How to Create Brand Voice Guidelines for Your Brand

How to Create Brand Voice Guidelines for Your Brand

by | Oct 18, 2021 | Content Marketing

Does your brand have a unique voice, one that demands attention, that tells a story?

Does it appeal to your target audience and draw them in? Does it help build relationships with them?

Does your brand voice make your audience want to read more of your content? Does it make them more likely to follow you on social media? Does it build trust with consistency and personality?

If it doesn’t, you need to rethink your strategy (or create one A.S.A.P.). Because building and maintaining a solid brand voice should do ALL of those things.

Despite the advantages of having a specific brand voice, it’s surprising how many companies don’t take time to fully develop their own. 77% of brands have issues with off-brand content and struggle to maintain consistency in branding. They’re either skipping creating guidelines, or creating ineffective ones.

Maybe the brand itself needs some work, or, marketers simply don’t know how to develop their brand’s voice.

That’s why I’m here with today’s guide on how to create brand voice guidelines. I’ll expand on the benefits and share how some leading companies in unique industries have crafted individual brand voices customers recognize.

This set of knowledge is a must for any marketer. Ready? Let’s get into it.

How to Create Brand Voice Guidelines

7 Steps to Creating Brand Voice Guidelines

1.    Understand WHY Brand Voice Guidelines are So Valuable for Your Organization

2.    Analyze Your Content & Audience for Inspiration

3.    Start with a Concise Description (Then Flesh It Out)

4.    Build Examples, Outlines, & Templates

5.    Ensure Your Brand Voice Guidelines Translate Well to Content

6.    Refine & Refocus in Small Increments

7.    Add the Supplementary Touches

77% of brands have issues with off-brand content and struggle to maintain consistency in branding. Are you on the right track? Read this 7-step guide on building brand voice guidelines ✅ Click To Tweet

How to Create Brand Voice Guidelines in 7 Steps

Creating brand voice guidelines helps guide and align your company voice with your goals, so it all meshes seamlessly. That way, every time your brand voice is used in content, on social media, on your website, and in emails and communications with your customers, it provides a great experience AND nudges you in the right direction, growth-wise. Let’s break down the seven steps to get going.

1. Understand Why Creating Brand Voice Guidelines Is So Beneficial

You’re busy. You’ve got products to sell, subscribers to gain, and numerous other goals to meet. Why should you invest time in creating a brand voice? Because it can help you meet those goals.

The bottom line is you want growth. Growth in subscribers, growth in exposure, growth in sales. According to a report from Lucidpress, brand consistency can improve revenue growth by 23% on average.

Marketers were also asked about the percentage of growth attributable to brand consistency, with the results heavily skewed upwards.

Source: Lucidpress

Many of the qualities people want in their company can only come from a well-developed brand voice. If you want to really stand out, maintain a connection with your audience, and achieve reach across multiple channels, consistent brand voice guidelines are the answer. They can offer:

  • Differentiation: Your content differentiation factor is what sets you apart from the competition. This is what will make your brand memorable. Remember, your brand voice is about how you say things, not just what you say. I’ll cover more about how to develop this in sections two and three.
  • Recognizability: Being different isn’t the same as being recognizable, but the two go together. If customers find your brand memorable, they can recognize it quickly. They’ll know your catchphrase, your symbol, or even a single sentence that epitomizes your brand. However you get it across, your brand voice determines how you’re perceived and your memorability. Staying consistent with this presentation helps you stay fresh in the mind of your audience.
  • Reach: Once you’ve got a consistent brand voice, creating content actually becomes easier. Whether you’re doing it in-house or hiring specialists, your brand voice gives you a head start. You’ll automatically have an idea of what format, style, and outline to use whether you’re creating content for a blog, mailing list, app, social profile, or eBook. Your brand will be able to reach viewers no matter where they are or how they prefer to digest information.

Your brand voice guidelines help you build a better connection with your audience and serve as a way to streamline content creation.

When your ideal audience member falls in love with your brand voice. “YES!”

Instantly, your company becomes more efficient and your communication more impactful.

Why invest in creating your brand's tone of voice? According to a report from Lucidpress, brand consistency can improve revenue growth by 23% on average. Click To Tweet

Now that you know why you should build a brand voice, the next step is understanding how. Before you can set out a detailed set of guidelines, you need a good starting point.

2. Gather Content Samples & Audience Insights for Inspiration

To begin, gather samples of your content and see where you stand at the start. Does any of your content make you cringe? Or, do any of your pieces (or even individual parts of them) make you sit up straight and think “This is what I want the brand to be about”?

