I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”

While there may be some truth to that statement as it relates to non-verbal communication, the reality is that both matter a great deal. When it comes to communicating as a brand, you should be intentional and mindful of both what you say and the manner in how you say it. 

Ignoring one over the other is a recipe for ambiguity, at best, with more negative consequences being contempt, insult, and possibly even outrage. We don’t have to go any further than the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial to witness the kind of backlash that comes from a messaging miscalculation.

So other than avoiding triggering some fragile, entitled snowflakes who need a safe space every time their naive worldview is challenged, why should a company concern itself with how it communicates? A brand’s messaging is what connects the company to its clients and customers. It’s the anthropomorphic mechanism that transforms a faceless entity into a relatable and engaging being. That is, if executed correctly. 

If you’re still not sure that messaging matters, you may want to consider your reaction to the statement two sentences ago. Depending on your beliefs and attitudes, you either laughed or took offense. If it was the latter, you’re free to leave. I’m secure with my brand voice and tone because I’ve done my research, and hysterical crybullies are not my target audience. 

Good! Now that THOSE people are gone, let’s discuss the elements of a messaging strategy that determines “what you say” and “how you say it” within your brand communications efforts.

What You Say (Key Messages)

The content of your communications efforts is based around your key messages. These are the main points that you want your audience to remember and recall about your brand, especially as it relates to your unique solution to their problems. Additionally, your key messages can be used to highlight your brand’s essence, such as mission, values, and higher purpose, in order to create a deeper connection with your target audience.

Key messages are the foundation of all branding and marketing efforts and should be included in all communications activities. As with all elements of communication, these messages should be developed around your business goals and objectives, and based on market research

Key messages are the foundation of all branding and marketing efforts and should be included in all communications activities.

After drafting key messages, they should be routinely tested and updated for increased effectiveness. Messaging may also vary based on current trends, changes in product and service offerings, shifts in social responsibility efforts, and reputational concerns within the organization.

Despite iterations within your brand’s core messaging, efforts should always be made to develop a narrative that drives specific outcomes while resonating with your target audience.

How You Say It (Voice & Tone)

Not all businesses are “brands.” Some are merely providers of commoditized products and services and offer nothing more. Unfortunately, these businesses are usually forced to compete on price alone and are lost in the sea of similarity. 

Companies that recognize the value of creating a brand understand that developing and manifesting a personality is an essential step in the brand development process. One of the best ways for your brand to stand out and reflect its personality is by creating a unique voice and tone.

  • Voice: Reflects the consistent personality of your brand.
  • Tone: The emotional inflection that varies based on the type of content or message.

Your voice should remain consistent since it is a reflection of your brand’s overall personality. Just like any human, your brand can manifest different moods through its tone, which adapts to whatever is appropriate for the essence of the particular message.

Creating the voice that is best suited for your brand will require a deep dive into your company’s values and purpose, an analysis of your ideal clients, and some discernment on how you wish to be perceived by your audience in a way that resonates with their beliefs and attitudes. 

It’s also important to note that your voice should be appropriate to your particular industry and niche, as well as the expectations of your audience. It’s good, and even necessary, to express your brand’s unique personality. However, if these characteristics are incompatible with your type of service or product, you may be repelling would-be clients.  

As an extreme example, it would be unsettling for a mortuary service to portray themselves as witty and carefree. How about a more realistic illustration. A business coach would be wise to represent himself as assertive and insightful, but could end up taking it too far if he came across as arrogant or condescending.

To assist you with developing your own brand voice, download our free brand voice chart template. List your voice characteristics along with a description of each. Then determine how to best portray each trait by filling in the “do” and “don’t” columns.

Next Steps

Both your key messages and your brand voice chart are a part of your brand’s messaging guidelines and should be included in your brand guidebook. These guidelines, along with the other elements in your guidebook, are necessary resources that are helpful in ensuring consistency throughout your client engagement and communications efforts.

For more assistance with developing your brand identity, positioning and messaging, feel free to reach out via email or set up a free consultation to discuss your specific needs. 

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