AMY PORTERFIELD: “On to the fifth section of the voice guide, which is your brand personality. This is a big one, the real nuts and bolts of how you sound to your audience. And if you have no idea where to start, then listen closely, because right now I'm going to run you through an exercise that will help you figure this out. The best place to start is with the content that you've already created. Take a look at your blogs, your emails, your course videos, your social copy, your outlines for podcasts, your webinars, and set aside examples of where you've written or said something that feels unique or authentic to you.”
INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started.
AMY: Well, hey, there, friend. Welcome to another episode of the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast.
I'm going to kick off with a question, which is, if your logo or photo didn't appear alongside your content, would your audience be able to identify it as coming from you or your brand? Think about it. Like, give me an honest answer. If they didn't see your picture or they didn't see your logo or whatever, but, let's say, they read a social-media post or read an email, would they know that it was coming from your brand? Because if the answer is, “Hm, I'm not really sure,” or “No, probably not,” then you might not have a clearly defined brand voice.
Your brand voice is your brand's personality, the unique way you present to the world. It's what gets your audience to pay attention to you, to connect with you, and to trust you. And just like your visual brand, it's important that your brand voice is consistent throughout all of your written and spoken communications, from your social copy to your emails and, yes, even your podcast outlines.
Now, there are quite a few factors that go into establishing a brand voice, not only the language and grammar you choose to use throughout, but also some larger pieces, like your values and what you stand for in your business. And I get it. Figuring all this out can seem a little intimidating, especially if you're just getting started or if you don't have a marketing background.
And if that's you, don't worry, my sweet friend, because I'm going to break it down for you in this episode. I'm going to teach you some simple ways you can identify your brand voice. And I'm also going to show you how to create a brand-voice guide, which will be your guiding star when it comes to all things content creation. Also, I might also just refer to it as a voice guide, so just know I'm talking about the same thing. Brand guide, voice guide, same thing.
And here's the thing. My voice guide has been a crucial part of my team's ability to create top-notch content that sounds like I could have written it myself, which has allowed me the time to focus on growing my business even more. And if you're not ready to have a team help you write content, your voice guide is a great resource for you to refer to so you can stay consistent across all your communication. I'm a big fan of doing this work even if you are a solopreneur, even if right now it's just you, because you will grow your team. You're going to scale that business, my friend. So when you do grow your team, wouldn't it be amazing if you already had a few things in place that they could just hit the ground running? Well, that's why I'm doing this for you today. I want you to have a voice guide from the get-go.
Now, just something to keep in mind, I'm almost fourteen years into having a business, so my voice-style guide is incredibly detailed. And I actually had somebody else create it for me, and it was very, very expensive. But just a shout out to Justin Blackman of Pretty Fly Copywriting. He helped us create this. He did an incredible job.
But again, I'm going to give you a simplified version so you can do this yourself. And then maybe, when you're making a lot more money and you want to enhance it, you can hire someone like Justin. Or maybe you already have the money, and you're like, “Move over, Amy. I'm going to get this created. I'm going to hire someone.” All the power to you. I just know that a lot of people listening to my podcast are fairly new into entrepreneurship, so I want to be respectful of your budget.
Now, here's the thing. Your voice guide is a living, breathing document, so it'll become more thorough as you learn more about your communication style and the unique value you offer and what resonates most with your audience. And then, also, a quick note of clarification before we dive in. If you have a brand-style guide that includes things like your logo, typography, and color palette, that's awesome. That's not what we're talking about here today. The brand or voice guide is something that can serve as a companion to your style guide or even be added into your style guide if you prefer to keep things in one document.
And just a word to the wise, this episode is jam-packed with information, so I actually have an outline that you can download and refer to as you listen. Of course I do, right? So I highly recommend you have this in front of you so you can stay organized and also just use it to take notes. So grab it right now. Amyporterfield/558. So if you go there, amyporterfield.com/558, you can grab my freebie, the outline of this episode, so that you can follow along. And also don't remember—or don't forget, not don’t remember—don't forget all of the tips I'm going to share, because you're likely not going to do this tomorrow, so I want you to be able to come back to it when you're ready.
