I want you to picture Thanksgiving dinner with your family this year. (Don’t worry, I won’t make you picture it long.)
Imagine your crazy uncle sitting there, spouting off inappropriate and cliched soundbites about our world, making everyone squirm in their seats. Then picture your other uncle, the one who often serves as the voice of reason, sitting there patiently.
When crazy uncle finally censors himself and goes for another spoonful of yams, normal uncle finally speaks up. And instead of saying what everyone else is thinking, he looks at crazy uncle and says, “I couldn’t agree more. That’s what I’ve been saying for years.”
Talk about uncomfortable. All this time you thought you had a normal uncle, but now you wonder if he’s just as crazy as the other uncle. You see, you didn’t recognize your normal uncle’s voice. You thought you knew what he was about, and then he spoke in a way that completely confused you.
Brands can be guilty of this. If your messaging doesn’t display a consistent voice, tone, and level of professionalism, you’ll alienate your audience and miss out on the wonderful things good content has to offer.
Of course, no matter how solid your voice, tone and professionalism come through in your content, not every piece of content you publish will be a raging success. Your messaging will also change over time with your business and understanding of your customer.
But, is it at least possible to produce clear, consistent content that always represents your business like it should? The answer is yes.
And the best way to do this is to ensure you nail your voice, tone and professionalism. Let’s take a look at why each of these matter and what you can do to improve them today.
What does your brand sound like? Finding your voice involves understanding your audience and determining how you want them to perceive your brand.
If you sell hot pink, super-speedy jet skis, you better not sound stuffy. If you sell surgical tools to hospitals, you’d be wise to not use a ton of excitable verbiage.
If your voice isn’t appropriate, you won’t be trusted. If it isn’t consistent, people will be confused. And if it isn’t relatable, no one will listen.
What You Can Do:
Determine your voice characteristics. Try this exercise: Write down 5-10 words that describe how you want to sound in your communications. Poll employees as well and gather a list of their words.
Then, place all of the words on a board and circle 3-5 that best describe your voice. If you sell zombie bumper stickers, you might go for dark, edgy and sarcastic. If you sell bubble gum to teenagers, you might choose fun, cute, and—well—bubbly.
As you create content, make sure your voice matches the characteristics you’ve chosen, and you’ll develop a consistent voice that resonates with your audience.
Your tone is the mood of your voice. In your communications with customers, your voice must adapt to the situation.
If you’re promoting something, do you sound excited, or just ho-hum-business-as-usual? If you made a mistake, are you contrite and sympathetic? Your audience expects your communications to sound like they’re coming from a person who has emotions and knows you do, too.
If your tone is off, your audience will be confused or frustrated. If your tone is on point, your audience will feel understood and trust that you care about their experience.
What You Can Do:
Humanize your error messages. Review your site or app’s error messages and see if your tone is appropriate. Though necessary, error messages cause friction and momentarily annoy the user. A message in the right tone can placate them and encourage them toward success.
Use words like “please” and “unfortunately.” Be passive instead of accusatory. Instead of saying “you entered the wrong code,” say “please enter a valid code.” Sure up the way your users experience errors and they’ll have a more fond perception of your brand.
Professionals look, sound and act like experts. Your audience must trust that you know what you’re doing to do business with you. If your content isn’t sharp, if it lacks solid grammar, if it is mistake-and-typo ridden, then you will come off as unprofessional.
Have you ever started to read a blog post and noticed multiple errors in the first few paragraphs? At best, you don’t want to read it anymore, and at worst you perceive that the company either isn’t competent or doesn’t care about their work. Both bad.
What You Can Do:
Establish an editorial process. Consistent editing can ensure that your content doesn’t go out until it is completely sharp and ready for a customer to see.
First, determine who should review content before it’s published. Are you writing content yourself? If you’re not a grammar wizard, is there someone on your team who is? Be sure that person is included in the review process.
Then, evaluate how long it takes to review certain types of content (e.g., blog posts vs. newsletters), and allow for appropriate editing time. When content is rushed, it gets delivered with errors.
Wrapping It Up
By solidifying your voice, tone and professionalism, your audience will be able to consistently recognize and identify with the content you deliver. You can start to find your content groove by employing the voice, tone, and professionalism exercises with your team. After a time of producing consistently on-brand content, you’ll establish a relationship of trust with your audience who won’t give a second thought of whether to do business with you.
If I can help you with any of your content needs, please let me know.