Finding the right voice. (Hint: It’s not yours.)

Dec 14, 2018 - Mary Kinder

Beyond recognizable logos and memorable taglines, successful brands also have a unique voice. It’s a recognizable tone and personality that is intrinsic to the brand itself. In fact, the voice of a brand has been called the “heart and soul” of communication. Think of Apple’s smart and cool attitude or Coca-Cola’s welcoming persona.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t working for branding powerhouses like Apple or Coke. So, how do you find a unique voice for a company that isn’t easily identifiable or exceptionally memorable? It is possible, but you have to do a bit of digging.

When I was just getting started as a copywriter, I fell into the habit of giving clients MY voice – which was usually dry humor with a heavy dose of sarcasm. Of course, I thought my writing was clever, but that wasn’t always what clients wanted. Luckily, I had a couple of candid mentors who told me to stop showing off and start thinking about the client. They taught me to develop a voice for each client that was right for them, their industry and their goals – instead of my ego.

I start by uncovering what the company is, and just as important, what it is NOT. This means diving into some research about the company, its products or service, industry, competition and more. I also try to interview people within the company, asking about the history and the vision for the future. All of this helps establish the personality of a company that comes across as genuine, not just clever.

When writing for today’s media-savvy consumers, it is vital to be authentic. That’s why as writers, we have to fight against instilling ourselves into the copy. As much fun as amusing, slightly off-color and tongue-in-cheek headlines are to write, the truth is they aren’t right for every client. You should never settle for boring, but you do need to be authentic. Remember, you’re selling your client’s company, not your own personality.

You also need to be consistent. That’s why it helps to do your homework early on, so you can develop a voice that works in a variety of circumstances. While an outdoor board is much different than an annual report or a social media post, the tone and personality should remain consistent across all media and situations. However, consistency doesn’t mean rigidity. Just like logos, a company’s voice must allow for growth.

The bottom line for finding the right voice for your company is the same advice you may have gotten from your parents before heading off to school, “Just be your true self.”

To experience some of the brand voices we’ve developed, check out Our Work.