And this is something that you probably want to plan for. So if you like this episode and you're like, “I'm doing it,” I want you to block a few hours on your calendar, maybe next week, next month, but schedule it to make it real, so you actually get to this.
Okay. The last thing I'll say is that would you mind sharing this episode with your friends? Maybe just, like, text the link to five friends that you think would find it valuable. I'm on a mission to grow this podcast, to get it out in front of as many people who would actually find it valuable and implement what they learn. So I would greatly appreciate that. So wherever you're listening, you just click the Share button, and then you can send it over to your friends. So thank you in advance. It's good karma. All right, let's get going.
I've got a podcast recommendation for you, I mean beyond Online Marketing Made Easy. If you love this podcast, you're going to love the podcast by Scott D. Clary. It's called Success Story, and it's brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network and features Q&A sessions with successful business leaders and keynote presentations and conversations on sales and marketing and business and startups and entrepreneurship, all the stuff we love, right? And you can hear episodes like “Unleashing Your True Potential: A Practical Guide to Boosting Self-worth and Wealth through Authenticity” and another episode, “How to do Content Marketing Properly.” So listen to your Success Story wherever you get your podcasts.
So as I mentioned earlier, your brand-voice guide is going to be essential for anyone helping you to create content. You can share it with your full-time employees, your contractors, virtual assistants, really, anyone who is coming into your business and needs to get up to speed quickly. And because there is a lot that goes into it, it's really important that when you share it, you stress that it's a confidential document. In fact, I always make sure to have an NDA signed before I share my brand-voice guide with anyone because mine is highly detailed, and it includes a lot of proprietary information. So depending on what you choose to include in yours, you might want to consider doing the same. I mean, it's your business in a document, essentially.
Now, there are a couple of things I recommend you do first. First, you should create your brand-voice guide in a Google Doc. You're going to be making a lot of updates to it over time, so it's important that you are able to easily make changes. And you can update things in real time, so a Google Doc makes sense. Not to mention you don't have to worry about keeping track of a million different versions.
And second, make sure you bookmark your brand-voice guide in your browser, and then encourage those who support you to do the same. It's literally going to be like your right hand, so you want to have it easily accessible. And also, just make sure when people have ideas to make it better, that they communicate that to you, and you just have a system for keeping it updated as needed.
So now that we have a couple rules of the game established, let's get into the brand-voice guide itself. The first section I recommend you include is an introduction to your business and the value that you offer. So in my voice guide, I have this section labeled “What We Do,” and this is also commonly referred to as a mission statement or a value statement. So whatever you decide to call it, it should give an overview of how you serve your clients, how you help them overcome their challenges, and why that's important.
So here's what I have written in this section in my voice guide: “We empower entrepreneurs to build profitable online businesses that bring creative, professional, and personal freedom. In everything we do, we aim to inspire confidence in action. Our signature service is helping entrepreneurs break free in the areas of business that were once holding them back into new levels of joy and fulfillment. We give these entrepreneurs tangible proof that small actions every day will ultimately build a business worth creating and a life guided by their own design. We lead a fun-loving culture and a dedicated team that is committed to excellence. We always find the upside to any situation and maintain the strength and flexibility to change course as our business evolves.”
Now, if you want, you can also include a little subsection with a list of your products or services along with a description of each. Because I've been at it for a while, I have an entirely separate section that's dedicated to my flagship courses in my voice guide, and I even list out the names of each module and lesson underneath them. You can do this if you want, but we don't need to go overkill. You know, I always go a little bit beyond what I probably need to. Jenna Kutcher is someone who always tells me, like, “You're a little too extra on this.” I'm like, “I know. I can't help it.” So if you're just getting started and you have one or two products, just simply list them out in this great section and maybe a little bit about each of them.
Now, the next section I recommend including in your voice guide—remember, I have an outline for this so you don't have to take notes. Amyporterfield.com/558. Go there to grab it—but the next section I recommend including in your voice guide is an overview of your audience. As you probably already know, your audience, or your ideal-customer avatar, is crucial to the success of your business. If you don't know who your ICA is, your business won't have legs to stand on. So if you've already defined that person, then great. Include five to ten bullet points about them in this section, everything from demographic info to their likes, dislikes, pain points, desires, and fears.
And if you haven't yet honed in on that person yet, that's okay. I have a podcast episode that is all about how you can identify who that is. It's called “How to Identify Your Perfect Customer Avatar,” and you can listen to it by going to amyporterfield.com/235. So amyporterfield.com/235. You can listen to the perfect-customer-avatar episode, and I'll link to it in the show notes.
Now if you've done Digital Course Academy or List Builders Society, you likely have a ton of information on your ICA. It's something I include in all of my digital courses, so you probably have enough for a voice guide. So if that's the case for you and you just have bullet points of who your ideal-customer avatar is, include those here. And then if you have more, you can link to your full avatar and client persona. That way, if someone who's reading your voice guide wants to go deeper and you have more information fully fleshed out, just link to it.
Okay. Moving on to the third section of your voice guide, which is your values. Your values are beliefs that you as a business stand for. Now, you might be wondering, “What the heck do my values have to do with my brand voice?” I'll tell you. Your brand values help you frame your brand story in a way that resonates with your target audience. And they're important because they serve as a reminder that behind your business is an actual human being who cares. And to figure out what values are important to you and your business, you can start by asking yourself these questions. Are you ready? They're going to be in the outline, so don't worry. Why did you start your company in the first place? Beyond earning an income, what is it that drives you? What is it that you want to tell the world? How is the way you work or what you offer different from others? What's important when it comes to how your business operates? And what is unique when it comes to how you treat and interact with your customers?
There's internal values, too, which are really important and helpful when you have a team. So, for instance, in the values section of my voice guide, I've included the following. This is the internal values. “We do whatever it takes to get the job done. When it comes to our customers and community, we lead with compassion. We are coachable. We are resourceful to the core, and most importantly, we laugh a lot.”
Just a quick note if you're following along in the free resource, I didn't include these exact examples I just went over. But you can add them for inspiration, just to get those creative juices flowing.
And remember, nailing down your values probably isn't going to happen all at once. As you continue to grow, the more clarity you'll have. We’ve worked on our values over and over again over the years.
And if you're just getting started and don't have a lot to reference yet, look to companies or brands that you admire, who you resonate with, and imagine what values might be common to all of them. Or go to their websites. A lot of companies mention their values. I first got really inspired by values through Michael Hyatt's company. So now fullfocus.com, they list their values on their website, so maybe that’s a place to look as well.
So I want you to take a look at your ideal audience. What do you believe is most important to them when they're deciding who they want to do business with? And then think, “Do you embody the values that they would find important?” I don't know. Just another way to look at it.
All right. Moving along. The fourth section I recommend you include in your voice guide is your biography. And if you have a team, you can include a short bio for each of your team members here as well. It's a good idea to have a couple of different bios that you can use for various things, because people are going to be taking some information out of this voice guide and using it for different things, so the bio is one of them. So at a minimum, I'd suggest including a short bio and a long version of your bio. And then if you have bios for specific things like your Instagram bio or Facebook bio—I don't know why those would be different, but if they are, you can include those bios as well, or maybe just a social-media bio.
