Brand voice is an essential part of your company’s identity and brand strategy. It helps shape the DNA of your company and guides how you communicate with your audience.
The ever-increasing number of communication channels available has made it more important than ever to maintain a consistent and professional tone across all channels. Not only will this help you build your brand, but it will also ensure that your customers are hearing the appropriate messaging no matter where they are interacting with your company.
So how do you go about conducting a brand voice audit? Follow this step-by-step guide to learn exactly how to do a brand voice audit.
First, let's make sure we're on the same page regarding what brand voice is. Brand voice is a company’s unique tone and personality. It's the tone your company uses when it communicates, whether online or in person. Your company's brand voice should reflect your identity and what makes your brand unique. It helps set you apart from competitors and attract your ideal customer.
Think about companies like Nike or Lexus. Nike consistently communicates in ways that make you think about overcoming adversity, winning, and pushing yourself. Lexus, on the other hand, is all about elite luxury. They want to make it clear that when you buy a Lexus, you are getting the best of the best.
In addition to setting you apart from competitors, your brand voice should also align with the needs and desires of your target audience. You need to communicate to your audience that you understand what they want and are able to provide it.
Pickup truck commercials are prime examples of brands trying to communicate in ways that resonate with their audiences. Since the majority of pickup truck owners are men, the voiceover is usually done by someone with a deep, gruff voice. The footage is usually a montage of a truck doing tough things, like hauling rocks or driving through deep mud. The truck companies want to demonstrate that their vehicles can handle anything thrown at them.
Building a consistent voice across all channels is essential to your company's success. It helps you solidify your brand identity and ensures that your customers are getting the appropriate messaging no matter where they are interacting with your company.
There are a number of occasions when it's appropriate to do a brand voice audit:
You don't even need to have a specific reason for conducting a brand voice audit. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to go through the process every couple of years to ensure that you are maintaining a cohesive brand voice across all your channels.
A brand voice audit allows you to ensure that all communications from your company match your brand identity. Items that don't match, such as social media or blog posts, can either be edited or deleted. An audit also helps you identify any consistently problematic areas and make appropriate changes.
Follow these six steps when doing your brand voice audit.
First, review your existing brand voice guidelines. If you don't have any guidelines, you can't do an audit and your first order of business is creating guidelines.
If you do have guidelines in place, they should include a number of different rules and best practices that dictate how your company speaks on social media, in customer service interactions, via email, and any other relevant channels. Take a careful look at these guidelines because they will give you a clear idea of what needs to be updated or changed for consistency purposes.
You also may find that some elements of your guidelines need to be updated to reflect changes in your brand, target audience, etc. The guidelines are the measuring stick against which you'll compare all your company's communications, so get familiar with them.
Next, you need to gather all the content you've published. If your company has been around for a long time and has published a huge amount of content, collect representative samples of each type of content. Make sure you include:
Why is this necessary? Because it will give you a full picture of your company’s messaging and help you determine whether changes need to be made.
A tool like Evernote can help you organize all the content you gather into a single location, making it much easier for you to evaluate it. You may want to consider using subfolders or tags for each type of content so that you can easily sort it with just a single click.
Once you've gathered all the relevant content, you need to evaluate the tone and voice of the different pieces against the established guidelines.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when conducting this evaluation:
As you evaluate your content, two things may happen:
There's a good chance that your brand voice audit will uncover content that doesn't match your guidelines. However, this doesn't automatically mean the content must be changed. It may indicate that one or more of your guidelines needs to be updated to better reflect your brand.
After gathering all relevant content and updating your brand voice guidelines as necessary, it's time to start updating your content so that it matches your brand voice guidelines.
Start with your website since it functions as the "home base" for your brand. It's the primary place where people learn who you are, what you do, your mission, and other important information about your brand.
The following questions can help you determine what needs to be updated on your website:
Once you've finished with your website, move on to your other content, like social media, blog posts, videos, etc. Your goal is to ensure that all the content you've published reflects your brand voice. If a piece of content does not, you need to either update it or delete it.
Keep in mind that you may need to involve other people during this step, like your web design or social media team. If you do, make sure that they are clear on your brand voice guidelines and what things must be changed to be in alignment with those guidelines.
After completing your brand voice audit and updating all relevant content, you need to share the results with the rest of your team. This is an important step as it will allow your team members to better understand the voice of your brand and how they can help you maintain consistency across all channels.
Your feedback should include a summary of what actions were taken, which content was changed or updated, and any other relevant information that would be helpful for them in understanding the changes made during this audit process.
Also, ensure that everyone has access to the most up-to-date brand voice guidelines. These should be stored in an easily accessible location so that they can be referenced at any time. You may also want to create a cheat sheet, of sorts, that quickly summarizes the most important points.
After completing the audit, it’s important that you reassess your brand voice on an ongoing basis. This will allow you to identify any deviations in tone or content that need to be addressed in order to maintain consistency.
As your company evolves, so will your brand voice. You need to be constantly on top of it and make any necessary adjustments as needed. This will help you stay ahead of the curve and make sure you are staying true to your voice.
Conducting a brand voice audit is not an easy process, but it's worth it. It helps ensure that all your communications strengthen your brand and are in line with your brand values. It also gives you the opportunity to reflect on whether your brand voice is currently where you want it to be. If it's not, you can update it to better reflect your brand.