Also known as a content audit or content inventory, going over your existing content can help you understand where you’re going astray with brand voice, where you’re hitting the mark, and what you can do to ensure it stays consistent in all content going forward.

Audit your existing content with a checklist tailored to brand voice goals. Focus on the overarching message, headline, and supplementary media in each piece, especially. What picture are these facets painting about your brand? Is it the right picture?

Source: Content Marketing Institute

This checklist can be altered based on what data you have available. As you can see, a big part of getting insights about your brand and content also involves having insights on your audience.

You can obtain this in a number of ways. If you’re using platforms like Facebook or Google to post ads, you can use their built-in insights feature for analytics. You could also take the manual approach and send out surveys to see exactly what your audience is looking for and how they feel about your brand.

Don’t have access to any analytics platforms? Don’t have a mailing list to send out a survey to? If all else fails, you can always gain insights by analyzing your competitors. One tool I like using is Mangools.

Source: Mangools

By searching your main area of focus along with location and platform, you can see how your competitors are doing. You can also find out what keywords they’re ranking for, and get a better idea of how their brand voice is helping their goals.

By this point, you should be getting an idea built up about your brand and the voice you want it to have. An idea is all you need to get started building your full voice guidelines.

3. Start with a Concise Description (Then Flesh It Out)

If you look at a lot of brands, they’ll have pages upon pages about their brand voice. Like all great things of considerable size or volume, these were grown out of a simple starting point. Let’s use my own agency for reference.

As far as our tone of voice, it could be summed up in a few words – simple, direct, informative, and authoritative.  If you look at this excerpt from our brand book, you’ll see how each section is fleshed out a little more.

Source: Express Writers

Is your brand focused on being trendy, with your finger on the pulse of the latest and greatest in your industry? Then you could be called the modern, brave, trendy brand.

Are you a formal, intellectual thought leader who spearheads your chosen space with your approach to professionalism? You could be going for the professional, insightful, educator brand.

The two samples above could conceivably cover the same topic in some cases. The way they would do it would differ. Let’s say, for example, a breakthrough medical technology for cosmetics is developed, giving people the ability to look years younger for a fraction of the cost of modern procedures. How would each brand write this blog’s headline? It could look something like:

Brand #1: Turn Back the Clock & Look Years Younger with This Crazy Cool Breakthrough

Brand #2: New Cosmetic Technology Offers Low-Cost Options for Anti-Aging Treatment 

See the difference? I’ll cover more about how to develop your voice for content purposes later in this piece.

Once you learn how to articulate your brand guidelines in a couple of sentences, or even a few words, you’re on track.

What kind of a brand are you? Modern, brave, trendy? Or professional, insightful, educative? Know how you can stand out with your own voice by building your brand voice guidelines. Click To Tweet

4. Build Examples, Outlines, & Templates

When you’ve got an idea in mind for your brand voice, expanding on it gives you a great opportunity. That opportunity is to build guides and templates you can refer to for future content.

If you’re like a lot of brands, you’ll be creating lots of content. 22% of bloggers say they create at least one piece per week. 23% create a few pieces monthly, and 13% create 2-6 posts per week. Imagine having a ready-made template. That would speed things up immensely and help provide consistency.

How exactly can you expand your ideas to build these detailed guides? Let’s look at another successful brand – MailChimp. Like Express Writers, they have voice and tone guidelines for their content.

If I told you their brand voice was plainspoken, what would you think that meant? It could mean talking about a simple topic – or talking about a variety of topics with simple language.

What about humor? That could mean everything from making knock-knock jokes to adding a touch of sly sarcasm to catch your reader off-guard. Here’s a glimpse at how they define their tone goals.

Source: MailChimp

They go on to offer some specific writing tips. These include using active voice over passive, avoiding slang or jargon, and keeping a positive tone throughout.

They also have detailed instructions depending on the type of content they’re creating or having created. Whether it’s a blog, a technical article, or an email, their voice will be consistent. However, their style may be tailored slightly for the piece in question.

A brand like this one may be publishing handfuls of blogs per week or sending out hundreds of thousands of emails per day. Since they have the style guide set up ahead of time, they can ensure their content is streamlined while remaining consistent throughout.

So when you’re creating guidelines for your own brand voice, consider:

  • Tone: Make sure your style of speaking is understood by the writer ahead of time, so your content always sounds familiar in your readers’ heads.
  • Content Type: Remember there are different content types for a reason. A blog may not have the same audience or intent as a video or whitepaper, so create separate guidelines depending on the type of content you’re creating or having created.
  • Examples/Templates: If you want to ensure your tone is really understood, make examples. You can also create templates for things like text layout, visual goals, and more.