And if you want to get really fancy, you can also include bios for specific uses. Like, here's a podcast introduction or a live-event introduction. You can go as deep as you want to go. But I think it's important that you determine how you want people to talk about you. And so your team, like my assistant, copies and pastes from my short bio or my long bio all day long when she's sending information out about interviews I'm going to be on. So it’s really helpful. So having your different bios nailed down and compiled in one central location ensures that you or anyone who is writing for you is not using something outdated or incorrect, which helps with consistency. And as you know, consistency builds trust.
And also, like, let's say I were to say something in my bio like, “My business has generated eighty-five million dollars in fourteen years,” well, next year that's going to be different, hopefully a hundred million dollars. And so with that, I can update it in one place, and then let the team know “Bios have been updated,” and so now they know to go back to the document the next time they need to use a bio.
I can't tell you how many times I've seen businesses with conflicting information from one bio to the next, and it just doesn't leave a good impression. So if you want to get organized, if you want everyone using the same thing, I promise you, creating your bios now, getting them written, or you writing them yourself, and then taking the time to update them as you continue to grow will absolutely serve you in the future.
Now we're on to the fifth section of the voice guide, which is your brand personality. This is a big one, the real nuts and bolts of how you sound to your audience. And if you have no idea where to start, then listen closely, because right now I'm going to run you through an exercise that will help you figure this out. The best place to start is with the content that you've already created. Take a look at your blogs, your emails, your course videos, your social copy, your outlines for podcasts, your webinars, and set aside examples of where you've written or said something that feels unique or authentic to you.
Of course, you want these to be examples that you actually like. For example, I say super a lot, and I found that through a lot of my copy, and I do not like it. I think it makes me sound silly, like super great or super wonderful. Like, no, I don't know why I say it. So, like, I would not put that in my brand guide. I don't want my team to be using that word everywhere. So you have to make sure that the things you're pulling out, you're like, “Oh, yeah. I really like that.”
Now, also, if there's something that sounds like it could have come from one of your competitors or like a robot could have written it, then separate that out. We don't want any of that. Like, I am so used to Marie Forleo saying, you know, something about creating a business and a life you love. And I absolutely feel that way for my business. We talk a lot about your lifestyle, as well as using digital courses to build a business you love. But that's hers. So I don't want that anywhere in my voice guide. So I usually talk about creating a business on your terms or getting clear on your lifestyle so you have a lifestyle and business on your terms. So I really want to be different. I don't want to copy anyone. So just be careful because some things you hear over and over again, and you start to say them, and then you realize, “Wait a second. That really wasn't mine.” So just be careful of that.
Now, if you're in the really early phases of getting your business going and you don't have many examples to pull from, stay with me. Instead of gathering examples of your own content, I want you to look towards brands that you admire. These should be companies whose values are aligned with yours and whose content you know resonates with your ideal-customer avatar. Once you've compiled some examples, whether it's your own or content from a brand that you love, think about common themes across all of them, and try to group them together.
Now, once you start grouping different content together that just really speaks to you, if each group of content, let's say, was a person, or better yet, a character in a movie, how would you describe their personality? And this is where it gets a little tricky. Stay with me. So if you look at some content that you pulled, whether it be yours or from those you admire, ask yourself, “Is it quirky? Is it fun? Is it passionate? Is it deep? Is it serious? Is it moody? Like, what is it?” So maybe it's smart or knowledgeable or whatever. So just start to think about, what is it about that content? How does it come to life? How would you describe it? because this is where you start to get together your voice guide.
So you want to start with a list of just three words or short phrases to describe this character, this group of content. And then you're going to start to expand on it. So again, three words or three short phrases to describe the character of that content. And the reason you're doing this is that you're going to describe your own brand personality based on content you've published or that you admire that feels natural and authentic to you. And for those of you who are looking for examples from a brand you like, then you're starting to piece together what you'd like your brand voice to be. So you might not be there yet, but you're trying to figure out what you want it to be. So it's okay if you start to kind of look at what other people are doing. Just be careful you're not stealing or, like, copying exactly what you're doing. You're just getting inspired by them. Deal?
