What does your brand say about your business?
Is that message aligned across all channels?
Your brand says a lot about who you are. It’s your business identity. Getting it right is great, but it doesn’t stop there.
As business owners, we tend to get caught up in the visual aspects of our brand. We hire graphic designers, web designers, and branding consultants, labouring over the details of our brand’s look and feel to make sure we’re instantly recognisable in any context.
But what about your brand’s message? The tagline, words, content, and statements associated with your business all play a role in communicating who you are and what you stand for. Visuals aside, if someone lined up your social media captions, email campaigns, website content, and marketing collateral side by side, could they pick that the words all represent a single brand?
Without consistent messaging, your audience will get confused about who you are. Creating consistent brand messaging also allows your audience to know what to expect from you. Setting and meeting those expectations fosters trust and that trust is what you need to build a foundation of loyal supporters for your business.
So, what does it take to achieve consistency in your brand messaging?
#1 Define your brand voice
A brand voice is a consistent expression of your business through words and language styles to appropriately engage the right audience. Your brand voice represents your business. Along with your name, logo and colour palette, your brand voice is something your business will be recognised for.
Before you define your brand voice, take a couple steps back to first define:
- Your brand/business purpose
- Your brand values
- Your target audience
Your purpose and target audience are two essential elements to defining your brand voice. Why? Because the voice you use in all communications should be aligned with your main purpose and should build connection with your audience.
How do you define your brand voice? Start with these three steps:
- Brainstorm a long list of words that describe your brand, who you are and what you stand for.
- From this list, pick three to six adjectives that best reflect the words, language, and tone you want to achieve in all your communications.
- For each adjective, explain in one to two sentences what it means in the context of communications. For example, if you’re using ‘friendly’ as an adjective:
Friendly: Our words are warm, inviting and approachable, helping the reader feel comfortable.
Remember to keep it simple! A multi-layered, nuanced brand voice is not what you want. You want something that is concisely defined and can be understood by your team and any external consultants or partners to help you work in alignment and achieve consistency.
#2 Create guides
Once you’ve defined your brand voice, the next step to achieve consistent brand messaging is to capture it in writing for future reference. You can do this by creating a brand voice guide or communications guide for your business. This guide is used by anyone writing internal or external communications to create clarity, help guide each message, keep it consistent with the overall brand message and ensure it reflects your brand.
Consistency is key to achieving a successful brand voice.
As your business continues to grow, brand voice or communications guides will become more crucial to maintain consistent brand messaging.
What should a brand voice guide cover?
At a minimum, the guide should document the key takeaways from the activities under ‘define your brand voice’:
- Your brand/business purpose
- Your brand values
- Your target audience
- Brand voice adjectives
Also include the following guidance to help with the correct use of your brand voice across various communications.
How to apply your brand voice (with examples)
To help achieve clarity, provide examples for each brand voice adjective to demonstrate how it influences the style of communication. For example, if ‘informal’ is one of your brand voice adjectives, you could provide the following for more context:
Type of communication
Phrases we like
Phrases we don’t like
Hi <first name>
Dear <first name>
To whom it may concern
Types of communications
What communication channels do you use for your business?
Identify each of those channels and specify the types of communications where the brand voice should be applied.
And don’t leave any room for presumptions. The last thing you want is for a future intern in your business to assume that the brand voice doesn’t apply for the Instagram caption they’re writing and then click ‘share’ on a post that is completely off-brand. To avoid confusion, don’t just add “social media” to your list of communication channels – include “social media – Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.”
How the type of communication influences the brand voice/tone
Consider the different audiences for each of your communication channels. Though your brand voice remains consistent, the tone you use may shift slightly depending on the audience. For example, your emails are sent to clients and shareholders, yet your Instagram page targets current and future employees. In this case, you may want to turn up the professional tone in emails and take on a more playful tone in Instagram captions.
If tone shifts will help you connect with your various audiences more effectively, then include this in your guide to make that clear.
#3 Develop templates
I love a good template. They are the foundation of consistency.
Templates are more often used for design elements (think social media graphics, email newsletter layouts) but also a gift to written content. Give two people the same email newsletter template with no guidance on what to write and you’ll likely receive two drastically different emails influenced by their distinct voices, stylist choices and preferences.
To overcome this, use template documents for various types of regular communications (e.g. emails, press releases, investor updates, staff updates, company updates). Each can include high-level guidance for:
- Structure (introduction, summary, body, conclusion/signoff)
- Content (subject title, nature of content, language, approximate length)
- Format (font, headings/subheadings, spacing)
#4 Hire a communications specialist
A brand voice, guides and templates are useful but when it comes to consistent brand messaging, nothing beats having the same person write or review all communications!
This person could be an internal team member or employee in a dedicated communications role. If you don’t have the internal capacity, you could also consider an external agency or freelancer – whatever is appropriate for your communication needs and budget.
Do you have any strategies to help you keep your brand messaging consistent? Drop a comment below or leave me a note – I welcome any insights!
Oyelola is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She works closely with entrepreneurs and businesses in financial services, consulting and education, writing quality-rich content to engage their readers and motivate action. When not writing for clients, Oyelola provides insights on writing, wealth and work on her Phrased with Purpose blog and shares her faith journey on her personal blog, He Speaks, I Write.