Developing A Personal Brand Voice
Chp: 1: BRAND MISSION + VALUES
Your core brand values are the compass that points to the true North (vision) of your business success. Which means, they’re important.
The relationship between a brand and its values is where it all begins. We are going to define brand values and what to do with them once you have them.
If you've found this eBook there is a good chance you are a savvy business owner and are aware of the importance of creating a brand around your business.
You may be privy to the process of branding and how much brainstorming and research it takes. Contrary to what many small business owners tend to think, branding includes a variety of elements and goes way deeper than a simple logo you display on your website and products.
On the whole, a brand consists of two main “external” aspects:
Your visual identity—which includes your logo, colors, and typography.
Your brand tone—which includes your tagline, tone, and communication styles.
But for a brand to be complete and substantial there’s an important third “internal” aspect that every business owner needs to address before even thinking about designing a logo or coming up with a tagline to stick on every visible surface, and this is your brand values.
Your brand values will help you capture the three Ps of your brand: Proposition, Personality, and Purpose. Without values to guide you, your brand will seem like just any other business—rather than a distinct and recognizable brand—and your growth will suffer as a result.
When we say brand value, we usually think about a monetary sum. How much is your brand worth?
For example, a no-name pair of jeans could be worth $19 while a Levi’s branded pair of jeans could be worth $119. Clearly there’s a difference in value based on the brand's positioning in the market.
When thinking about your business brand values, start with what’s important to the organization - your mission - and then begin a list.
Your values are what bring your Mission Statement to life. Without a mission statement, it will be hard to define your values. Your Mission Statement describes the overarching purpose of your organization - the reason you exist.
If you don't have a Mission Statement, here are four questions to guide your brainstorm:
Who are you, as an organization?
Why do you exist?
What do you do?
Who do you serve?
Here are a few examples of Mission Statements- you will notice that they vary in length:
Life is Good: "To spread the power of optimism."
Patagonia: "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis."
Universal Health Services, Inc.: "To provide superior quality healthcare services that: PATIENTS recommend to family and friends, PHYSICIANS prefer for their patients, PURCHASERS select for their clients, EMPLOYEES are proud of, and INVESTORS seek for long-term returns."
WIth your Mission Statement clarified, it's time to dive into your brand values.
Values stand at the very core of your brand. They’re the center from which everything radiates—including your brand’s look (design), tone (voice), and relationships (customer service).
Be wary of general messages like “nice” or “noble.” Generic values like “timely,” “reliable,” or “trusted” won’t help you stand out from the crowd in a noteworthy way either. There’s no significant tone, genuine feeling, or emotion behind these words - they won’t get you chosen; they will only get your brand ignored.
Start wrapping your mind around your values by starting with ABSOLUTE NO'S - things, emotions, messages you don’t want your brand to represent.
We often experience negative emotions more intensely than positive ones, and we can often articulate far better why we don’t like something than why we like something else.
Think about a brand experience you had that left a strong negative impression. Maybe the customer service was terrible, the turnaround time or quality were below par. Perhaps the company was very typical both in terms of time and quality but left you feeling like you had a generic interaction with a robot.
Your brand needs personality that drives it towards its vision and mission. Personality and brand tone go hand in hand, and before we head into the second chapter, I want to rewind to Nike's vision in the 60's: Crush Adidas.
This provided a distinct tone for everyone in the organization to embrace - when designing, copywriting, implementing sales strategies - all of it. With that being said, let’s get into your brand tone.
CHP 2: BRAND TONE
A TONE OF VOICE is not what you say, but how you say it. The words you choose and the rhythm (or pace) you use to string them together develops your brand voice.
In the sphere of digital marketing ‘tone of voice’ refers to written – rather than spoken – words. A company’s tone of voice will inform all of its written copy, including its website, social media messages, emails and packaging.
It’s an expression of the people behind the brand.
It’s not just what a company does, but who it is that makes it a brand. A tone of voice both embodies and expresses the brand’s personality and set of values. It’s about the people that make up the brand – the things that drive them, their loves and hates, and what they want to share with the world.
