How to Define Your Brand Voice for Better Content Marketing

A Content Chat header image featuring an array of flowers behind a text overlay that says today’s topic is defining your brand voice with host Erika Heald.

As content teams have started incorporating AI into their workflows and strategies, however, many are missing a critical foundational element they need: A documented brand voice.

Without a distinct brand voice, your generative AI outputs—or human-created content, for that matter—will lack consistency and likely miss the mark on your brand identity. This also means AI will give you the same content it’s giving every other marketer in your industry… and helping none of you stand out because of it.

Let’s get your house in order and define your brand voice for better content marketing. 

5 Steps to Define and Activate Your Brand Voice for Content Marketing

Whether you’re using AI or humans, everybody needs to keep your differentiated brand voice top-of-mind (or motherboard) when creating your content. This voice will complement your other content branding elements to help you differentiate yourself and connect with your target communities.

I follow a tested five-step process to help my clients define their brand voice, as I’ve previously shared in my articles on the Content Marketing Institute site and at CMworld. 

Step 1: Gather Exemplary Content Samples

Start by taking a look at all the different kinds of content you create and identify your on-voice examples.

Review everything across your channels including video content, blog posts, social content, ebooks, and more. Which have done the best job of meeting your business objectives, driving brand awareness, or meeting your content marketing goals? 

Curate a small sample set of pieces that even if they didn’t have your name or logo on it, your brand fans would know it came from you. 

By gathering a representative sample of your brand’s content and identifying the pieces that truly capture your unique voice, you can establish a solid foundation for defining and maintaining a consistent brand voice across your content. 

Of course, you’ll likely find content that you would update because it doesn’t sound like your brand. Save those resources so you can revisit them after you define your brand voice. 

Step 2: Choose Three Words to Describe Your Brand Voice

Thinking about the samples you identified as being the content that really sounds like you, ask yourself:

  • What are the characteristics they all have in common?
  • What do they do differently than your competitors’ content?
  • What makes each piece of content undeniably yours?

The goal is to start describing your brand’s personality with umbrella terms. I know this can be challenging, so I often start by asking clients: If you think about your brand as a celebrity or fictional character, who would they be? 

Using your content or chosen model, choose three adjectives to describe your brand voice. 

Step 3: Draft a Brand Voice Chart

A sample brand voice chart. The chart has the following columns: Brand voice attribute, attribute definition, do's, and don'ts.Expert is named as a brand voice attribute. The attribute definition is "demonstrates and communicates content marketing industry knowledge and professionalism." Do's are to use industry terminologies, back up statements with facts or experiences, cite your sources, and share practical advice base on experience. Don'ts are to make unfounded claims, use unnecessary jargon, include acronyms without first defining them, and referencing old third-party sources.
An excerpt from the Erika Heald Marketing Consulting brand voice chart.

Here comes the fun part. With your three brand adjectives defined, you now need to turn them into a brand voice chart to help the people or robots who create content for you.

This is an opportunity to take a step back and think about your brand voice from a content creation perspective. What do these brand adjectives mean? How will they display themselves in your content? 

Create a brand voice chart that lists your brand adjectives and the do’s and don’ts associated with each voice attribute. This will give people both an example of how to put the brand voice trait into action, as well as guidance on what not to do or things that would be in conflict with your brand voice traits. 

If you chose irreverence as a brand adjective, for example, it could mean being a little snarky. It could also mean sharing unexpected examples or standing out in surprising ways. Think through at a granular level what this means for how your content voice will sound and how that means you approach your content creation. 

Step 4: Circulate Your Brand Voice Chart

Creating your brand voice chart was just the midway point. Now, you need to share the chart with content creators throughout your organization. This isn’t people in just marketing—it’s for sales reps, developers creating documentation, customer experience pros, and anyone who is interacting with customers or creating content on behalf of your brand.

Ask if your chart makes sense. See if they need clarification. Also, give them examples of content that demonstrates all or some of your brand voice attributes or elements. Invite people to give you feedback, ask questions, and suggest ways you can further refine or clarify your brand voice chart.

After you conduct an initial update based on the feedback you receive, ensure your brand voice chart is easily accessible for all creators:

  • Put it up on your company intranet
  • Add it to your content style guide
  • Embed it to your content submission template
  • Feed it into your AI content creation tool

Do whatever you can to ensure that this brand voice chart is front and center for everybody who creates content in your organization. 

Step 5: Revise and Refine

A month after sharing your brand voice chart, start monitoring your content metrics to see if you’re improving in the areas you were hoping to. Revisit your brand messaging and update your brand voice chart as needed based on your metrics. 

A key part of this process is auditing your competitor’s messaging to determine whether you need to recalibrate your brand voice based on changes they’ve made to theirs. 

Remember: If your brand voice is getting noticed, there’s a good chance your competitors will borrow liberally from your brand voice. So you want to make sure you’re always the one who’s really owning that voice and evolving it with time. 

A Guided Brand Voice Workshop

Defining your brand voice is a critical way of aligning so that you have consistency across all of your content and channels. 

It’s understandable if the process is challenging, especially if you are new to your organization or new to defining a brand voice. And I want to help. 

If you want more detailed support to document your brand voice, sign up for my free email course. Each day, I explain each of the five steps in greater detail and share examples to help accelerate the process.

I can’t wait to see your brand voice chart.

A square promotional box that shows an image of a person typing on their laptop at the top of the box. The middle of the box has a dark red background with white text overlay that reads “Free email course. Learn how to define your brand voice in our self-guided brand voice source. All it takes is five easy steps. Click the image to sign up.”

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