(But not literally. Because gross.)
Have you ever noticed how the voice you hear in your head and the voice you hear in a recording of your voice sound like two totally different voices?
Seriously. The latter might as well be an imposter pretending to be you — and doing a sucky job at it, if I might add.
Am I right?
Most of us absolutely hate the idea of hearing our voice in a recording. Because we know what we sound like — and that’s most certainly not it.
And the same can be said for writing and blogging.
Let me explain.
Voicer and Voicee
When you write something, you know exactly what it means and how it should be read. Because you’re writing it from that same voice inside your head — your inside voice, if you will, which has your awesome tone and cadence and intention behind your meaning.
But the second you translate inside voice to outside voice via the written medium, the power transfers.
No longer are you, the voicer, the determiner of meaning. Instead, the voicee, the recipient, gets to decide what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.
Mind blown yet? It should be. Because I’m essentially saying that you don’t have the control to accurately communicate what’s in your head.
Nope, the recipient does.
You can try. But unfortunately, your attempt may turn out just like the difference between the voice in your head and your voice in a voicemail message: worlds apart.
Voice and Brand
When you’re trying to develop a brand for your business, voice is vitally important. And while you may not be able to transfer exact meaning from your intentions to perception, there are things we can do to try to align the inside voice with the outside voice.
- Be an armchair psychoanalyst: The “know your audience” caveat may be a no-brainer to any savvy businessperson, but it’s worth noting here. You MUST know your audience first and foremost before developing a voice for your brand. Because the recipient of messages (voicee, per the above) holds ultimate power, you have to get inside their brains to understand what they need, what makes them tick, what they can tolerate, what they can’t tolerate, etc.
- Write like you talk: Now you need to find someone to represent your brand’s voice who understands the audience — and can relate. When it comes to writing that reflects your personal/business brand, the chosen voice needs to sound like a human being with a dynamic personality. When you write in the same way you speak, you’ll give your audience less wiggle room to make inaccurate judgments. This is especially true if you are a strong brand advocate, and you do things like have a social media presence, or are a featured speaker on behalf of your brand, or you write your own ads or blog posts. Because the more a person “hears” you (whether that’s in writing or via live conversation), the more they’ll start associating the brand with the voice. And when that happens, so does the magic.
- Be authentic: Don’t try to become something you’re not in order to capture/reflect a brand. The best brand voice is always a component of the inner you. Channel that authenticity. I’m reminded of a recent conversation with a company specializing in a healthcare offering designed exclusively for women — who had a man serving as a marketing director. Perhaps needless to say, the marketing messages weren’t resonating. Authenticity was missing, and so, therefore, were the results.
- Don’t stress about breaking the rules: We’ve all heard it before — that you can’t begin a sentence with a conjunction, or that you can’t have a sentence that’s only one word long. And you know what I say to that? Bullshit. See? I did it. A few times, even. Yes, if you’re a grammarian writing a grammar blog, you’ll need to follow the edicts of accurate grammatical sentence construction. But if you’re just being you, XYZ brand (with no promises about accurate style and syntax), then a conversational, approachable voice is always recommended.
- Consistency is key: Create documentation for your business that defines the voice. Describe the audience, the tone, the words to avoid, the words to use, etc., so that the voice can be replicated should your “voicer” decide to go elsewhere. These can all be part of a business’ writing guidelines, which should also include your brand’s style guide. And remember: The voice should be consistent across channels — from social media to blog, from traditional advertising to your website. And beyond…
Do you have any questions about voice in writing? Ask away!
Oh, and one more thing: If you’re interested in learning more about voice and brand storytelling, feel free to join me for an NCET lunch-and-learn taking place tomorrow, June 22, at the Atlantis from 11:30 – 1 p.m. Details and registration info are here.
And if you can’t make it, it’s perfectly fine. I just might cry a little.
But no pressure.
Mikalee Byerman is a writer and communications strategist with the Estipona Group. For more mind-blowing communication stuff and whatnot, subscribe to Estipona Group’s e-newsletter, which comes out just often enough (but not so often to be annoying).