They don't just talk in mission statements and messaging, either. Brands chat, educate, share, endorse, entertain and tell stories. They engage in multiple conversations through multiple staff members in multiple touch points.
With that much activity, it's more important than ever to ensure that your company has a brand voice that is consistent, appropriate, and appealing across all departments. The voice also has to sound human (because your company is speaking to humans) and speak in a language your audience will understand.
This won't just happen magically.
Establishing a human brand voice requires intention, direction and practice to master. Leave it to chance and you can end up with a communication disconnect that's jarring for your audience and counterproductive for your goals.
A good example of a company with an inconsistent brand voice is Nabisco, who recently got a lot of attention from a memo they sent to The Colbert Report’s Stephen Colbert, pitching its Wheat Thins product.
According to the memo that Colbert received...
“Wheat Thins is a snack for anyone who is actively seeking experiences.”
Experiences? Really now? It’s a cracker, people.
Wheat Thins is a cracker that, “keeps you on the path to, and proud of, doing what you love to do, no matter what that is.” In addition to being a cracker that is, “a connector of like-minded people, encouraging sharing.”
This memo is a prime example of a bunch of people sitting around a big table at a company talking in insider, jargon-ridden brand babble and believing that this is, in fact, how people want to be spoken to.
A voice like that doesn't translate in big world filled with snark, humor, insight and passion.
As The Cluetrain Manifesto suggested more than ten years ago...
"Markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked."
Telling me that my cracker will help me connect with like-minded people is about as fake as it gets.
Thankfully, the people sitting around the brand-babble table at Nabisco don't seem to giving direction to Wheat Thins' community managers who are rocking a very different voice.
Over on the Wheat Thins Twitterfeed, there is no trace of robot mumbo jumbo. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Wheat Thins' social voice is as customer-centric as all get out. They retweet their followers. They actively engage. They send boxes of crackers to people with little handwritten notes. (How cute is that?)
The first step is to create a persona for your own brand. Give it a name, establish a tone and a conversational approach. Establishing a central touch point for your conversational "character" will help to ensure that all of your company's public-facing communicators -- community managers, marketing/PR, customer service, sales, etc. -- are speaking in the same voice.
Want to learn more about this process? Join for me for a free webinar as part of Marketing Profs' Digital Marketing World virtual conference series, on March 9, where I'll be walking through the steps of establishing a brand voice and building conversational content for your brand in social media.