To be honest, the concept of a “company voice” is one that makes a lot of business owners uncomfortable. “Voice” sounds like something you’d discuss in a college literature class, not necessarily in the office. Moreover, describing the term can be a little prickly. Even as marketing professionals, we often feel like we know what it is, but struggle to put it into precise technical terms.
Maybe that’s because it’s really not technical. Here’s one way to look at it: Your company has probably invested a lot of time and money tracking down the best colors, fonts, and images to use in your marketing materials.
That’s because you know that all these aesthetic choices ultimately say something about your brand. Well, in much the same way, the words you choose, the tone you adopt, even the sentence structures you choose speak to your company’s identity.
We’re not talking about what you say—we’re talking about how you say it. That’s what we mean by your voice, and your content will be much more successful if you spend some time thinking about it.
Writing in the Voice of Your Brand
As you start thinking about the voice you’ll use for your company, here are a few things to consider:
Start with who you are as a company.
I don’t think it’s out of line to say that people expect an attorney to talk to them a bit differently than, say, a plumber. You want your lawyer to convey a certain gravitas; when it comes to your plumber, you’d probably rather get straight to the point. The nature of your business will provide some clues about how formal or technical you need to be.
Then, think about your audience.
This is where your buyer persona will come in handy—but if you don’t have them, just think about who you’re writing to. If you’re writing to homeowners, your company voice should probably be straightforward and not especially technical, but if you’re writing to contractors and construction professionals then a higher level of technicality may be appropriate.
Come up with a word list.
What are some of the words you would use to describe how you want your business to come across? How do you want people to feel when they read your content? What are some of the characteristics you most want people to associate with your company? Write down some of the most important words and phrases that you want associated with your brand, and use that as kind of a style guide.
Create a statement of voice.
This can be basically like a mission statement, or a list of company values. You don’t necessarily need to make this public, and it doesn’t need to be longer than a paragraph or two, but do spend a few minutes creating a template for how you write about your business. Align all company writing with this statement of voice.
One of the most important aspects of company voice is consistency. Pay special attention to pronoun use: Do you talk about your company using pronouns, or just proper nouns? Do you speak of it in the first person, or third? Decide on the kind of style you want but then stick to it. And likewise, be consistent whether you are addressing the reader as “you” or simply referring to “customers.”
Think about jargon.
This goes back to your preliminary musings about who you are and who your audience is. Think critically about whether it is appropriate to use overly technical language and industry jargon. The rule for B2C companies is almost always no, and even in B2B scenarios jargon should usually be minimal, but this is not a hard and fast rule.
Incorporate your company voice into everything.
No piece of content is too small or too insignificant for you to use your company voice to enhance your brand. This includes tweets, 404 error pages, “Thank You for Ordering” pages, and on down the list.
Your company voice is a critical branding asset, intangible though it may be—so spend some time developing and perfecting it, then apply with consistency!