Is your content an incoherent mess of different styles and voices? Struggling to get your team all speaking with one voice? It might be time to do a brand voice audit.
I’ll show you exactly how to do a brand voice audit in a bit, but first let’s take a look at some examples of brand voice in action. Then I’ll show you how to create a brand voice profile for your content business.
What is Brand Voice?
Brand voice is about the way the written content you create - from blogs to social media posts, to landing pages - conveys important information about who you are as a brand and what you’re all about.
Powerful Brand Voice Examples
To see the importance of having a coherent voice, let’s take a look at some highly successful brands and how their brand voice shows up in their content.
Smart Passive Income
Pat Flynn is the author and entrepreneur behind the Smart Passive Income blog and podcast.
Image sources: Smart Passive Income
He describes himself as a family man and “not an expert” in passive income… he just likes to share the results of his own experiments with his community (he’s made over $3m dollars this way!).
Of course none of this is accidental, he’s deliberately created the image he wants to present because it makes him unique in his niche (e.g, he pioneered sharing income reports to demonstrate his success). So Smart Passive Income (SPI) needs a brand voice that matches this casual but proactive persona.
SPI Brand Voice
Everything about Pat’s brand shows he’s casual and relatable. In his videos he uses informal greetings like “hey what’s up” and “I’ll see you around” to address his audience. It’s more like he’s talking to a friend than a client.
Image source: Smart Passive Income 101
And that voice comes across in all his written copy too.
He’s personal and has a casual tone, but is also confident and authoritative.
And if we jump over to his YouTube channel we can see that same casual, confident and authoritative voice shining through:
Pat uses all available space to put his brand voice into action, including video descriptions which he uses to provide additional content and promote his videos. Look at how he’s still speaking to “you” and how his discoveries will work for you.
Image Source: Pat Flynn
His YouTube About Page also shows his informal brand voice in action. We can see his voice shows he has an up-front, authoritative and experimental approach to serving his audience. Read the below copy and notice how all his word choices support his USP, which he outlines in the second paragraph.
This smart-casual brand voice even comes across in his social media links:
SPI Blog Page
If we take a look at his blog page, we see more simple, direct copy written in a personal way.
His voice shows he is personal, authoritative and offers practical strategies for use right away.
I Will Teach You To Be Rich
Ramit Sethi’s business learning brand, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, has a different brand voice to SPI, again it’s one that fits Ramit’s unique personality and style.
Image Source: I Will Teach You to Be Rich
He’s very direct and has a no-nonsense approach that’s all about busting myths and providing effective, easily actionable advice.
Image Source: Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance
Focus on the “You”
Ramit is very focussed on addressing the reader directly. The word “you” is used very frequently… his voice is about your potential and what he can do for you.
He’s very conscious of his brand identity, so this voicing turns up everywhere. His squeeze copy is even written in the first person, from the prospect’s point of view…
His brand voice shows strongly in his blog content…
Image Source: Don't Be Broke
Notice how often he uses “you” words in the above screenshot.… six times in just three paragraphs.
This you-focussed language continues across his squeeze pages and product copy.
Image Source: Products
IWT is relating to an audience who want access to an inner-circle where they’ll get wealth growing tips that you don’t get anywhere else. This comes across in his brand copy, like when he’s encouraging people to “develop the deep inner skills of winners."
Image Source: Products
Both SPI and IWT are similar content services, focussed on growing profitable businesses in innovative ways, but they have very different brand voices that make them stand out in different ways and appeal to different audiences.
Flynn’s audience are more focussed on freedom from the confines of work, whereas Ramit’s audience are more focussed on becoming wealthy.
Pat is upbeat and relaxed, Ramit is much more serious and hard-hitting. Both voices work perfectly for their audiences.
If we look at IWT’s YouTube channel we see strong social proof and that no-nonsense style is still in operation.
Image Source: I Will Teach You To Be Rich YouTube
This direct, almost provocative voice comes across on IWT’s Instagram posts.
Again, direct, no-nonsense brand voicing.
Image Source: IWT's Instagram
With marketing automation brand Sumo we see a different approach to brand voicing than with the above two examples.
Sumo is not about a personal brand, it’s about an experienced team delivering results.
