One of the central focuses of many companies is getting your brand name out there and boosting brand awareness. This comes in many and varied forms, from blog posts, to expert guides, to social media statuses. However, in the flurry to create and publish more and more brand content, it has felt at times that businesses are pushing quantity over quality and, as a result, are forgetting some of the basics of brand communications.
In this post, I want to take you back to the fundamentals of all brand communications, your brand voice. In doing so I hope to help you to improve the quality of the brand content you’re sending out and boost your overall brand image.
So, let’s get cracking.
1) Decisions, decisions, decisions
Before you start creating any company content you ought to have a very clear idea of what your brand is meant to represent and what its tone of voice is. However, from what I’ve seen online recently, there is very little awareness of this at the moment.
So, my first piece of advice is to go back to drawing board and figure it out. Dig out your brand guidelines, company vision, or simply grab the director, and nail down what it is your business stands for.
Are you an expert authority on your topic? Are you innovators? Are you “zany” (please don’t be zany…)? But, seriously, are you thought leaders or more laid-back and fun? Cutting edge, or reassuringly familiar?
There are two elements to make sure you cover when you’re doing this – personality and tone. So basically what you are and how you convey that. Make sure you analyse both of these aspects of your brand voice before you finalise anything, and make sure the two complement each other.
Know your brand and what it stands for. If you don’t have a coherent brand voice then now is the time to nail it down. Take a look at your website, company, clients and staff, and try to find something appropriate for what you currently do. Don’t try to force something new and counter-intuitive onto the business just because you think it’ll make you more interesting online. It’s much better to work with what you’ve got and clarify your current image.
By now you should have a clear idea of what your brand is and what it stands for. To help keep things clear for everyone it might well be worth writing up a summary of your brand – its mission and its vision, and get everyone to read it. It’ll clarify any alterations and also stop people backtracking or attempting to reinterpret it later on.
Further to this, it’s now time to write out some defining brand guidelines for all your communications from now on. This includes everything from your website, to your tweets, to your client communications, to guest blog posts (if you’ve been invited to write one for a well-respected site – we couldn’t possibly condone any other form).
In this document you should outline the tone of voice you’re going to use – are you serious, jovial, reassuring, friendly, corporate, or expert? Make a decision and stick with it. You should also decide how will refer to yourselves so that it’s consistent throughout all your communications.
Consistency is essential to branding so make sure that whatever your guidelines include you are able to uphold them and apply them to all necessary circumstances.
Now that you’re armed with your carefully thought out brand guidelines it’s time to tackle your company communications head on. The first thing you must do is have a look at everything currently out there – your website, your G+ page, your blog, your document templates – EVERYTHING.
You need to make sure that every single communication your brand has with the public adheres to your new guidelines. For people to trust you, you MUST be consistent – it’s essential.
So be brutal – if your website isn’t right then you to need to knuckle down and start rewriting pages. The same goes for document templates – you want to ensure that everything you send to your clients from now on needs to strengthen your brand and present a clear image of who you are. Your clients are much more likely to trust you and your professionalism if everything you send them consistently reinforces this image of you.
The same goes for social media accounts. These can be particularly difficult to manage as, often, more than one person can access them and send out messages. We’ve all seen enough cases of errant tweets from big brands sent by misguided staff members to know the damage that inappropriate use of social media can cause.
So from now on, make it clear exactly what will and what won’t be considered acceptable on your company’s social media. Bear in mind you can normally be a little more light-hearted than on your website for example, but you remember that you’re aiming for consistency, so don’t stray too far from your norm. A few photos of team events can be a great way to show personality, just make sure nobody decides to live tweet the Christmas party after one too many drinks.
It might even be wise, whilst the new guidelines are being implemented, to limit the number of people who can access these accounts. Then, once everyone has a better understanding of what is expected, you can open them up again. It may seem a bit harsh, but it’s better than having to run damage control on people’s mistakes.
So there you go – three simple steps to helping you find your company’s voice. Follow them and implement them in a consistent manner and you should have no difficulty getting people to trust in your brand. Even better, the more people who trust in you, the more likely they are to recommend you to others. Then, when these people search for you, you can rest assured that everything they read online will only further support all the wonderful things they’ve already been told. Job done!
(Image from Wikipedia)