Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’ve probably just been asked to write some stunning copy for your organization — go you!
Obviously you want to produce something brilliant that will make a memorable impression on your audience. If you look to other companies for inspiration, you’ll notice that the best brands all have one thing in common: They know who they are. They have a clear, solidified identity that they express through their brand voice.
Finding your brand voice may sound like a daunting task, but fear not! We’ll walk you through how to use your brand’s core attributes as a foundation for your communication, how to identify your unique voice based on your brand’s personality, and how you can tailor your tone based on your audience and message.
So what is brand voice?
Your brand voice is how your organization expresses its unique personality to audiences across all its communications.
Having a well-established brand voice is critical for creating clear, cohesive, authentic messaging. A distinctive voice helps customers recognize your company, which builds trust and goodwill toward your brand. Your brand voice is important to the overall identity of your company, but it can be tricky to nail down for the first time.
There are a few reasons your organization might not have an established brand voice: Maybe your company is so new that it hasn’t solidified its identity. Maybe your company never prioritized brand voice. Maybe an evil sea witch stole your organization’s brand voice. In any case, if a company lacks a distinctive voice, it’s missing out on a valuable tool for creating a memorable identity.
What’s the difference between brand voice and tone?
If you’ve heard of brand voice, you’ve probably also heard of tone and might be wondering what distinguishes the two terms. Knowing the difference can help you identify what needs tweaking or where to focus.
Voice is the way you enact the characteristics of your brand’s identity that define your unique point of view and your way of speaking. It’s the expression of your brand’s personality that stays constant across all your communications.
Tone is the overall feeling or emotional quality of a particular communication, including mood, tenor, and temperament. It helps determine word choice and may change across communications, mediums, or channels.
Your voice is your instrument; your tone is the genre of music you’re playing or the way you play particular notes based on the mood of the piece.
Here’s an example: Think about picking up the phone when your best friend calls. Whether she’s screaming that she just won the lottery or venting about her coworkers, you can identify her sound and style of speaking right away. That consistent, personal mode of communication is her voice — it belongs to her and signifies her no matter what she has to say. Her particular feeling — elated or downcast about the news she has to share — is her tone towards the information she’s communicating. Capiche? Excellent.
📝 Want some practice? Check out our copywriting workshop about writing with voice and tone.
Now that you’ve got a good grasp on the lingo, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to find your brand’s distinct voice.
Step 1: Look to your brand’s core attributes.
Since your brand voice is so important to your communication strategy, it needs to have a strong foundation in your organization’s identity and values.
You probably already have a convenient place to turn to for this information: your company’s mission statement, vision, and core values. Examine each of your brand’s core attributes and consider what each says about who you are and, therefore, how you should communicate.
Let’s use Lemonly’s mission as an example: “We design clarity.” It’s short and sweet but still super helpful. It tells us that design is what we do and clarity is why we do it. “We” implies a collaborative, team-based approach. “Design” states what we’re best at and why customers seek us out. And “clarity” says that we keep things straightforward and concise.
We might also examine our core values — adventure, collaboration, and integrity — for further help. What do these values tell us about who our company is? We like to take risks and stretch outside our comfort zone (adventure). We love teamwork, where everyone brings something unique to the table (collaboration). We know who we are and do the right thing (integrity).
Communicating in line with your brand’s identity
A few important things stand out after doing a deep dive into our mission and values. Based on our mission statement, we know that Lemonly wants to communicate with clarity. We also know that we want to emphasize our adventurous spirit and collaborative strengths in accordance with our core values.
So we’ve got a few descriptors: clear, concise, adventurous, and collaborative. We’re done here, right? Not quite. We could say that we want to communicate our core value of adventure, but it’s hard to write “adventurously.”
Now that we’ve got a handle on what we want to communicate with our brand voice, it’s time to put these attributes into more actionable descriptors we can actually use.
Step 2: Personify your brand.
Personifying your brand means taking the brand characteristics you’ve identified and bringing them to life in your written communication. Keeping in mind what you explored about your brand’s identity in step #1, consider these questions when crafting the description of your brand voice:
- If your company were a person, what would they be like? How would they sound?
- What adjectives would you use to describe your brand?
- How do people at your company feel about the work the organization does?
