How to develop a tone of voice for your brand
I had an interesting Q+A session the other day. During which a lady asked me what was appropriate to post on social media, should we refrain from posting about social topics?
“Well” I said “If it’s relevant to your brand then post it, if it’s not, then don’t.”
“But I don’t want to be all professional, my business is run by me, my brand is me so anything that’s about me or written by me is relevant to my brand. I’ve come from corporate, and I don’t want to go back to it.”
Fair enough, but branding shouldn’t be corporate either, unless that’s part of your brands vibe.
Think of your branding and social voice more like this:
The core essence of who your business is. Your brand is your story.
Your brand should help your business be more you, not less.
But by their nature businesses can’t be people, they can’t have real people opinions and lives and personalities because:
- Your personality, opinions and voice are constantly changing. I don’t know about you, but I change my mind about some things daily.
- I’m a complicated person, we all are, and that’s kind of hard to get across in a tagline, never mind an ‘about me’ page – not even a detailed memoir could fully explain who you are as a person.
- The things that are important to me, aren’t relevant to my customers or staff most of the time. And some of the things that are important to them, aren’t actually that important to me. Plus, some of the things that are important to me when I’m in a grumpy mood aren’t important to me when I’m in a happy mood, and so on.
So to get a great brand voice we need to be:
- (and have) integrity
Your brand voice needs to be consistent across everything you do.
My Katie Barber website is written in my Katie Barber voice, the same voice that I use on my meetings and phone calls. My staff also have to adopt my brands tone of voice in their professional communications. My brand values are: growth, honesty, empathy and competition. People are sometimes taken aback by how straight forward I actually am, some people don’t like it at all. Some people don’t like the fact that I find increasing profit for the businesses I work with very important and think it’s greedy and materialistic. Some people don’t like to acknowledge (and smash) competition, preferring to see everyone as a potential ‘collaborator’ or community member. Regardless, it’s my brand and it’s important to me to be consistent with my brand.
(Your brand voice IS allowed to have different moods, but we’ll get to that another day!)
That’s my brand – I’m straight forward, honest, and grow stuff: (numbers, trendlines, moneys). I’m very interested in simplifiying stuff and doing it in the least bullshit way possible.
Katie Barber, the black and white marketer. So do my clients need to know that I can never decide what to watch on T.V? That I am extremely spiritual and interested in all sorts of meditation and yoga (the faddier the better)? Do they need to know that I’m afraid of cats and like herb gardens? This information does nothing to further my business goals or brand identity, even though they aren’t necessarily negative things or things I am ashamed of.
There’s lots I could talk about that fits in with my brand identity and core goals. For example growth: I am fanatic about personal growth as well as business growth. I am constantly refining my own life and personality. How can I be a better active listener? A healthier person? How can I be a better human being?
We can’t flip flop on issues as a brand. But actually, flip flopping in real life and being willing to learn and change our minds is super important (in my opinion).
If you go vegan, and then decide, one night when you’ve had a bit to drink, that that kebab is looking pretty good right now, your friends will probably roll their eyes and say ‘hey, I thought you were vegan?’ But as a vegan brand, can you imagine what would happen if you posted a social media picture of yourself eating a bacon sandwich?
On the internet, anything you do can be exposed. While I have my personal twitter account and instagram account where I can post brand stuff, I can’t post anything that reduces my integrity. I can’t be helping people out with increasing their businesses wealth and growth, and then be dissing people who earn over 80k a year on Twitter. I just cannot be seen to publicly say certain things.
Lack of integrity as a brand will destroy everything that you have worked on with your brand. It underpins everything you’ve ever said, if one of those things is clearly not the case. So when my friends are discussing the merits of socialism, I can’t join in with that to fit in and make them think I’m cool.
And so you absolutely need to define your brand values and be clear and consistent with them, as well as never saying anything (as a brand) that might contradict it. Furthermore, don’t do anything to contradict it either. I fully support women’s rights and racial equality, but if I never did anything in life to prove it, that also undermines the quality of my brand. Your brand voice can be destroyed by things that you either do or do not do. So if you do want to define your brand in a certain way, such as being a sustainable brand – make sure you’re actually prepared to back it up because once you’ve made a brand statement it can’t be easily undone.