Why should you go through all this effort, especially if you don’t have the means to create a high volume of content yourself? Because you may have someone else do it for you, and you can help them help you.

5. Ensure Your Brand Voice Guidelines Translate Well to Content

When Express Writers interacts with new clients, it’s an exciting opportunity. It’s not just about helping them create great content – it’s also about helping them build trust with their audience and getting results.

When we ask a client about their brand tone of voice, some are less sure than others. It’s admittedly a big question if you haven’t taken a lot of time to develop yours.

When you outsource the creation of blogs, web pages, or even content strategy, you’ll get better results IF the creators know what voice you’re looking for.

When you have these guidelines in place before writing or ordering content, you’ll be able to get a better result. If you’re outsourcing content, you’ll make sure the writers can translate your brand properly in whatever piece you’re ordering.

Source: Salesforce

Your checklist for defining your brand doesn’t have to be verbatim to the graphic above, but these are some good things to consider when sending over your brand voice summary.

Good brand voice guidelines will ensure you are connecting with your audience in a way that resonates with them. It will also ensure you stick to the same voice when ordering multiple pieces of content, providing uniformity and consistency to your readers.

Don’t forget, there’s nothing that says your brand voice can’t change a little over time. Once you create a guide, the next step is tweaking your approaches where necessary for better results.

Good brand voice guidelines ensure you connect with your audience in a way that resonates with them. 💗 It ensures you stick to the same voice when ordering multiple pieces of content, providing uniformity and consistency to readers. Click To Tweet

6. Make Small Changes to Refine Your Brand Voice

Once you’ve got brand guidelines written out, you want all of your content to stick to them. However, you can always make changes where necessary.

Forbes has an excellent piece on how seven executives made one simple change to great results. Here are some of the more brand-focused inclusions:

  • Personalization over automation: Ann Handley of Marketing Profs began using her email newsletter as a way to connect personally to her audience. As you would imagine, this necessitated a specific tone of voice to make the desired connection.
  • Conversation-worthy content: Ed Breault of Aprimo talked about how his brand had shifted their content to conversational over product-centric. The goal was to give readers something to talk about, so a conversational tone took priority over promotional language.
  • Creating engaging environments: Shacher Orren of Playbuzz talked about how their brand put a greater focus on meaningful, two-way dialogues. It helped users feel more engaged and made the brand more user-focused.

Your changes could be even more minor than that, but just as impactful. Maybe you want your writing to sound a little less formal? Could your content benefit from a touch of humor here or there?

If sales are the priority, promotional language could take priority. If you want readers to opt into your mailing list, try being a bit more conversational and casual when speaking to them.

Your brand may evolve over time, and that’s a good thing – it means you’re being responsive to your industry, your goals, and most importantly, your audience.

Personalization, conversation-worthy content, and creating engaging environments are some of the tweaks you can add to your brand voice. Learn how to apply these in this 7-step guide to creating brand voice guidelines 📋 Click To Tweet

7. Incorporate Your Brand Tone of Voice into Other Areas

Your brand voice is how your content sounds to your reader. However, brand guidelines can also encompass other areas. Take a look at how thorough Skype is just with their logo.

Source: Skype

You’ll find their brand, along with many others, have guidelines for everything. The colors they use, their font choices – the list could go on and on.

While this isn’t necessarily connected to the tone of voice in the immediate sense, your choices about your tone could provide inspiration for these other areas as well.

For example, a formal tone would necessitate the use of similar font styles. If your brand is going for a flashy, trendy feel, you may experiment with creative color schemes to complement it.

Building your brand is a concentrated effort that requires collaboration from all sides. Your copywriting, logo design, web layouts, and social presence will all play a role.

Building your brand is a concentrated effort that requires collaboration from all sides. Your copywriting, logo design, web layouts, and social presence will all play a role. Click To Tweet

Give Your Company a Consistent Brand Voice That Gets Results

We know companies aren’t individuals, but a brand tone of voice could be thought of as the business equivalent of an individual’s personality.

Your brand voice guidelines provide you with a go-to guide for how your company should sound. When people read your copy, view your ads, and consider your pitches, how do you really sound in their head?

Do you appeal to them in a way they can relate to? Are you memorable? Do you connect with them in a way that other brands in the same industry don’t?

Your brand voice is represented in your language choices. It’s your writing style. It’s your way of saying the same thing someone else may say, but in a way that is unique to you.

It’s also your key to consistent content, better reach, and a more distinct connection with your audience. With a consistent brand voice, you improve more than your content – you improve your connection with your customers.