This is the second in a four-part series on brand voice in the written word, audio, video and design.
In our first series edition, we focused on voice in the literary, written sense. Now we get literal, exploring the physical voice.
Building a consistent brand voice in your written content is just one part of positioning. Broaden and humanize your brand identity by promoting the physical voices of the people who make up a company.
Your team members’ speaking voices, with all the individual quirks, help foster a special connection with the listener and make messaging more impactful.
Leaders use their voices to personify company missions and values. The rest of the team members use their voices to exhibit company culture.
Be consistent, be yourself
Unlike the written word, there’s no literary veil to hide behind when you’re talking directly to the audience. They are listening to you, a real person, with all your attributes and flaws. And that’s OK.
Company leaders set the company’s mission, goals and ethical standards. That puts them in a good position to establish brand voice, especially for smaller companies. Think of Ralph Korte from our first edition of the series. His personality still permeates the company’s content. While he’s no longer leading the company, his voice remains a consistent thread for the audience to grasp.
“[Brand voice] is the filter, the point of view, the tone with which companies communicate their ideas,” said Grace Wright, a G76 strategist. “And I think voice is really important, because the same idea communicated differently might not resonate with a particular audience.”
Example: Gorilla Joe
Gorilla 76’s co-founder Joe Sullivan has represented the agency as a thought leader in many forms, most prominently as the host of “The Manufacturing Executive” podcast.
He’s interviewed manufacturing CEOs and marketing experts as well as spoken as a marketing expert in his own right. He served as a moderator and subject matter expert on Clubhouse and created dozens of audio and video pieces for the agency’s YouTube channel.
Joe and fellow co-founder Jon Franko knew a marketing agency for small- and mid-size manufacturers needed a relatable, conversational voice in its content.
Whether on a podcast or sales meeting, Joe speaks as if he were having a conversation with a friend over lunch.
Being conversational is key to humanizing the brand. “People want to work with real people that they like and they feel comfortable with, so just bringing that into a natural conversation, I think, has a huge benefit,” Joe said.
Tips for the boss
Joe has a couple of tips for company owners when they’re thinking about how to better present themselves to the public, whether it’s in a podcast or in-person conversation.
Speak naturally, but toward your target audience. A private equity firm will sound different than someone selling spiked lemonade, but balance is key. We’re all human, and even the most serious CEOs would rather work with someone they like.
“Think about what it would be like if you were sitting in a room with a customer,” Joe said. “What would that conversation be like?”
Maintaining a consistent tone in content like the podcast and G76 newsletters builds a stronger overall connection with regular audience members and gives them a better sense of what it will be like to work with the team. With those impressions in place, you’ll be top of mind when people are ready to buy.
In the past couple of years, potential clients have approached Joe feeling like they already knew him, because they’ve heard him work through relevant issues with his podcasts guests and understand how his personality and ideas will impact their business relationship.
“It’s like the beginning of the sales process was over before I’ve even met them,” Joe said. “They’ve told me, ‘I’ve been reading your newsletter for two years, and we know that you’re the company that we need to work with, and the time’s right now, so let’s talk.’ And they’re not even vetting anybody else, so that’s huge.”
Spread across mediums and platforms
Joe cross-pollinates content from the podcast on LinkedIn and other platforms, where he can expand upon his initial ideas and build stronger connections with a wider audience.
“There’s a difference between reading words on a page and hearing someone’s voice, and even better, seeing their face and hearing their voice, which is why I always record video for all of my podcasts episodes.”
Joe gets content ideas from real-life conversations with clients. A beneficial discussion can be the inspiration for a blog or podcast. He also analyzes the blog posts that resonate on social media to generate content on other platforms.
Great voices share audiences
Bringing other expert voices onto the podcast offers Joe credibility with new people.
Two subject-matter experts with shared interests can easily share their audiences as well. For example, The Manufacturing Executive got a huge boost from the content marketing extraordinaire, Mike Weinberg.
“He’s sharing these little clips from the podcast and just getting 10x the exposure than I would,” Joe said. “He’s tagging other best-selling authors on there, and they’re sharing it, so it’s a crazy snowball effect of visibility and credibility when you position yourself beside someone who truly is a thought leader.”
Along with sharing their perspective, ownership should highlight the thoughts and talents of their team members. They are very much a part of how the client benefits from the company’s services.
Trust your team
Set your company apart with something already in house: the thought leadership of expert team members. You hired them for a reason. Let your audience know.
