dictation-the-simple-solution-for-your-weak-brand-voice

Brand voice is a business’s style of communication. It makes a brand unique and gives it personality. It’s what makes the language of a silk-stocking law firm different than that of a bungie jumping company. Its goal is to tell the story and culture of a company. At many companies though, there is a disconnect between brand voice that is used in marketing materials and the voice used when interacting with clients. This is a sign of a weak brand voice. How can a company strengthen this? Dictation is a simple and creative solution.

How Brand Voices Are Typically Developed

Content Marketing Institute has written an informative article on defining a companies brand voice. Any marketer looking to build their company’s brand voice should consider this as a starting point. A high level summary of this process is as follows:

  1. Describe the brand in three words (i.e. Passionate, Quirky, and Authentic)
  2. Create a brand voice chart (see below)
  3. Have writers put the voice into action using this chart
  4. Revisit the chart as company’s voice changes over time

brand-voice-chart

Image courtesy of Content Marketing Institute

The Problem of Authenticity

While the framework above is excellent for setting goals for a company’s brand voice design, it does not provide any insight into the actual process of creating the voice. Is a writer supposed to take creative liberty under this framework? Should we reuse successful pieces of content to make a brand voice Frankenstein? Should we throw something against the wall and revise until analytics show something that is working?

The biggest challenge with building a brand voice is the “problem of authenticity.” This is where a marketing team or consultant creates a brand voice that is inconsistent with how a business speaks with clients. To test if your company has a problem of authenticity, ask several different leaders what the company does and what it values. If you’re hearing different responses, the company’s brand voice is likely unclear.

To build a strong brand voice, writers need to understand the story of a company. Every story is composed of characters. These characters overcome challenges. Who are the main characters at your company? What problems has the company solved? Why are these triumphs important? And most importantly for brand voice, how do these individuals at your company answer these questions? The tone, keywords, and characteristics will give you everything you need to create an authentic brand.

Using Dictation to Build Your Brand Voice

What Is Dictation

Voice dictation is a speech recognition technology that types words as you say them out loud. It is a feature in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and numerous other free online tools. Dictation allows for hands-free typing, but it also forces you to speak before typing. Since we write and speak differently, using dictation finds a middle ground that can create an authentic tone.

The Middle Ground Between Writing and Speaking

There are great speakers who are awful writers, and great writers who are awful speakers. With brand voice, it needs to translate well to both writing and speech. This is why it is so challenging to create a voice that is adopted universally at a company.

A similar craft that walks this fine line between speech and writing is screenwriting. A screenplay must be written well enough to attract producer’s attention, but translate well to film, so actors can speak dialogue in an effective manner. Many screenwriters speak their dialogue out loud, in character, as they write. This allows them to differentiate voice between characters and trim the fat that comes naturally with writing vs. speaking. Copywriters should consider this approach.

Practice Tip: Type a piece of branded content. Step away from that content for at least 30 minutes. Use dictation to speak the same content from memory. Compare the two. What’s different? Why is that different?

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Using the Tool to Collect Stories

Some of the most successful marketers I know have the ability to turn business leaders’ statements and buzz words into great pieces of content. Think about it. Did anybody use the terms “speaking offline” or “bandwidth” before starting their careers? No. Some businessperson once coined these phrases, and the rest is history. For your brand, try to find these types of phrases while speaking with the leaders at your company. These phrases can provide great insight into company culture, history, and the brand story.

Practice Tip: Interview company leaders on crucial topics with Google Doc’s dictation tool running in the background. The leaders’ speech will be transcribed into writing. What words are emphasized consistently? How are products described? Are there inconsistencies?

This practice tips is an effective way of auditing the status quo of your company. If the tone of your current content does not match the text collected from dictation, you will have a rough sketch of what needs to be fixed.

Will People Talk Like This?

Every time I say, “To the left,” I think of that Beyonce song. I can say I have never sought out that song, but it is forever engrained in my head. Why is that? It’s a phrase that is commonly and easily used. While developing your brand voice, you need to identify language that can be easily adopted in your organization. Hammering out long-winded, heavy handed prose will not work.

By using dictation in my own writing, I have found that this dashes my wordiest sentences. When I speak, it tends to be choppier with easy-to-digest, direct statements. That’s the way people will talk. That’s content that people can use.

Practice Tip: With the same content you wrote earlier, have someone at your organization read the content. After reading the content, ask them to explain the content with dictation running. How is there speech different than yours? What did they leave out? What did they include?

This will provide feedback into what works in your copywriting.

Dictation in Word and Google Docs

Below are brief instructions for using dictation in both Word and Google Docs.

dictation-in-word

dictation-in-google-docs

Further Reading: