“It’s great, but that’s not our voice.”
How often have you heard this phrase after you’ve presented a piece of content? Everything from social media editorial calendars to ad creative to videos can receive this feedback.
It’s enough to make you bang your head against the nearest wall. And it can get worse. Often you receive the same, vague feedback revision after revision until, after countless agency hours burned and several drinks later, you happen to land on the “right” voice.
So how can you avoid this frustration? Start by defining your voice. Here are some tips for how to find your voice.
Create a word cloud of verbs that “fit” the voice. Verbs are action words, and as much as possible you want to define yourself by what you do. So what do you do? How do you act and what makes you dynamic?
Name your voice
Voice is important because it captures your personality. It’s your style and the fingerprint of your brand identity. When thinking about your voice, ask yourself, “What is the personality of my brand? Who am I, and what am I about?”
Once you have an idea, put a name to it. The name helps people understand the message behind the message. Maybe you’re “high-brow humorous,” or “hip, anti-establishment.”
Try to define your voice in a short paragraph. Here’s an example of a voice definition we put together:
“Refined Edge”: We’re a brand with a refined edge—we’re street-savvy and edgy, but refined. We smart to the latest trend—hell, we set them—and we can throw down and push boundaries of convention when challenged. We’re cool. We cut our knuckles in the rough part of life, but now we inhabit a sleeker realm. We’re smart, look good in a suit and the boardroom, and we’ve got a rough charm everybody loves.
In some ways, voice is intangible, so you probably won’t have exclusive rights to a voice. That’s okay. You will find other brands, from your industry and beyond, using a similar voice as yours.
Take time to research those brands. It will give you ideas for how to bring your own voice to life. Start by capturing content that best demonstrates their voices. Then ask questions: What are their personalities like? In what ways do they sound like you? How will you differentiate your voice?
Create “Do, Don’t” examples
Try this: take a phrase about your business—maybe a tagline—and write it three different ways. The first you will write in your voice. Write the other two off-voice in the extreme. Write a series of these on- and off-voice tag lines. Tangible examples will help you calibrate your voice.
At first, this exercise may feel a little like capturing a steam with a bucket. But it’s worth the effort to avoid endless rounds of edits. When you find yourself receiving this feedback, you can pull out this voice profile and use it as a tool to keep the team on track.