- What are the phrases or ways of speaking that resonate among your team?
- How do you want people to feel when they interact with your brand?
Your goal in answering these questions is to assemble a list of words and phrases that describe your brand.
Choosing your best brand voice descriptors
Once you’ve got a list of words compiled, it’s time to narrow things down. Look for common themes you can group words around. Evaluate your set of words and see what fits best.
A few tips for evaluating your set of possible voice descriptors:
- Grab your dictionary and thesaurus! Read the definitions of words you’re considering to see if they fit. Look at synonyms to find a word with just the right tone.
- Try out different combinations of words to see how they work together. Is anything missing or redundant?
- Make sure your voice descriptors are instructive. Do they tell you how your brand sounds and how to write? Choose words you can look at to inform your writing style.
- Think about how readers will perceive your brand based on your voice descriptors. Will your brand voice help readers get an accurate sense of your vibe and who you are (your brand personality)?
- Make a list of what your brand voice is not. Jotting down words or phrases that don’t describe your brand can help you hone in on your exact, unique voice.
How our voice descriptors inform the way we communicate
Let’s return to our Lemonly example. Our three key voice descriptors are fun, friendly, and humorous. Here’s how each of those is connected to our brand attributes and how each is instructive for our communication.
We think work should be fun, and we want working with Lemonly to be a fun (dare we say delightful) experience, too. The Lemonheads are a lively, fun-loving bunch, and our brand should reflect that by being engaging and lighthearted.
Lemonly values collaboration and connections. We’re friendly experts — we know our stuff and we’re proud of our work, but we keep things casual and inviting. Interacting with Lemonly should feel like talking to your cool, infographic-minded friend.
Nothing brings the Lemonheads together like a good laugh. We don’t take things too seriously. (After all, there’s no such thing as a visual content emergency.) We love some witty wordplay or a well-timed joke, but we’re not cheesy or snarky. Lemonly is sweet, never sour, so we carry a sense of humor in our communication.
Step 3: Consider your customers and tweak your tone.
Once you’ve identified the basics of your brand voice with a few choice descriptors, it’s time to examine how you’ll use your voice with different audiences. There are times you’ll want to emphasize particular aspects of your brand voice and times you’ll want to go for a more subtle approach.
Always consider who you’re communicating with and how you want them to feel while interacting with your brand.
That’s where adjusting your tone comes in, so you can craft just the right message depending on the channel, medium, and audience. Lemonly is friendly, fun, and humorous, but not equally so in all situations — we tweak our tone based on who we’re talking to, where the message lives, and how the reader might be feeling.
Always consider who you’re communicating with and how you want them to feel while interacting with your brand.
- Is the reader excited to work with you for the first time but unsure about what happens next? Be a friendly guide, echoing their excitement while being clear about what they can expect moving forward.
- Are they frustrated or struggling through a problem? Be an empathetic problem solver, using a caring tone while offering help to find their way through the muddle.
- Are they a loyal customer or avid fan of your brand? Use fun, celebratory language to show your excitement and make them feel appreciated.
You want the person you’re talking to to feel included and excited about work with you, so the tone you use should express that. Lean into different aspects of your brand voice to adjust your communication to meet the moment while always remaining authentic to your brand’s personality.
Your communication creates an experience
The best way to make people feel excited about working with your company is to offer an experience through your communication. You might make them laugh, teach them something, or tug at their heartstrings. In any case, your communication should offer something to your audience that will make them feel like it was worth their time to read it. If people like the way you make them feel, they’re more likely to invest their time and loyalty into your company.
Your brand voice should reflect and reinforce the ways you help customers and how you want them to feel. It should ultimately give your audience a preview of what their experience working or interacting with you will be like (and why it will be an excellent experience).
Get started crafting your brand voice
We hope this guide gives you some tools to find your brand’s unique voice. If your company is built on a clear vision and a strong identity, you’re well on your way. Having a solid brand voice will give all your organization’s communications more consistency, personality, and polish — all the good stuff that makes your brand stand out from the crowd.
Still not sure you’ve got a handle on your voice? Just need some extra tips? Get in touch with Lemonly to work with us on a messaging guide or a sweet visual content project that makes your brand shine.