Are Your Brand Voice Guidelines Being Followed? – The Importance of Monitoring
Your brand voice shows up in all sorts of places. It’s everywhere that you are. Wherever you have content or communications with your customers, whether online or off, you’re using this unique voice. This includes everything from social media comments to your website’s About page to one-on-one interactions.
The key to successful branding is for your brand voice to be consistent across all media. This is vitally important because one slight lapse in your voice anywhere could cause a disconnect in the mind of your customer.
The only way to monitor your brand voice is to designate someone the official monitor and have them check your content on a regular basis. For offline print materials, have them sign off on everything before it’s published. They should know and understand the guidelines well. The best case scenario is that this is someone who has written or created content for you so they know the guidelines through experience.
It’s harder to control online content. Content online can be published in various places and it could be content used by affiliates or other business partners in your name.
Like your offline content, you can have your monitor sign off on all online content. You can also ask them to regularly monitor content on your name online. You can do this through Google search but an even better way is to sign up through Google Alerts. For the notifications, enter your brand name and choose a regular roundup. There’s no need to be notified every time something new is posted. For example, you can sign up for weekly updates and then your monitor can check each week when the update comes through.
Another advantage of updates is that you can also keep an eye on what customers are saying about your organization online. Your monitor might notice someone complaining about bad customer service or something else that doesn’t fit with the image you’re trying to create.
Whenever there is a voice problem, your monitor or another designated person should contact the author of the piece and bring to their attention the pertinent guidelines.
Monitoring your brand voice is an ongoing task but it’s well worth the resources you spend on it. It’s absolutely essential that you keep tabs on your communications.
Turning Brand Voice into Tone
Once you understand the unique values that are the reason your customers choose you, you need to turn the rough sketch you have for your brand voice into a distinctive tone of voice. You now need to go from ideas to the actual language you’ll use. You’ll discover and define your style, and then create concrete guidelines for everyone in your organization to use.
Formal vs. Informal
The obvious place to start is the right level of formality. This depends both on your industry and on your specific brand image. In terms of industry, some industries use more casual language than others. A bank or tech company might use more formal language because they want to emphasize the core values of security and reliability, while a smoothie shop or ecommerce video game dealer might use a casual tone.
Here is an example of just how profound differences in formality can be:
“We would like to inform you that we are releasing a new line of speakers that we believe have no comparison in today’s market.”
“Get ready for a real listening experience! Check out the new speakers we’ve got coming out next month. They are guaranteed to blow you away!”
These two examples say the same thing but the formality level of the tone communicates it in a very different way.
In general, the less technical language, the better. But again, this depends entirely on your target audience. Consider these two examples for a food safety test kit:
“Our new enzyme immunoassay for the quantitative analysis of aflatoxin in feedstock offers faster incubation time and a detection limit of <1.7 ppb.”
“Our new food safety test kit helps you check for and assess aflatoxin in feedstock even faster and more accurately than before.”
The first example would be suitable for a B2B company where your customers have a high level of technical skill. But for more casual users, you would want to make it more understandable.
Colloquialisms and Accents
Finally, there may be a particular accent or dialect that speaks to your audience. For example, the email newsletter for a ranch theme park in the American West might say something like,
“Howdy there, buckaroos! There’s all kinds of doin’s goin’ on at the Sandusky Ranch this Saturday!”
However, you should use colloquialisms and accents with caution. The wrong one or too much can backfire and turn off potential customers.
These are just a few things to consider. You’ll have to craft your own tone and style. But once you have some guidelines, put them into action and test and monitor to see what works, tweaking accordingly as you go.
Are You Speaking the Voice of Your Customers?
Your brand voice is your own, but it should also be the voice of your customers. The only way to find out how your target customers talk is to find them and listen to them. By observing the way they write on their communications online and the way they speak face-to-face offline, you can find patterns, expressions, and communication styles to incorporate into your brand voice.
Start by thinking of any recent interactions you’ve had with your customers. What do you remember about what was said during the interaction? If there is any particular phrase or wording that stands out in your mind, take note of it.
If not, go back over the conversation and try to find a few characteristics of their way of speaking. If possible, try to remember exact phrases. Write down these exact phrases or ideas.
If your communications were held online, this is even better because you have the actual data to look at. However, keep in mind that communication can be limited online. Many people speak more eloquently than they write. In addition, your customer might be communicating with you over their smartphone or other mobile device where typing is slow and difficult.
Start paying close attention to communication style and phrasing from now on when you communicate with customers or members of your target audience. Pay attention and take note wherever you find something interesting. After a conversation, reflect on what was said, or save the data of your conversation online.
Another way to gather ideas is to seek out your target market online and listen to them. Follow them on social media, read their blogs, watch their YouTube videos, and join forums or groups where they are members.
As you gather this data, look for overall trends. Are there certain phrases many people use? Is the tone of your customers generally casual or formal? Taking all of the data you’ve gathered, make a list of overall trends that you see.
It’s good to talk to your customers in their own tone and language, but you should decide what’s best for your brand image. You may not want to copy your customers’ speech exactly. For example, using a great deal of internet slang may make you look unprofessional and untrustworthy. Rather, try to find a tone and voice that your customers resonate with and respond to.
Deb Alcadinho is a brand strategist and small business advisor. She is the founder and CEO at Westshore Women’s Business Network. She has over 20 years experience in marketing, branding and sales, and has owned 7 businesses. She lives in Victoria BC Canada.