Image Source: About Sumo
Unlike SPI and IWT there’s more of a focus on larger brands. They use Phrases like “core devs” in the squeeze pages. It’s informal, but it’s more technical than the language on SPI, for example.
They have an emphasis on ease and automation.
But there’s still a highly casual, easy-going tone to their voicing with phrases like “don’t miss the goodies” on their push signup popup (remember how brand voice is everywhere).
Because multiple writers publish on the Sumo blog, the challenge of keeping content consistent requires a strong understanding of brand voice across the team.
Image Source: eCommerce Strategy by Sumo
The titles are simple and to the point, using phrases like “simple ecommerce strategies” and “find the perfect ecommerce marketing mix”."
Look at this blog post intro below. It shows how Sumo’s brand voice comes through even across different writers’ content.
Image Source: eCommerce Marketing Mix Post
Compare the above blog intro with the one below.
The intros are both are structured in the same way, with a hook question to open, a one line solution to follow, then a preview of the advice covered in the article. They look like they were written by the same person, but they weren’t.
They’re writing to a formula, using the same language. Keeping it personal but professional, very focussed on being practical and informative. There’s less individual personality coming through compared to Pat FLynn or Ramit Sethi. There’s less of a need to entice their audience and motivate them. Their audience know what they want (to grow their ecommerce businesses), and they want highly informative content to show them how to achieve it.
Image Source: Mailchimp
Mailchimp is used by an extremely wide range of businesses of all different sizes, so their copy is friendly, informal, and as non-intimidating as possible!
A lot of people using the platform are at the very early stages of growing their business, and MailChimp’s voice reflects this with phrases like “be yourself on a bigger stage."
It presents email marketing as simply as possible, using phrases like “find your people” and “make it easy."
Image Source: Why Mailchimp
This inspiring, informal and simple language continues across their social media presence.
Notice how the phrase “reach your people” from their website is reused in their Twitter post copy?
Image Source: Mailchimp Twitter
Image Source: Mailchimp Tweet
And notice how that simple, accessible tone is still present? This is the power of having a consistent and identifiable brand voice.
How to Create a Brand Voice Profile
If you want a brand voice that articulates your USP and quickly identifies the values and skills of your brand you need to build a brand profile. You can use this to help content writers produce consistent content that speaks in your brand’s own unique way.
What You Are and What You’re Not
Knowing what you are also involves knowing what you’re not. Make a list of what you do and don’t represent, eg...
We’re serious but not humourless...
We’re approachable but not pally...
We’re confident but not cocky...
Image Source: Best Content Marketing Style Guide
Create a Brand Voice Chart
Create a chart like the one below and list the top three traits that define your brand voice. Next to each once write a brief description of what the trait means in practice. In the Do box describe how to achieve this trait, and in the Don’t box list things to avoid.
Brand voice chart example:
We talk like we’re having a personal conversation.
Use natural, everyday language.
Use slang or swear.
We’re confident that our solutions work.
Cite authoritative, reputable sources where needed.
Brag or use technical jargon.
We find creative ways to encourage users.
Show examples of how people can achieve results quickly.
Make impossible claims.
Write Your Brand Voice Guidelines
You may have a really strong idea of your brand voice, especially if it’s your company. But what if you’re expanding and bringing on new team members? What if you hire an outside content creator? You need to be able to convey your brand voice so it always sounds the same even when content is written by multiple people. This is why you need to write brand voice guidelines you can share with people so they can understand how to write in your voice.
Developing Your Voice Takes Time
Even just being aware of the importance of brand voice by reading guides like this will make a big difference to how effectively your brand communicates. This is an ongoing process rather than something you’ll get right on day one. But take heart that you've started on an essential process that many brands miss.
So to recap, these are the essential elements of a brand voice audit:
Awareness of brand voice. This is an essential first step in developing your voice.
Regularly reviewing your content and analysing how effective your language is.
Making adjustments to your brand voice to ensure it perfectly conveys your brand values and delivers on your mission statement.
This process will be vital in building an engaged audience who value you enough to invest their precious time (and money!) in your brand.
What’s your hardest challenge when it comes to developing your brand voice? Let us know in the comments!