How to Find Your Content Voice

A woman sings on stage in this image by Josh Rocklage

Often, the voice of your blog will begin with the voice of the person doing the writing – the business owner, founder, or marketing staff. There’s no inherent problem with that while the business is small. There’s even some benefit to being able to see the people at the helm because it engenders trust: These are the people you’ll be working with, and this is what makes them tick.

As the business grows, however, there’s often friction between that person’s voice and the company’s voice. The first sign is often waning interest in content production from this founding writer and sometimes embarrassment about their previous work. If that sounds familiar, it’s time for your company to think hard about your content voice.

This is what we have learned from nearly 20 years of helping companies find their voice:

Let Your Brand Point the Way

If you have a visual style and a marketing plan, you should have an idea of what your company’s brand stands for. Even a one-page or single-paragraph brand statement will include some clues for your content strategy. Recently, I met two business founders who had an outstanding elevator pitch: Farm Punk Salads sells locally grown salad veggies and bomb-diggity dressings. Let’s break that apart:

  • The use of punk in its name is instantly counter-cultural and speaks to a forthright, progressive, radicality.
  • The words locally grown demonstrate both a connection to and pride of place.
  • Using veggies instead of vegetables invokes a sense of care. Vegetables are boring, tasteless, and deserve to be thrown across the room by toddlers. Veggies, on the other hand, are fun, tasty, invigorating, and beloved.
  • And bomb-diggity. Gosh, I love this. So few brands are brave enough to cleave themselves to a term so unashamedly bold but for Farm Punk Salads, it makes perfect sense. Not only does it speak to the company’s commitment to freshness and quality, but it also reinforces its radical, audacious approach to business and marketing.

Coupled with a fierce logo and an innovative, unpolished visual style, the picture is complete: This is a company that is connected to place, deeply invested in its products, and radically passionate about its business. All its content should speak to one or more of these elements and its voice should reinforce these values.

What does your brand say about your company? How well does your website reflect that? Does your blog content follow suit? What about your social media accounts? Once you start to form a strong idea of your content voice, it becomes apparent where your company is off course.

Put Your Audience First

Many small businesses and nonprofits start producing content before they develop a strategy. Their website allows for a blog, so they put up a post about their rebrand, their upcoming event, or their new staff member. Maybe there’s a place for this content … but maybe not. You don’t know until you put yourself in the shoes of your audience and determine how your offer can help make their lives better. Here’s how I do it.

  1. Start at the end. I presume you already have customers or clients, or at least people interested in your offer. Use the data you have – or ask – why they chose your offer over the competition. This should give you clues to what your customers have in common and what motivates them. This can include demographic information like location, age, and sex but is also likely to include less tangible information like the communities they relate to and their values.
  2. Group your customers by motivation. This will help you identify the key reasons people want to engage with you. You should be able to find two or three key motivations that many of your customers have in common. These become your messaging pillars.
  3. Speak their language. Do some research to find their pain points and how they talk about them. How technical are they? How do they describe the problems they encounter? What words do they use? Are their distinct groups within your core customer groups that speak about the issue differently? Once you know who you’re talking to, you can understand your customers’ motivations, use words they would use, and build audience-appropriate content that engages and converts.

If Your Blog Was a Car…

In nearly every branding discussion I’ve ever been in, the “if your company was a car, what car would it be” question has solicited deep sighs and rolled eyes. But hear me out because it works.

When marketing experts ask this question, we’re relying on shortcuts that help the stakeholders solidify brand ideas. Car brands are a great tool because they’re almost always connected to a monocultural understanding of market position, values, and style. When I say Volkswagon bug, you have an idea of what it means: Reliable, clunky, geeky but hard to take seriously. Maybe it’s a good car for an ice cream brand but I’d be concerned if my dentist said it represented them. That’s the power of the car question: If you can picture what your company is not, it often helps you find what your company is.

So tell me: Is your enterprise a sports car or a station wagon? Imagine yourself driving that car when you’re developing content and it will help you stay on the road to success.

Need more help? Get in touch and we’ll make your content voice sing.

Photo by Josh Rocklage on Unsplash