Suzanne Belperron, the influential Parisian jewelry designer, never signed her work, insisting simply, “My style is my signature.” She stood out in the height of art deco by leaning away from popular linear design in favor of natural structures. She followed her heart and made it her style. As creatives, we must do the same. Not just with our work but with our brand voice.
Readers should look at your web copy, blog posts, emails, and Instagram captions and instantly recognize and connect with your brand’s voice. But how do you get to create an identifiable voice for your business? Well, it doesn’t magically appear, you have to search for it both inside and out. Luckily, I’ve put together a fun and creative study that will walk you through all the steps to help you find your brand voice.
Dig Up the Past
Before you can create your new voice, you need to assess where you’re at and create a base. To do this, you’ll need a shovel because we’re going to dig up past writing. And don’t say you never write because we’re about to find plenty of evidence that says you do. Yep, go through your computer for emails, Instagram captions, texts, college papers, old blog posts, DIY web copy, and maybe even some short stories you wrote. If you’re really looking for a cringe-worthy extra challenge, pop-under your bed and pull out the box of letters, postcards, journals, and old poems you’ve got stashed there. Now read through these.
While you’re reading through your writing, ask yourself “what’s working here and what’s not?” Write those observations down. What do you want to pat yourself on the back for and what do you want to erase entirely from your mind?
Now comes the portion that should remind you of English class. You’re going to annotate your work and take style notes on:
- Tone – the vibe or attitude of the writing.
- Diction – the word choice.
- Syntax – the way words are arranged in a sentence.
- Figurative Language – simile, metaphor, hyperbole, allusion, puns, etc.
- Rhetorical devices – transition, theme, cadence, etc.
Hit the Books
It’s time to absorb the voices around you by paging through the books. For this part, visit your favorite bookstore, public library, or your own bookshelf and pick out 3-5 books. Make sure the books are from varying authors and genres. Pick up classics, chick lit, poetry, fashion magazines, mysteries, comic books, westerns, Russian literature, 18th-century British literature, Irish literature, memoirs, fairy tales, a collection of 20th century short stories, the list keeps going.
+ Fun fact: if you asked me where to find any of those I could probably spit the Dewey decimals right back to you. I used to work as a page at a library.
Once you have those books selected, start taking the same style notes on tone, diction, syntax, figurative language, and rhetorical devices you did with your own work. You don’t need to read the whole book, just page through for 5 minutes to absorb what you need. Afterwards, compare the style notes between your past writing and that of these new works.
Mimic Brand Voice
Now pick up one of the books in front of you and the corresponding style notes. Did you get a good feeling of the author’s style? If so, here’s the time to put that style to the test. Set a timer for 2-3 minutes and free write using the style of the book at hand. Don’t worry about grammar or getting everything right, just write. When the timer’s up, read over your work and highlight anything that you’re proud of or that surprised you. You can try this activity again with the other books you picked up if you like.
You’ve reviewed your past work, studied various genres of literature, and mimicked their style – now it’s time you find your brand voice. In order to do this, you’ll need to answer these three questions:
- What do you want your brand to feel like?
- What does your brand stand for?
- How does your brand engage with clients and other businesses?
Write down what style notes you want for your brand based on your answers to these 3 questions and try your hand at another 2-3 minute free write about your brand.
Keep at It
Now that you’ve created the style notes for your brand’s voice, keep at it. Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep refining your voice until both you and your audience know it inside and out.
Want to take this exercise a step further? For more questions and prompts to help you discover your brand voice, download the voice guide below.