Verbal Branding: Voice

Voice: Part 1 of a 3 part series on voice, tone, and mood in branding

Part of developing a client’s verbal brand is figuring out the voice, tone, and mood they should use when writing. But what exactly are voice, tone, and mood? In this post, we’ll look at the notion of voice.

Have you ever noticed that you can tell who wrote something just by looking at the words they choose to put on a page? Mom doesn’t write like dad does, and a letter from grandma doesn’t sound like your pre-teen nephew’s texts.

Voice is an author’s written personality. One voice can take many different tones: the same voice can express exuberance at one moment and fume in frustration at another. Still, even in different situations, our attitude towards the world tends to remain pretty stable.

Voice is kind of like verbal handwriting. Scholars even rely on aspects of voice to determine the authorship of disputed ancient texts. We tend to re-use the same phrases and vocabulary and to repeat the same patterns over time, creating a trail of words for future archaeologists to follow.

Here are some questions to ask about voice and your verbal brand:

  • Does your brand have a distinct voice? Your message can get blurred and drowned out if you sound like everyone else who does the same thing.
  • Does your brand have an authentic voice?  Small businesses sometimes try too hard, and begin to resemble the recent college graduate striving to sound “professional”, or the aging ex-hippie who wants to sound “cool”. Your voice should come naturally and match who you really are.
  • Does your brand’s voice set the right expectations? People rely on subtle hints in your voice to figure out if the attitude they should expect when they walk through your doors is more idealistic or more down-to-earth, more interested in efficiency or more interested in forming relationships. If there’s a mismatch, their experience will be jarring.
  • Does your brand have a unified voice, or does it suffer from a kind of verbal schizophrenia? Does your website sound like it was written by a completely different person as the e-mail blast you just sent to your mailing list? Does whether you’re Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde depend on which person in your organization happens to have time that day?

Verbal branding can give you guidelines to follow to help you find your voice.

Read Parts Two and Three of this series on verbal branding.

Photo compliments of Nic McPhee