Brand voice in the social media age.

Porter CommunicationBrands obsessively seek massive social followings. The driver of that social activity is content marketing. Today most content marketing is nothing more than disguised brand advertising–and customers and consumers mostly ignore it.

To gain a massive following in social channels requires a sophisticated understanding and disciplined application of Brand Voice.

Brand Voice is simply the quality of the brand’s presence in the marketplace. At every interaction with the audience, the Brand’s voice (the manner in which it communicates its purpose, values, reputation, and experiences) must be created and managed with precision.

That means marketers have a greater responsibility to not let the voice of their brand be at the whim of the latest creative or style trend, appear sloppy, inconsistent, and mindless.

Leading brands always consider how customers and consumers will receive their blogs, websites, social media channels, and content creation output. In the social media age, this is one area in the branding ecosystem that must be spot on without compromise.

Brand Voice is everything and the only thing.

In speaking to another person, your tone of voice is not what you say, but how you say it. How well your communication comes across determines how well others will respond to what you’re saying.  It’s exactly the same for brand communication.

A brand’s tone of voice will inform the authenticity all of its human interactions, sales conversations, business environments, written language, trade dress, product design, packaging and retail presence– the totality of the brand’s presence in the marketplace. Consequently, you can’t just make up a voice out of thin air and then start speaking in it. The brand voice comes directly from the organization’s purpose, mission, and values. If it’s not “real” in today’s meta-transparent social age, the voice will be the sound of one hand clapping.

Why it’s critical to get the brand voice right.

Brand Voice is an expression and reflection of the human beings behind the brand.
Brand building is about people–the people that comprise the brand and the value they are passionate about bringing to the world. This is the beginning of the brand’s story told through the authentic voice and behavior of those that bring it to life every day.

Brand voice is what establishes relevant and highly valued differentiation among competitors in the category.
Think of two brands in the same category. Let’s say Honda and Subaru automobiles for example. Both brands have a tone of voice that is distinctive, recognizable and unique.  One brand represents and expresses quality engineering, while the other brand represents and expresses love and adventure. They are both true to their unique voice building equity in their promise.  Customers know why they engage with one or the other.

Brand Voice goes a long way toward building trust.
When a brand’s presence in the marketplace is familiar it’s more easily trusted. Researchers in cognitive behavior and psychology have known forever that humans require little effort to mentally process something that is familiar. For humans, familiarity creates a sense of ease.  Creating a specific tone of voice plays a crucial role in how easy it is for people to trust your promise.

A consistent Brand Voice will influence and persuade.
As author Maya Angelou once said, “People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel.” The way in which brand’s communicate breeds a certain feeling or emotional response in people. And although most people have short attention spans, they are very sensitive to language and imagery, forming instant impressions in their minds based on how they feel. To be influential and persuasive requires connecting with people emotionally.

How to get Brand Voice Right.

When thinking of brand voice and content creation, here are a couple of suggestions for establishing the quality of your brand’s presence.

Begin with purpose.
Why does the brand exist? Who does it serve? What does it value? The purpose is the foundation of Brand Voice. It’s not about invention but introspection. It’s not about creativity but connection. Once the entire organization top to bottom lives its purpose, a true voice in the marketplace naturally emerges.

Create comprehensive brand guidelines.
Brand guidelines shouldn’t be created just for design and creative teams, but for everyone in the organization. Every set of brand guidelines should standardize the brands messaging, look and feel, tone and manner, grammar guidelines and design principles. All content marketing should follow these guidelines. Create standards for content. For example, creating a template for all social media channels, webinars, and white papers. This helps minimize production timelines but more importantly will keep the voice of your brand consistent.

Educate and Collaborate.
Take the time to formally educate all stakeholders in content creation the importance of understanding the brand’s story and voice in the marketplace. Content creation should be a collaborative process– account planner, brand strategist, community manager, content marketing manager, brand manager, and designer are all part of the creation process. Education and collaboration form a human brand filter that keeps brand voice authentic and consistent though all forms of branded content.