Finding the right tone and voice for a blog is the White Whale for many of our clients: elusive yet ever important in reaching a goal.
If the style isn’t quite right at the first go, disappointment is a typical reaction, but there’s a reason Ahab became so obsessed by his conquest – it’s a slippery beast.
But enough of me pretending I read Moby-Dick, here’s what I do know: It can take time for a writer to nail your desired voice, but once he or she does, it’s clear the effort was well worth it.
Find the right talent
Part of my job as an editor is to know my writers’ natural strengths and tendencies. When a new client is designated to my desk and I’m assigning a writer, I need to take into account the:
- Brand image
It’s also important for me to recognize when a writer needs to change his or her approach, when a client needs to define its voice more clearly and when a writer just isn’t a good fit.
Here’s a case study:
RapidAdvance started as a client October 2013 on our Finance desk. It quickly became clear that to build the right voice for the brand, they needed a writer who had not just knowledge of financial services for small businesses, but one who could reference pop culture in a seamless, witty manner to appeal to younger entrepreneurs. My desk happens to have a cache of writers who can do just that, so the client transferred to us.
“It was really just a matter of figuring that out. It’s difficult to describe what your brand voice should be. It’s an evolving process. I didn’t expect the first writer to be perfect for us.”
“What I tell all of my clients is that humor is one of the most important marketing tactics, and you have to be very strategic about how you use humor,” said Sean Makulowich, social media consultant for RapidAdvance, and CEO/Founder of IdeaFire Consulting.
Makulowich found his perfect voice in writer Kate Tully, noting her fluency in pop culture, activeness in social media and research abilities as reasons why she’s able to connect with RapidAdvance’s audience. While the journey to finding his White Whale was not without obstacles, Makulowich was realistic about the efforts required to strike the right chord.
“[Our strategists and editors] really appreciated that we were candid and up-front with our feedback, and wanted to find the perfect writer for us, but it was really just a matter of figuring that out. It’s difficult to describe what your brand voice should be,” Makulowich said. “It’s an evolving process. I didn’t expect the first writer to be perfect for us.”
Communicate your voice
The importance of being able to clearly describe the voice you want for your blog cannot be overstated, particularly if what you’re looking for is very specific. Many businesses that are still in the nascent stages of developing a marketing strategy – or even a clear identity – struggle with this, but our teams can help you figure this out.
Who is your audience?
Not just their age, income and location, but what types of media do they consume, what other brands are they buying, what’s their social network of choice, how much time and effort are they going to be investing in your service?
When a client is starting a service with us, they’re asked to fill out a questionnaire that asks about everything from goals and metrics to style and audience.
This document is sometimes the editor and writer’s first glance at a company, and can be an insightful, comprehensive guide for us in developing an editorial strategy that meets their needs and builds their brand. It can also be an indication that we’re going to need to help them define their voice and style.
Here are some of the questions we might ask a client who is just beginning to wade in the waters of content marketing:
- Who is your audience? Not just their age, income and location, but what types of media do they consume, what other brands are they buying, what’s their social network of choice, how much time and effort are they going to be investing in your service? The questions go on – but you get the idea.
- What is the purpose of your content? Are you looking to gain a following, establish your expertise, answer questions, increase sales, get conversions? This will dictate the tone of your content, as well as your site’s integration.
- When someone calls your customer service number, what kind of person will they be talking to and is that indicative of your company’s culture? Makulowich said this can be a good way for a business to define its voice, as the tone of the person on the receiving end of an inquiry is typically something that’s been carefully cultivated for a reason.
Experimentation is key to developing a great marketing strategy, so whether you’re working with an agency or doing it in-house, be prepared to put in a little time. Remember that all writers have their own natural style of prose, and while they should be able to adapt, they’re going to need some guidance in order to capture that slippery beast known as brand voice and keep your blog afloat.
Check out this related post for more tips about developing the right voice for your brand: