4 steps to defining your authentic brand voice
Updated: May 31, 2021
Are there really four steps to defining your authentic brand voice?
Of course not. But four is my favourite number, so. I’ve been reading about branding a LOT. And researching it. And pondering on it. And I’ve learned some pretty rad stuff. So, here’s what I know (and believe for now) about it all.
Now, look. I’m not THE BRANDING EXPERT. I’m going to be totally upfront and honest about that. I have a ton to learn.
What I will say, though, is that since I started my business, this is something that I’ve become pretty obsessed with.
Sometimes my husband will glance over at me, and I’ll have this wild look in my eyes, and I’ll be whispering softly to myself or just...you know...crying...and he’ll know it’s because I’m lost in the deep void of brand-think.
Let me preface this by saying that I really struggle sometimes with this business thing. Because I find that people are so invested in the money and the success, that they forget who they are and they forget what they stand for.
I’ve found myself doing that in my life, and it always makes me feel rubbish about myself. It makes me feel stuck, you know? And if it makes me feel stuck, I’m wondering if it makes you feel stuck too.
It doesn’t need to be that way. Building a business can be liberating and freeing and wonderful. It can put you on a path to really discovering who you are and how you want to be seen. This is going to have a HUGE influence on the people you attract, and the clients you’ll work with.
#1. How do you want your clients to see you?
Oh, man. This is a toughie, right? Because some days, I’m not gonna lie, I want to be perceived like Kim Kardashian. I know. WTF. But I do. I want to be all big eyes and flowing locks, and flawless face and ridiculous pout. Sometimes I sit on the couch, just imagining that that’s what I look like.
And then I remember that I’m in a tracksuit with tea spilled down my front and I probably haven’t combed my hair since the day before yesterday. So, yeeeeeaaah.
But most days, I want to be perceived as a giant feminist, who rocks at language and is pretty cool to work with. I want people to think about me and go, “Ashleigh is pretty awesome. Needs a hairbrush, but pretty awesome.”
How do you want to be perceived? What do you want people to think about when they think about you? What do you believe in? What is important to you?
Are you a vegan who has a soft spot for Ozzy Osbourne because you just know he had a wrecked childhood and he’s trying to find himself?
Are you a badass feminista who doesn’t wear a bra and tells her 10-year-old nephew that pink is his signature colour while you help him paint his nails?
BE YOU, LADY. Why? Because “the best brands are honest representations of the businesses behind them.” Those are not my words. They’re the words of this person. I wish they were my words. But it’s OK. I have my own words which are pretty fly too.
#2. Make a promise and stick to it
When you decide how you want to be seen, get out there and make it happen. Don’t doubt yourself. If you’re being true and authentic, it will feel right. It will feel absolutely second nature. And that is gold.
But, remember, when you put yourself and your business out there in this way, you’re making a promise. You’re telling your clients and your customers, and prospects, who you are.
This is serious. This is like...meeting someone and they show you a side of themselves. And you BELIEVE that side of themselves. So, you date them and you invest in the relationship. You tell them that you love them. You move in with them. YOU MARRY THEM.
And then...boom. They’re not that person anymore. They change into something you don’t quite recognise. They look the same. But suddenly they’re into something totally unaligned from who you thought they were...like...horse riding. Or chess.
No. If your business says it’s a thing, it must be that thing. Here's what I want my business to say:
Now...of course you can rebrand. Obviously. There are no rules. But you’ve spent a lot of time building your brand, so I’m just saying...think about it long and hard before you do.
Changing your pricing? Changing your logo? Changing the way you deal with customers? Friendly one day and stand-offish the next? Punctual one day and tardy the next? That hurts your brand. It makes people unclear about your business. Lack of clarity leads to lack of income. And nobody has time for that.
#3. Tell people your promise
Communication is key. Now you know what you’re all about and how you want your business to be seen. You’re totally clear about your offerings, your services, your business model. You know what you want people to feel when they work with you. You know how you want them to respond when you post on your social media platforms.
How are you getting it out there? This is where your copy and design come in. They need to accurately reflect all these decisions you’ve made. They need to ooze your authentic voice like James Spader oozes sex appeal (don’t you judge me, that man be damn fine).
Here’s something else that’s pretty important. Your reach is not your brand.
Your logo is not your brand.
Your colours, content and copy are not your brand.
They are a part of your brand.
And that content that you didn’t write, but you’re sharing? That’s part of your brand too. So watch out for that.
#4. Consistency is Kween
Your brand guides every decision you make. When you’re building your brand, whether you’re sharing content, giving advice, deciding who to work with, communicating with your team...you have to be consistent.
This is tough. Sometimes I just don’t want to fight the fight for women. It’s exhausting. I want to sit and ignore the everyday sexism and not tell women that they have to find their real and authentic voice. But that’s not my brand.
Sometimes I really want to take on a job that pays a ton of money, because it pays a ton of money. But...if you’re a company that sells leather or any animal product...you’re not my client.
Stay consistent. People will see you and respect you. And that’s gold in a world where people shift and often don’t stand for anything.
Why is brand authenticity important?
You want ease, grace and flow. Like Adriene. We all do. We want to choose the path of least resistance. You want to not even think when you post on the gram or on Facebook, or when you create a new offering. You want that copy and content to flow out of you.
That’s what brand authenticity gives you. It lets you just be YOU. It pushes you to be the best you. And yes, that can be tricky sometimes, especially when your best you is hidden away underneath the you that only got three hours of sleep last night. But when your business’s brand is your best you, that’s when the magic happens. The sync and the feel-good factor roll together and it just works.
Finding your authentic brand voice doesn’t have to be a whole big thaaaang. It’s like finding your niche, which I’m still refining every day. If you want some niche-finding advice, take a look at this.
Start slowly. Think about how you want your ideal client to see you. Think about who you are and how you can speak to your ICA in a way that connects with them. Maybe they’re looking for an inspiring voice. Maybe they need an old friend. Take a look at this 15-page cheat sheet to get you started on your brand voice discovery journey.
Once you’ve figured that out, make a promise. The authenticity should infuse everything you do. Show that to the world, and keep it consistent. Don’t deviate. And take your time. This is a slow burn. The long game is always going to be the most powerful.
Where are you at in your brand voice development? Are you smashing it? Are you struggling with anything? I’d love to chat!