly define your brand voice, and how it should be communicated in any type of content. By putting the rules in writing, you ensure consistency from writer to writer (and save time explaining it over again). It’s also extremely useful when onboarding new members and helps them quiackly adapt.

Check out Skype’s clear and simple brand book for some inspiration.

Perform a “Do’s and Don’ts” exercise to really nail your brand personality and transmit this to everyone in your content marketing team. Let’s look at this example from the Content Marketing Institute, using three adjectives that could be used to describe a brand:

  • Passionate – expressive, enthusiastic, heartfelt, action-orientated
  • Quirky – irreverent, unexpected, contrarian
  • Authentic – genuine, trustworthy, engaging, direct.

8. Check your internal branding strategy

Companies often focus only their brand’s external image and forget how important internal branding can be.

Does your brand voice resonate with your employees? Internal branding can directly improve morale, culture, productivity and revenue. Employees who identify with your brand values and are excited to come to work will become ambassadors and in turn, enhance your external image.

  • Internal communication: infuse your brand voice through all communications. Convince employees of your brand’s power and give them a reason to care.
  • Create an office culture in line with your brand values: communication, company outings, décor, perks, etc. If teamwork is an important brand value, then organise sports activities or an outing to an event. Remind them of your core brand values through well-organised actions. When things return to “normal”, of course.
  • Recruiting best-fit talent: good internal branding will help you attract potential talent who identify with your values.

Hopefully this article will have helped you get better idea of your brand voice. Remember to review your brand voice on a quarterly basis. Check for consistency, for content that has worked, and what has not. Arrange a meeting with your content writers and marketing team to gauge their opinions and whether any adjustments should be made…its an ongoing process.

Need help to get down to the nitty-gritty and dig into your brand voice? Drop me a line.

The best copywriting tips from ProCopywriters Conference 2019

The best copywriting tips from ProCopywriters Conference 2019

As a freelance copywriter, I am always learning and you can never hear too many copywriting tips. Don’t get me wrong, the range of online resources is fantastic, but there’s no comparison to venturing out into the big wide world and meet real people. People like me.

The ProCopywriters Copywriting Conference 2019 turned out to be one of the best investments I’ve made so far.  And living in on an island in the middle of the Atlantic, I usually have to travel a long way, and it has to be worth it.

So, I joined hundreds of fellow copywriters who gathered at the Barbican Centre in London, a wonderful learning hub for everything creative.

David McGuire was the perfect MC and kicked off the proceedings with ice breakers that made everyone laugh. I was already convinced. This was indeed my tribe.

Conversion Copywriting

Joanna Weibe from CopyHackers was first on the stand first and spoke about the practice of using VOC (voice of the customer) when creating copy that converts.

There were numerous light bulb moments as she shared some valuable insights and tips on better practices for copywriting, UX (User Experience) and CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation).

But above all, Joanna emphasised that we will find the right words by listening to our customers.

How do we listen? Ask them and find out their pain points through interviews, surveys and review mining.

We can also use the AARRR metric (no pirate costume needed) to help us understand the customer journey to craft our online campaigns. This helps our clients to retain customers and convert them into future brand ambassadors.

Acquisition            Activation            Retention            Revenue            Referral

Email marketing campaigns

How do you start writing an email campaign? What goes in the first mailing? And the second?

Listen to what your clients say and use it.

Understand the different queries they raise during the sales process.

Say the right thing, at the right time.

Behavioural Biases

Richard Shotton, author of The Choice Factory, then showed us how to apply behavioural science to copywriting, and bring customers around to your way of thinking by applying the EAST Framework:

Easy

The tiniest hurdle in the buying process can have a huge effect on whether customers click on the buy button.

If the average UK reading age for the Financial Times is 16 years old, then why are most brand websites written for an audience of 17.5 years?

Attractive

Do something different to hook your reader

Timely

Counteract biases or preconceptions with a message that seduces the subconscious.

Social proof

Use it to assure and persuade customers to take the desire action.

The Pratfall Effect

The Pratfall Effect ­­­can be used to turn a brand’s flaws into advantages. Richard demonstrated this with the brilliant example above, that reinforces the product’s value proposition to their target audience.

Lunch was followed by a range of breakout sessions, from which we were to choose two.

Content Design

In the first of my chosen sessions, with Rachel McConnell, we discovered that 49% of the copy in online journeys was created by people who are not specialised in content.

Specialist copywriters should work together with the design team from the start, if a brand wants to achieve a smooth and successful user journey, whether in an e-commerce website or a mobile app.

Failure to do this can result in a series of bottlenecks later in the development process, leading to missed deadlines, higher costs and dissatisfied (or lost) customers.

