Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
– Mahatma Gandhi
I’ve always appreciated that quote as a writer. It shows that your words are your first chance to share your thoughts and beliefs with others. What you say gives a glimpse into what you and your company truly stand for. But it’s not just what you say that’s important, but also how you say it. A brand voice typically results from years of constant and consistent messaging, but all too often it’s the company that shapes the voice, when it should be the voice that’s shaping the company.
I know, I know, I’m a writer so OF COURSE I think words are a critical aspect of brand development. But we’re not talking about just headlines or billboards here. A brand voice runs much deeper. It should be a constant tone, message and attitude that permeates through all of your internal and customer facing materials. Just as important as your logo, people must be able to read something that you produce and know exactly what company they’re interacting with.
I’d love to create some elaborate “10 Tips for Creating a Brand Voice” list or “Create a Brand Voice In 5 Easy Steps” blog, but to be honest there are only two things that you need to do:
1. Take the Time to Establish a Strong Brand Voice
It should be just as important as your logo, and we all know how much time companies spend obsessing over their logo. Your voice should be part of the fabric of your brand. Talk about how you want your company to sound just as much as you want your company to look. Is your voice active or passive? Do you use contractions or not? Do you speak from the perspective of your brand or take a 3rd party perspective? These are things that everyone who releases communications for your brand should know.
If you reach out to an agency to help you establish your logo and branding, ask for their help in developing a strong brand voice that matches up with your goals and values. Any copywriter worth their salt should know the importance of a brand voice and be able to ask the right questions to establish the appropriate tone for your company. Just as you have a style guide for your logo treatment, you should also establish rules and guidelines for your brand voice that can be referenced by everyone who speaks for your brand, both internally and externally.
2. Stick to It
Seems so simple, but inconsistencies can kill a brand voice faster than it is established. With the rising prominence of social media, you have more external communications going out from your company than ever before. Everyone from your marketing team to your PR department and social media team should have a strong knowledge of your brand voice and extend it through all communications. One of the keys to a successful brand is a consistent look and feel across all advertising pieces. But your brand voice should be a similar focus; reiterating key messages and acting as your 24/7 PR department.
Our philosophy is that every opportunity to be heard should be treated as a mandate to deliver the client’s key messages and reinforce the brand. This is true from the CEO to the lowest level employees of the company.
-Kathy Leonard, V.P. of Public Relations at Geile/Leon
Every client-facing piece should be seen as an opportunity to communicate your values and attributes to your consumers. The more consistent your message, the more they’ll remember it.
But your brand voice shouldn’t only be present externally. Internal communications are your way of keeping employees and colleagues on the same page and striving toward a constant goal. When you use your brand voice in these communications, it shows that your company is sincere when practicing the core values that it has presented to consumers. Employees start to feel your message instead of just hearing it.
Geile/Leon has a ton of phrases that we use in external communications that are also thrown around the office. Come by and you’ll hear Make It Mean Something, #MIMS, Mimsing, Find The Why and countless other company phrases throughout the day. These phrases are such a part of our agency and our culture that they’re literally written all over our walls. But when any of us sit down to write a social media post, blog or even talk to clients in meetings, you’ll hear that these words have infiltrated our vocabulary. It’s because our brand voice has been developed and cultivated over time and is part of our internal vernacular just as much as it integrated into our client presentations and pitches.
A brand voice can do so much for a company. It increases your brand recognition, cuts down on errant massaging and lets your internal team know that everyone in the organization is committed to the ideals that you’re preaching to consumers or other businesses. So if you really want the destiny of your company to be bright, it’s time to take a good, hard look at the words that will define it.