Chanti is a conversion copywriter and quiz funnel strategist for change makers and brands that give a damn. She’s a marketing unicorn that believes boring is the enemy, neutral is a death sentence and real talk is the way of the future. In her spare time, you can find her at the farmer’s market, wrangling her toddler, doing downward dog or binge-watching GoT.
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Umm is it 2006? Because the Net is once again buzzing about Paris Hilton *cue my noughties nostalgia for sequinned UGG boots, flip phones, and TEVOing Arrested Development.*
If pop culture isn’t your thing, I’m grateful good, pure hearted peeps like you exist to keep the rest of us sane, but let me fill you in…
A new doc about Paris *known for her hotel heiress shenanigans and cringe-worthy reality show The Simple Life* dropped on YouTube a couple weeks back and… hear me out…
Paris has A LOT to teach us about creating an engaging brand voice.
No you’re not on Pranked. I’m 100% serious, and here’s why:
Paris has grabbed and held on tight to the attention of millions with her trademark baby voice when (as you can see in This is Paris) that isn’t how she speaks in her daily life. She changes her tone to suit her audience.
And if perfume lines are a marker of success, her strategy is working. Fun fact: the woman has 26 signature scents.
While injecting a bit of personality into your brand voice might not score you a perfume line, it can help you create meaningful connections with your ideal customers and clients.
They tell those we communicate with where in society’s ginormous puzzle we fit.
And it’s no shocker when you consider the psychology at play… Humans are pack animals — we depend on positive social connections to survive. The words we use to express our thoughts and feelings mark us as belonging to a community.
They tell those we chat with where in society’s ginormous jigsaw puzzle we fit. And when we find folks who use the same lingo, we are predisposed to buddy up because we already know we have something in common.
And that concept doesn’t just apply to turning strangers into fast friends ⇒ it carries over into the world of marketing.
The benefits of matching your brand voice with your audience’s aren’t a mystery to most established businesses — you’ve probably noticed them putting it to use. For a quickie example, check out lululemon’s twitter bio:
Lulu is a high-ticket yoga wear brand — seriously, a pair of their leggings sells for $98. They use language like ‘transformational experiences’ and ‘healthy living’ which their target demographic of fit women (though my bro shops at lulu pretty much exclusively) are looking for.
The takeaway? Like the businesses who’ve been basing their brand identities on this principle for years, you can connect with your ideal customers and clients by speaking their language in your copy. Mic drop.
Okay, you know WHY writing with personality is such a big deal, but you’re probably thinking “cool, but like how do I actually put that into practice?” In the rest of this article, I’m going to give you my best answer to that Q.
BUT first, just know that if this is something you’re currently struggling with, you’re so not alone… I get questions all the time from peeps looking to add personality to their copy and brand.
Here are a few of the voice conundrums that regularly cross my path:
… You have zero clues as to what your customers and clients actually want to hear from you
… Your writing sounds a bit like a podiatry textbook, technical and tight-collared 🖖📚🤓
… You know what you want to say (Aka. your core message), but the saying it part never fails to trip you up
No sweat if any of that rings true — as biz whiz Marie Forleo says *literally on the cover of her book* everything is figureoutable. And, yes, that includes writing compelling, one of a kind copy.
Whew — there’s a lot to cover here, but I’m going to boil it down to the basics… According to voice queen, Abbey Woodcock (you can snag a free copy of her book on the topic right here), a brand’s personality can be divided into 3 core components:
Take another expert at voice, Justin Blackman, for example:
Justin’s tone is straight up, fun, and irreverent in the very best way.
Take Kate Northrup’s cadence on her About page for example:
Notice how her choppy punctuation reflects her target market’s frustration? Pretty cool, huh?
Quick tip: if you want to take a closer peek at how cadence works in your own work, try running a chunk of your text through an analysis software like Voyant. It’ll give you insight into your average sentence and word lengths and most frequently used phrases
Shane Snow over at The Content Strategist writes that the average adult reading level is equivalent to a fourth grader’s. BUT that doesn’t mean you should dumb down your copy if a more complicated verbage comes naturally to you.
It’s really just a matter of knowing who you want to attract with your writing. While it makes sense for an ice cream shop to stick with a basic vocabulary set, the same can’t be said of a B2B software biz.
Okay — deep breath out. We’re done with the nitty gritty. You can use Abbey’s personality trifecta to analyze your fave brand voices and inspire your own. Now let’s get to what you’re really here for…
Say what you will about Paris *and yeah there’s a lot you could say* but the woman knows how to get a reaction. And usually a positive one.