“At a company like ours, we’ve got a variety of different marketing-related skill sets, deep areas of expertise, and frankly, any given person is better at their particular craft than I would be,” Joe said.
But how can companies know team members will effectively represent the company without a pre-approved script?
Hire people that fit the company’s values, mission and practices.
Don’t seek uniformity, because that will limit your company’s creative abilities. Find people who fit your values and mission, while providing the array of perspectives and ideas that your company needs to succeed. When their voices naturally align with that of the brand, a company can build a harmonic chorus rather than sing solo.
“When you bring all of those people together, they truly speak to who a company is,” said Sultana Mangel, our client success director and fellow guest on “The Manufacturing Executive.”
Tips for the team
Business owners shape their company’s voice. Employees use their own voices to build harmony.
So how do team members create consonance without losing their individuality?
Embody your values and strengths
Maintain the client’s/audience’s confidence in company values and capabilities, but not at the expense of your personality. Nobody interfaces with the hive mind, they interact with individuals.
Toby Wall is Gorilla 76’s content director and a prior guest on “The Manufacturing Executive”. He said there are four pillars of marketing success: demonstrated expertise, thought leadership, proof of work and establishing a personal connection with the audience.
“If you can do all of those things together, you are going to win,” Toby said.
Many manufacturing companies leave personality out of the equation, to their detriment. Industrial manufacturers often take a by-the-numbers approach. But target audiences like engineers are more than bipedal calculators, and you should be, too.
“We may think there is no room for emotion, there’s no room for empathy, there’s no room for building rapport in the way that only [being] yourself can do, and so, in my mind, we should not take that part away,” Toby said. “Clients benefit from that and appreciate knowing not only are these people competent … but gosh darn it, they’re nice people. Some people may think it should take a back seat, but that nice people part is critical, and the best way to have that come across is when we are ourselves.”
That doesn’t let employees completely off the hook. They’ve still got to be mindful about how their words and actions impact perceptions of the company.
Everyone’s a role player
Employees should focus on filtering, not copying, the company voice that already resonates with the audience.
“There has to be a match there, especially for a professional services company, or it just doesn’t work,” Grace said.
As a client success director, Sultana wants to highlight her positive attributes as company assets. For instance, she wants her empathy and patience to shine through.
“One really important part of my personality that I hope comes across when I’m speaking with clients or even team members is my ability to put people at ease [even when things don’t go according to plan],” she said.
While individuality is an asset, it shouldn’t hinder consistent messaging.
Simple best practices
While we just spent a lot of time talking about the unique benefits of the individual voice, there are some simple best practices that will make anyone’s voice more effective.
Pacing does much of the same work as the rhythm of writing from our first installment. It can be even more important in this case, because you only have one chance to be understood.
Inexperienced people tend to talk too fast, but be careful not to overcompensate and speak unnaturally slowly. It helps to think about maintaining a regular breathing rhythm, just make sure you’re not breathing into the microphone too hard if that’s a part of the equation.
The audience will lose trust in what you’re saying if they can’t trust your volume.
Your volume should indicate how important or exciting what you’re saying is. When you’re loud, what you are talking about should be exciting on its own merits. When you whisper, it indicates something secretive and suspenseful, so don’t disappoint.
The way you say something means just as much as what you say.
Professional voice actors are masters of fabricated inflection, but leave that to the professionals. For our purposes, be honest while measured.
Unnatural or repetitive inflection can undermine everything you want your voice to accomplish. On the flip side, a mundane, emotionless voice never draws attention and deprives the audience of the emotional context that can make the spoken word more powerful than the written.
At the end of the day, just remember that your first priority is to have a healthy conversation, so speak naturally and you’ll cover most of the bases.
Voice is everything, literally
Creating and implementing brand voice in your content is only a part of the positioning process. It continues every time a representative speaks to your audience on behalf of the company, whether while working with a client or hosting a live webinar.
Enhance your brand connection by allowing your audience to hear from the leaders and team members who do the work that makes a company valuable. Get the word-of-mouth process started straight from the source. Put yourself in front of the audience with a podcast, social media videos and/or other ways to allow your audience to hear what you have to say.
And if you need some help, Gorilla 76 can help get you started with consultation services and more to fight the right messaging platform for your operation and audience.
Your audience builds their perception of your brand character based on your website design and video production. Stay on the lookout for our third and fourth installments of the voice series, which will highlight video tips from Nick Tacony and design from Randall Zaitz, respectively.