“Find your voice.” It’s an adage that gets bandied about quite often in the PR landscape, and one you’ve probably been hearing in one form or another since 10th grade English.
So what does it mean for your brand? The concept of a “voice” is the foundation of a good communications strategy. It is also the concept that many business owners struggle with when they try to promote their brand.
So what is a “voice” and why can it be so elusive?
In PR terms the word “voice” really refers to the personality behind your brand. The owner of a given company might be naturally quick-witted and sardonic, but if you try to pull that off in the world of corporate communications it can be difficult. So what happens?
A lot of brands end up in one of two camps: those who play things overly cautious (read: boring) and those who take it too far. Some brands can live on either end of that spectrum and thrive, but the sweet spot for most brands is somewhere in between the two. Finding where your brand lies on the spectrum can be puzzling at first, but it doesn’t have to bring your marketing efforts to a halt. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you and your brand discover your voice.
Knowing the character of your company is vital to discovering the voice you use for outside communication. Think of your company as a person. What are they like? Do they have any hobbies? Are they high energy, or more laid-back? What about them makes people want do business with them?
Once you have the answers to those questions, make sure you keep any outgoing messages consistent with your brand. Think about a great character like Bart Simpson, and how jarring it would be if he suddenly stopped being the hilarious, 10-year-old evil genius that he is, and started respecting authority and doing his homework. That abrupt change doesn’t gel with the back-log of history that was built for that character. The same is true if you suddenly stop being you! If you make abrupt shifts in your messaging it won’t play well with your target audience. They will be confused about who you really are.
But it goes beyond just the leader or face of the company. You have to ensure that anyone on your team involved in content creation is on the same page as far as the style and tone of your messaging. This won’t just save you headaches down the line, it is a best practice for any business to follow.
Good listening is key to any successful relationship, and your businesses relationship with the public is no different. Go figure.
When trying to find your voice, listen to the kind of feedback you are getting from your target audience and make sure that your outgoing communication speaks to their interests. Is there a particular issue that your target audience is passionate about? Do they have a need that you can fill with your business? Do they see you as a resource for information?
If you aren’t already getting the kind of feedback that can help you answer these questions, seek it out. Don’t be afraid to ask customers for their opinions. In fact, I tell them to be “ruthless and honest” with us about the things they like and, more importantly, the things they don’t’ like. You should also keep an eye on your social media channels for any mentions, shares or comments on content that you’ve produced. Looking at qualitative metrics like these will give you a good idea of what your audience is responding to, and what you should do more of in the future.
Too many brands fall into the information age trap of dehumanizing their brand in favor of convenience. While it is easy to crank out form responses, a prospect actively seeking information about your brand is likely to be turned off if they ask a question and receive no response. On a platform like Twitter, which offers the public unparalleled access to companies, reading and responding to a direct mention is paramount to maintaining a healthy, human digital persona for your brand. If someone mentions your brand in a positive light, thank them! If they ask you a question, read it and respond with a response tailored exactly to that person. Auto-responders have their place, but social media is certainly not one of them.
Finding your voice is crucial to any solid marketing strategy, but it can’t make up for a bad business plan or poor service. Good communication with a strong, clear corporate voice won’t solve all the challenges facing your brand, but it will make tackling them that much easier.
So don’t wait. Go ahead and find your voice if you haven’t already done so. If your voice is weak, beef it up. If it is strong, make sure you build upon it to be sure you are heard.