The way you communicate to your customers is a direct extension of your brand. Think of it as your brand’s personality. Or rather, its voice.
Ideally, your company’s style guide should define how to express voice, in all your company’s languages, so that your message is consistent. This encompasses product marketing webpages, error messages, email correspondence, terms and conditions, and more. EVERY piece of written text produced by your company.
Brand = Voice x Words
Let’s start with your branding. Some companies have a highly formalized definition of their brand strategy, while others have more of a list of adjectives associated with their brand. What can customers expect from your products or services? What makes your company different from your competitors? Your brand identifies who you are, and it is reflected in your logo, your graphics, and how you conduct your business in general. Likewise, your voice reflects the characteristics of your brand.
To use my own business as an example, I have a clear, yet informal definition of my brand strategy. I describe my brand as “expressing confidence, innovation, energy, professionalism, a technical-focus, clear and effective work, reliability, expertise, and approachability, without being stuffy or overly formal”. This brand strategy affects the words and phrases I use on my website and in my interactions with clients. My voice reflects my brand.
The Audience Is Listening
Voice should also be tailored to the audience. People naturally develop trust toward others who are similar to them. Gain the trust of your audience by speaking to them in a voice they can relate to. What do they value? What shows them that your product or service is right for them? If you play your cards right, the voice you use to communicate with your customers can become a competitive advantage. When your voice is a good fit for your audience, they are more likely to continue coming back to you.
Are you using the right tone in the voice of your content? For example, software error messages and online help content often use an upbeat tone to lighten the mood. This is great, but be careful about using terms like “Simply…” and “…. is easy!”, which may inadvertently make your user feel stupid for not understanding something that is supposedly “simple” or “easy”.
Make It Official
Once you have a clear concept of your voice, document it in your company’s style guide. Here are some suggestions:
- Will you use the 1st (we, our) and 2nd person (you, your) or stick with the more formal 3rd person (ABC Company)?
- List certain words and phrases to be your go-to descriptors for your products and services.
- Are there any words or phrases to avoid? Think about cultural taboos or even any words that may be closely associated with a competitor’s brand?
- What kind of attitude do you want to convey?
- How does your voice vary across different types of texts (ex. tone, formality, reading level, etc.)?
Defining your business’s voice is an important factor in maintaining the consistency of your brand message. By documenting your voice in your style guide, it’s easy to maintain that consistency as you bring on new writers and translators to grow your business.