How leaders can talk to their writers (about their writing)

verbal identity builds your brand in exactly the same ways as a visual identity.
That’s why growing brands use a tone of voice style guide.

But with so many brand channels dependent on language, when the brand voice isn’t sharp enough, it’s not just the copywriting that suffers:

  • customers become confused
  • you spend more to engage them
  • you’re not seen as unique
  • your brand isn’t responsive.
Unfortunately, if the writing isn’t right, it’s hard to say exactly why and some people send their writers away with a long list of minor points.
Strangely, the copywriting doesn’t get any better…
But this doesn’t mean it’s time to throw out the style guide you created for your brand voice.
Instead, focus your writers on which of the brand voice’s 3 levels needs attention:
the 3 levels of every brand tone of voice

How do you spot what’s wrong with your brand’s copywriting?

If you feel your brand writing is being ignored, then it’s probably an issue to be fixed at 10,000 ft. Define what you stand for. What world are you trying to create? Importantly, what do you stand against? You can read more about that in this article about brand tone of voice from the UK Marketing Society.

If you feel your brand writing or contact centre conversations “just aren’t us”, then it’s time to clarify the 1,000ft level, your brand voice’s values.

If you’re spending even one minute in meetings talking about the words and phrases your brand does and doesn’t use, or it’s another conversation about grammar, then a little bit of time spent looking at the Ground Level Details will pay off.

Writers are sometimes portrayed as a sensitive bunch. “Herding cats” etc.
But I’ve never met a writer who doesn’t want their manager to give clear, top-level feedback and leave them alone to get the details right..
(By the way, I run a very successful Managing Writers’ course. Email me for more details.)

If you want to improve your brand voice, you can DIY easily:

  • Don’t audit your sector. Avoid getting caught up in ‘the rules’ of your sector, look at ‘best-in-world’ brand voices.
  • Identify Quick Wins. Use an Impact x Effort Matrix to avoid burning time, budgets and professional capital.
  • Create buy-in from the start. Run workshops that involve all the stakeholders (including your agencies)
  • Properly define all 3 levels of your brand voice. Make sure your brand voice definition is something more than ‘human, friendly, warm and approachable.’ It’s not the 90’s anymore.
  • Launching guidelines is Day 1, not ‘job done’. Unless you can find an 8th day in your week, get some help creating regular, inspiring ‘trickles’ of guidance for your writers over the next 3 months.
If you’d like to engage more customers, win greater loyalty, throw your competitors off balance and generally make your brand stand out, then there’s now tons of proof that good writing is good for business.

Is it time to update your tone of voice style guide?

My book “Strong Language” comes out in September. It’s all about how you can completely define your brand voice and everything you need to put into your tone of voice style guide.
But if things are moving fast for your brand you can’t wait until then, you can email me.
Speak soon,
Chris West tone of voice guru

About Verbal Identity

We are writers, strategists and linguistics experts: super-specialists in the magic and mechanics of language. We know how language creates thinking. And how – if you shape the language of your company, your comms and your customers – you shape what people think and do, read more…

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