Photo credit: Matt Botsford on Unsplash

3 Elements of your brand voice

I don’t remember the day or the moment when it happened. But somewhere along the way, I lost my voice.

Maybe it happened in my marriage. Maybe it happened around the lunchroom table when the “boys” made it clear my opinion was unwelcome. Maybe it happened in classrooms where my curiosity and the ideas I was bursting to share earned me the title of know-it-all or brainiac. Maybe it was the cumulative effects of all of this.

Whenever it happened, I learned to stop speaking up. And that silence crept into every area of my life.

It’s not lost on me that I started a business where it was my job to help other women entrepreneurs define their voice at a time when I was still blissfully unaware of how little I used my own (I see whatcha did there Universe, well played).

Nevertheless, Heartlines has evolved over the years to be all about finding what you most want to say (your biggest, boldest message) and being brave enough to say it.

It was through working with amazing women (who definitely had something to say) that I got to practice taking a stand and found friends who modelled the bravery I needed to know existed.

There is a life-altering shift that can happen when we have the courage to say what really matters. I know it first hand.

It can mean a massive shift for your business too.

I use these 3 elements to create a brand voice for my clients…

personality
values
positioning

Personality

I use brand archetypes to create a “personality” that feels human and genuine. But even if you don’t know a SINGLE thing about brand archetypes you can still add more “personality” to your writing with…

  1. Humour, we all love to laugh.
  2. Write like a human. That means ditch the jargon. Add contractions. Write conversationally.
  3. Tried and true literary devices like the rule of 3, alliteration, and full-circle endings.
  4. Tell a story. Because storytelling is the fastest way to connect and helps us care about what you’re saying.

Values

Shared values are a powerful motivating factor for choosing who we want to work with.

Once you’ve figured out your core brand values (I recommend 3–5) don’t forget to dissect what they MEAN for you and your clients.

It’s not enough to sprinkle words like honesty or accountability throughout your website.

Brainstorm the stories you can share (in your copy, emails, blogs, and social media) that SHOW how you live out these values (or how your clients do).

The old “show don’t tell” adage is all about stepping down from the pulpit (or soapbox) and picking the right stories to share.

Positioning

Positioning is how your clients see your brand, personify your brand, and feel about your brand compared to others in your industry.

Positioning happens at the macro level — this is where I stand in my industry.
(Innovator vs tried and true? Disruptor vs work within the system? Expensive vs priced for beginners?)

Positioning also happens at the level of word choice — it’s HOW you say it.

We can influence the perception of our brand…

  • By choosing words that match our values, personality and are original and memorable.
  • By learning to be okay with turning people off (a work-in-progress for most women).
  • By taking a stand.
  • And by understanding that the people who are turned on by your message are the only ones worth marketing to.

Deciding where you stand is step 1. Step 2 is figuring out how to frame it so it respects your values, is meaningful to the client and sounds fresh.

Here’s a tip for positioning your words I call “Brain Candy”.

Our brains love things that are familiar (hit of pleasure in the form of dopamine) and fresh (hit of novelty and increased attention in the form of cortisol) because it challenges our expectations.

Think of the twist ending you didn’t see coming. Or your favourite cover song. This is why we love cover songs and remakes.

You can do this with words too.

So “look me in the eye” becomes “look me in the heart” (thanks Teagan and Sarah)

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” becomes “if it ain’t broke, make it better anyway.”

“Don’t let life pass you by” + “2 heads are better than one” becomes “don’t let collaboration pass you by — 2 heads are better than the criticism of your inner bitch.”

Familiar + fresh.

Defining your voice on paper might seem easy (archetypes+values+positioning) but using those elements to tell the stories that matter most to you and your clients? That takes practice, experimentation and courage.

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