UX (user experience) copywriting differs from traditional copywriting in many ways, and here are some important points to remember:

Copy is designed around the process of journey mapping

UX writing often requires that voice and tone adapt along the customer journey, depending on the situation. Users may not be over-impressed by an enthusiastic tone when faced with an error message, for example.

Understand your audience; when to speak and when not to and knowing when NOT to sell.

Copywriters should be involved in the UX team from the word go, but think foundation first, copy last.

Marketing metrics alone are not enough and usability testing between different versions is vital.

Rachel’s insights were excellent for those who work in-house and want to become more involved with user experience development. And whilst it’s an area that is generally off-limits to freelancers, there were still some helpful takeaways for understanding how to steer online users towards your desired objective.

Direct Response

Glenn Fischer of All Good Copy gave a highly inspiring session on Masters of Direct Response with loads of copywriting tips and plenty of belly laughs.

He started by telling a room full of copywriters that we must all DIE.

Given that the average marketing email open rate is 20%, DIE is an acronym encouraging you to disrupt or challenge yourself, whatever it is you’re writing. That is, if you really want anyone to read it.

Or rather…

Disrupt – get your copy noticed among the noise

Intrigue – what is it that makes the reader want to find out more. Not to be confused with vagueness.

Engage – give clear guidance, incentive and reassurance to the reader that it would be a mistake not to click.

Pacing around the room like a mad scientist, Glenn was simply bursting with valuable copywriting tips on how to produce the most effective copy. He even suggested that we loiter in shops to observe customers’ buying behaviour and the way they think. Without getting arrested, of course.

The 4 Us of Copywriting

Unique – find out what the customer finds unique about the product and use it

Urgent – is there a time constraint linked to the product or offer? Make copy relevant to what’s happening in the market or create urgency to drive action.

Useful – what value are you providing for the reader?

Ultra-specific– be very clear about the product and how the reader will benefit from it

Back into the main auditorium, we made ourselves comfortable for the last two speakers of the day.

UX Copywriting

Laura Parker opened by explaining the main difference between copywriting and UX copywriting:

Copywriting is writing to sell while UX writing is writing to inform.

UX writing helps people interact with a product or service. There are buttons, menu labels, error messages, security notes, terms and conditions, instructions, etc.

The main challenge is:

“How do we make software human and more relatable?”

Keeping a beginner’s mind is essential, as well as only offering the necessary information at the time the user needs it. As copywriters, we need to make it as easy as possible for our readers to understand, stay with us and take the desired action.

We must also consider the accessibility issues that people deal with on a daily basis.

Laura also revealed some surprising facts and statistics that all copywriters should know:

Our cognitive load increases by 11% for every 100 words.

We only read 30% of the page

Readers prefer high frequency words to those with a low frequency.

We guess what words mean by their shape. Our eyes move rapidly between fixation points in a sentence (called saccades). The fewer points you have in your text, or on your website, the easier it is to absorb the information and respond to the CTA. Too many CTAs confuse the eye and result in less action.

Humour is risky. Not everyone will get the joke, and some may feel offended. Use empathy instead.

Always start with the WHY of your product service. Then tell your readers WHAT it is.

Skin in the Game

Harry Kapur, Head of Writing at Velocity Partners, closed the event with a bang. He compared copywriters to actors, always having to change hats and get under a brand’s skin before writing anything. And only by doing so can we really get the customers on board.

Brands and copywriters need to take the same risks that they recommend to others. Walk the talk. We need to communicate that and gain the consumer’s trust.

Kapur demonstrated this by using an example of an ancient Persian law. It stated that if a house were to collapse and kill the occupants, then the architect would also be put to death.

So in marketing terms, believe in your brand, take those risks yourself and earn your customer’s trust.

Marketing powered by Skin in the Game is powered by 4 moves:

 

Keep it real

Research for opinions, not just facts

Eat your own dog food (experience the product and know it from the inside)

Don’t just say. Do

As Harry himself put it:

“We can be bullshit artists, or we can have skin in EVERY game.”

This was a truly entertaining end to a learning-packed day.

So, was it worth leaving the safety of my office on a rock in the middle of the ocean?

Will I travel two and a half thousand miles to next year’s ProCopywriters Copywriting Conference?

Damn right I will.

Thank you to @LeifKendall for the impeccable organisation and the excellent speakers for providing us with invaluable copywriting tips:

Joanna Weibe @copyhackers

Richard Shotton @rshotton

Rachel McConnell @Minette78

Glenn Fischer @allgoodcopy

Laura Parker @lmpcopywriter

Harry Kapur @rupees1hundred @velocitytweets