Monday, February 6, 2017

7 Steps to an Authentic Brand Voice

Voice, writers say, is like a shirt: you choose the one in your closet that's best matched to the occasion.

If you're a brand marketer, that occasion is a "eureka moment" for your customer: either her first inquiry, first request, first purchase, first problem, first return, or first exposure to your ads.

"Writing is branding," says Matthew Stibbe, CEO of Articulate Marketing, by which he means voice is everything.

Voice, for a brand, lets you connect with customers like an actual person. Whole Foods is a professor of healthy living. Apple is a smug techie. Mailchimp is a stand-up comic. T. Rowe Price is a wise uncle.

If you haven't yet donned your brand's voice―haven't chosen the right shirt from your closet―you're not branding.

To do so, Stibbe recommends seven steps:

Conduct interviews. Speak face to face with leaders and learn their views on your organization and its values, employees, products and customers.

Analyze competitors. Learn what not to do by studying your competition.

Review your content. Look for an "accidental style guide" that might suggest precedents. Figure out, tone-wise, what the organization wants and tolerates.

Create a branding guide. Write a guide that makes clear your aspirations, and include examples of typical uses cases (the more mundane, the better). List examples of other voices you want to emulate (The Economist or Rolling Stone, for example.) and words that are required or forbidden.

Deploy. Put your style guide on an intranet site and promote it internally.

Train. Develop and deliver a training course in house. Train any outside writers, as well.

Proofread. Edit and proof everything.
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