While she definitely didn’t set out to be a brand voice icon, she’s recently become one in my books because…
⭐️ She knows her audience inside ‘n out ⇒ Paris uses language specific to her audience because she knows it’s what they want to hear: something exciting, a little scandalous, and often wayyy sillier than she is in-person.
How to use this: To get a sense of what your ideal customers and clients want to hear from you, try digging into some voice of customer (VoC) research. For those who don’t know, VoC basically refers to how your peeps describe your products or services.
Get started by creating a spreadsheet with three columns: commonly used words and phrases, goals and ambitions, and words and phrases to avoid. Then click your way over to the Facebook groups or Instagram pages they frequent and start filling in your chart with what you find.
When it comes time to write, open your spreadsheet and sprinkle in some of that language. This will ensure that your copy pops with personality and relevancy — not just any personality, one that your audience can relate to.
⭐️ She provokes an emotional response ⇒ Paris says things that get people’s attention. Remember this iconic moment from The Simple Life:
Yeah, I’m willing to bet she knew what Walmart was. She was just playing a role to garner more views for her show — a major faux pas in finding your authentic brand voice but more on that later.
How to use this: I’m not telling you to pull a Paris and make stuff up or pretend to be someone you’re not. What I am trying to get at is the power of writing for emotional responses, which sway purchasing-decisions.
To get started with this, use the voice of customer research from the tip above to pinpoint your audience’s values then include words associated with that value in your writing.
For example, if your ideal customers and clients are looking for eco-friendly alternatives to their favourite beauty products, they might use words like like green, granola, crunchy, natural, organic, and Earth.
⭐️ She’s consistent AF ⇒ Very rarely does Paris break character. That’s why This is Paris had so many folks like 🤯 After years of maintaining her persona, she finally went off script. Turns out Paris is a real human being with real emotions… shocker.
How to use this: To gain brand voice consistency across your website, emails, and social media investing in compiling a style and tone guide. If you need direction, check out Abbey’s online course or Justin’s services, they’ll hook you up with everything you need to nail down your personality.
But if that’s a little unrealistic for your schedule or budget, try writing a description of your business’s identity… as if it were an actual person. And get really specific with the details.
Would your brand dress in bohemian or Swedish minimalist outfits? What’s its favorite carnival ride — the triple loop roller coaster or the merry-go-round? On top of being fun, this type of exercise will help you get comfortable and gain confidence in your brand’s identity.
So we’ve established that Paris is basically the patron saint of personal branding but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t made a mistake *or 12* along the way.
Here’s the thing, it’s tempting to create a totally seamless brand voice BUT what’s the point of pouring all your brain power into it if it leaves you feeling hollow or disingenuous?
It’s so darn easy to overlook our own personal needs as online business owners, entrepreneurs, and service providers… And instead of marketing ourselves in a way that makes us feel good and aligns with our values, we alter our personalities to match others’ needs and expectations.
Part of the temptation to tone down your personality is fear. Fear of criticism, trolls, being cancelled, having your words taken out of context, misunderstandings, or worst of all that people just won’t care. These fears are totally valid, especially in today’s hyper PC world. But despite this reality, you can’t afford to dull your shine.
Let me tell you why censoring yourself or trying to squeeze into a perfect personal branding box doesn’t work…
It’s straight up not sustainable. If you’re writing copy that doesn’t align on with who you are, it’s going to be an uphill battle keeping up your content. If you’re nervous to stand firm in your voice and risk turning some people off, you’re playing small.
And tough love time: no matter what you do, there will be trolls.
I love how open online marketing genius Bushra Azhar is about how much she gets trolled in her Facebook ad comments. Follow her and check out the screenshots she posts. In her wise words “Don’t let someone else’s bad judgment cloud your ambition, your dreams are far too precious for that.”
There’s always room for deviation from the norm, and if we know one thing about the Internet, it’s that people like seeing imperfections MORE than they do flawless grids. Why else would fail vids be a thing…
It’s all about balance. You can keep your core message the same but say it in language your audience will understand. Voice of customer and attention-grabbing headlines are useful, but you have to make sure you stay true to you ‘cause that’s sort of the point of this whole life thing.
By better understanding the peeps you’re serving, you’ll be better able to empathize with them, so when you write content meant to match their wavelength, it won’t feel like you’re going against your own values and… uhm…
Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.
P.S. If you’ve been struggling to pinpoint your voice and this post resonated, drop a comment below! There’s nothing *except guacamole* that I like more than hearing your thoughts 💕