Create an authentic voice that connects consumers to the ethos your organization is built on.
When you hear "brand voice," what images come to mind? If you think of your favorite products, services, experiences, how does their brand associate with your happiness in using those products or services? Are you able to put your finger on how those companies communicate to you? Is it a feeling of belonging to that tribe? Do they tap into your core values as a person?
These are all questions brands take into consideration when defining who they are as a firm, what their products represent to their customers, and how to communicate that value to cut through the noise. In this article, I will show you how to create a brand voice in a few simple steps, including actionable ways to effectively communicate that message to your target customers to drive engagement.
First and foremost, if you want customers to connect with your brand, then you need to understand who you are as an organization before you can connect with customers beyond a transactional level.
Step 1: Define your vision, mission and core values.
Vision: This is a statement that defines the ideal future state of the organization.
Mission: Provides a short explanation of why the organization exists and its intentions.
Values: These are the core principles that guide the organization and its culture.
An organization can not effectively communicate its brand if it has not defined who it is. These ingredients sit at the core of developing a brand as well as a company culture, which is also an internal representation of the organization's brand.
First, let's look to define the vision or ideal future state or mental image of the company. Think aspirationally; this can be used to inspire employees, attract employees as well as customers who share this vision.
Can you answer these questions about your organization?
- What are the problems we are seeking to solve?
- In 10-15 years from now, what does this organization look like?
Example: "To become the world's most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline." - Southwest Air
How can you adopt this framework for your business?
Next, we jump into the mission of the organization – the purpose or what the organization intends to do. The mission statement helps guide employees and supports the overarching goal of the vision.
Can you answer these questions for your organization?
- Why does this organization exist today?
- Why does it do what it does?
Example: "Southwest is dedicated to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and company spirit.
Finally, we jump into values, an organization's core values become the moral compass of the organization, they can use as the barometer in which to hire, fire, engage in partnerships by as well as build a passionate customer base.
Ask these questions of your organization:
- What values should guide employee conduct for the organization?
- What values best represent the intentions and ethos the company upholds?
- What values are shared as core traits among your top employees that resonate with customers?
Some firms may have several values some may have a few but the organizations that create impact, derive a thriving culture and attract passionate customers make their Values actionable and not just a plaque that hangs on a wall.
Live the Southwest Way
Work the Southwest Way
Safety and reliability
Friendly customer service
Creating the organization's vision, mission, and values should be an inclusive exercise and not just for the C-suite. There should be stakeholders involved across all aspects of the company from front line employees dealing with customers to managers and executives. Every group brings a unique lens to company culture as well as customer engagement. If this is your first go-round or if you are starting a new business, try keeping it simple and start with a few core values that are actionable and not a list of 20 that become impossible to live by daily.
Step 2: Craft the brand voice.
Once you have your company identity firmly intact, it is now time to being crafting your brand voice or the personality of your company. The brand voice will be an outward projection of the organization's vision, mission and values, and will comprise of many communication techniques. That is why getting the foundation in place allows your organization a reference point, a strategic personality roadmap if you will, that guides how you communicate, why you communicate and to whom you are communicating with. This then translates into where you communicate with your customers, or stakeholders, and the tone in which you communicate with.
Think about the instances where there is the highest frequency of customer interaction with your organization, it could be via social media, over the phone or in-person, every organization differs. These high-frequency interactions are excellent places first to gain a deeper understanding of why they buy your products or services, a place to understand the core value of the customer, and what your product helps them achieve.
A simple tool organizations use to help craft their brand voice is a brand voice template. This template can serve a tool for your content creators, your marketing department as well as anyone who is directly dealing with customers to articulate the voice of the organization. On the left side, we start with the voice characteristic (which can be derived from your core values), next you can describe that trait, so it is fleshed out a bit. After that, you can use an example of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable per company standards and policy. This message formation roadmap allows individuals to insert the brand voice into their daily actions, whether a customer service representative over the phone, a salesperson in the field or an advertising campaign being conducted by marketing. The common message framework and examples bring brand consistency, clarity, and allow customers to adopt and engage.
Step 3: Look beyond profits.
In today's business, climate companies are tapping into consumers' core values with their messaging and actions; the conscious consumerism trend has become a reality for many brands, and for those that do not find their authentic voice, they will fall by the wayside. Companies are seeing market trends for responsible brands gaining deep traction in verticals where customers are not shopping on price but lifestyle, shared ethos, and story.
Consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that support their identity, like organic fair trade coffee producers or products made from recycled plastics or mobile banking, to help the world's most vulnerable. These products and services are all derived from firms that align internal Mission with stakeholder interest as well as social or environmental interests.
In the U.S., there has been an uptick in the number of benefit corporations or B corporations. B corps are a legal formation for long term value creation and mission alignment. The legal framework of governing the organization protects the vision, mission, and core values through capital raises, partnership endeavors, and liquidity options. Your organization does not have to become a B corp or nonprofit to be socially responsible; there are plenty of ways to run a double or triple bottom line business that not only provides returns to shareholders but returns to all stakeholders, like employees self-worth, customer wellbeing, community involvement or the planet. We have entered the era of stakeholder capitalism, and the old guard of profits at any cost is over, how can you tailor your brand voice to be authentic, align with your mission and support your community?