Your brand tone sets you apart from the rest.
A brand’s tone of voice should be distinctive, recognisable and unique. This may seem like a lot to meld together, until we consider the use of our own language in everyday life.
We all employ language - both written and spoken - in our own way. Of course, culture and dialect are the most significant factors dictating our approach to words. But within these, we each have our own idiosyncrasies, favourite expressions, inflections, pacing, and so forth.
Your brand tone builds trust.
There is a strong link between familiarity and trust. Because something familiar requires little effort to process mentally, we are more likely to feel at ease around it. Thinking along these lines, a company must be consistent in its use of language so that its writing becomes familiar to the customer. Creating a specific tone of voice, then, plays a crucial part in this.
It is a vital factor of attracting the right audience that you can influence and persuade to grow your business.
To better understand your brand’s personality, you need to start with your brand's Archetype.
When it comes to how your business is positioned in the marketplace for a varied audience, be it women in their 20’s AND men in their 50’s, your brand needs to be consistent - the best way to do that is to embody a Brand Archetype.
Is your brand nurturing vs. problem solving vs. brave vs. innocent?
Stop by FounderU and read my article that dives into a dozen different Brand Archetypes. Here are a few to give you an idea of the diversity of Archetypes:
The Everyman appreciates quality and dependability in their brands. They prefer the familiar to the strange, and will emotionally invest in brands that they trust. Think CLOROX.
The Innocent prefers straight-talking, gimmick-free advertising, and is naturally drawn to optimistic brands. Heavy-handed or guilt-inducing advertising is likely to repulse them. Think SNUGGLES.
The Rebel appreciates the unconventional and forcefully reject the status quo. They are likely to value unique or shocking content with no obvious ‘sell’ to it. Think LEVI’S.
Once you embody an Archetype, writing in a brand tone will be easier for you and everyone on your team.
CHP 3: CREATING A VOICE GUIDE
Deciding on a tone of voice then expecting the rest of the company to use it unquestioningly is not realistic, unless you involve people in the early stages of planning. Your vendors, employees, even customers, are more likely to be receptive of something they have had involvement with.
Involvement could consist of focus groups where people actively participate in exercises (such as those listed in previous sections) as a way of generating ideas. It may also be useful to ask people to pinpoint specific examples of copy already existing in company communications that they particularly like or don’t like, and explain why.
For a less hands-on approach, keep people up-to-date with the development of the tone of voice, and ask for comments and feedback. Of course, this process is not just about encouraging ‘buy-in’ but also about getting an indication of whether you have developed a suitable tone of voice. If a lot of negative feedback comes back, you may have to re-think things. After all, the tone of voice should be an expression of the people who make up the company and so must ring true for them.
Create a voice guide to be sent to a few key stakeholders to initially read and digest in the early period of adopting the voice, then refer back to at later dates. In addition, a guide will serve as a critical tool for training new content team members.
Creating a document not only reassures people that the tone of voice is a specific, knowable entity (rather than something fluffy they will never fully grasp), but gives people confidence to write in this new way by setting out rules and guidelines.
Tips for writing a guide:
Write in the tone of the Brand Archetypes you are deciding between. Then, make it memorable.
Be comprehensive. After getting across the essentials, delve into the specifics. While every company is different, here are a couple things that are worth considering:
Look at examples of copy used in different contexts - social media, newsletter, internal communication, customer service, marketing materials and sales copy.
Develop a "Best Practices" list of words and phrases that you like versus those you don’t like.
Developing a distinct tone of voice for your company reduces the risk of its writing being lost among all the noise in your market.
A tone of voice expresses a unique Brand Archetype (personality), turning a faceless company into a group of people with their own special way of working or, in other words, a brand. It is only through embracing a tone of voice that consistency can be achieved – breeding familiarity and trust within your target audience.
You have decided what your organization wants to say to the world (MISSION).
You have brought your mission to life (VALUES).
Now, it's time to express these values in your communication (TONE).