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Okay. So using myself as an example, when I look back at the content I've created—blog posts, emails, even my website copy—one common theme about the way I communicate is that I'm a bit of a hand holder. So one of the three word phrases that I would use to describe the character of my content like if it was a character in a movie, you guessed it, the hand holder. And so I have this listed out in bold letters, and beneath that, I've expanded upon that by saying, “I'm an expert, but I'm not an in-your-face expert. I know my stuff, but I won’t make you feel bad if you don’t. Running a business is hard, and I'm confident in my abilities and proud of what I accomplished, and I want to help you get there, too.” Hopefully, if you know me, you're like, “Yeah, that is you. Amy. Okay.” That's how I feel about myself.
Another way I’ve described my content if it were a character in a movie is comfortably familiar. So I have that listed out in bold letters. And then I go into more detail. “I help students feel, often for the first time, that they can do it. They feel empowered to go forward.” And there's almost a sense of reciprocation to return the favor by winning. They want to do their best to succeed and share the victory.
I have several more descriptions in the brand-personality section of my voice guide, but you get the idea. And I find that going the extra mile on this by fully fleshing these out is super helpful for the people on my team who are helping me create content. Again, if you don't have a team yet, this will help guide you as you continue to build out your content ecosystem and eventually hire someone. But isn't it cool that I'm pulling things out like the hand holder or comfortably familiar? like things that I just really want those that are writing for me and creating for me to really understand where I want to come from.
Okay. So really nailing down your brand personality is a great foundation. And if you wanted to stop there for now, totally fine. Maybe come up with, like, three phases, flesh them out. Maybe that's phase one of you just putting this together. You've got your values, you've got your bio, you've got a list of what you offer, and then you've got your brand personality. That’s a really great start, and you could stop there for now.
But for my more advanced listeners, if you're a little farther down the line and you want to keep going, I wanted to include something else that you could consider adding to your voice guide, which is your tone. Have you ever heard the phrase, “It's not what you say; it's how you say it”? Well, my sweet friend, this is the most-simple definition of tone. It's the overall attitude and mood you create in your communication. And here's the thing. Your tone of voice not only encompasses the words you choose, but also their order, rhythm, and pace.
So, for instance, do you tend to use a lot of big words or industry jargon? Speaking of big words, my friend Jasmine Star, she is just a beautiful writer, and she actually couldn't read until she was eleven years old. And so—I know; it's a wild story. She talks about it publicly—but she values reading, like, beyond most people I know. And so she values words, and she uses big words that sometimes I do not know what she's talking about, not necessarily in all her copy, just, like, in communication sometimes. And I'm like, “Oh, gosh. She’s so smart.” Like, I'm not really good at big words. I'm just not. But she is. So that's how we would differ in our tone and just our voice brand overall.
So do you use big words? Or another question, do you use industry jargon? Or do you write with long sentences or short sentences? Do you soften challenges with diminishing words like maybe or just or some or a few or might? Like, “You might be feeling this way right now,” or “I know you're feeling this way.” That’s a very different tone, right? So this is something that I sometimes do. So I'll use, like, “Are you feeling just a bit stuck?” I just, I like to soften it a little. I don't know. That's just my personality.
Are there common phrases you use? If you're an avid Online Marketing Made Easy listener, I'm guessing you could probably share a few of mine. More on that in a minute. Also, what about regional nuances, or how assertive or direct are you when you write? Are you humorous, heartfelt, positive, playful, serious? What are you? All of these things work together to create an impression on your audience, which then leads to an emotional connection.
So to help illustrate this, I'm going to run through a couple of examples of brands you probably recognize that have a really well-defined tone. Take Nike, for instance. And for the record, there's a movie coming out called Air. I don't know if you all read Shoe Dog. I, like, get chills every time I think of that book. One of my most-favorite books. It's essentially a memoir from the guy who invented Nike. It is one of the best books I've ever read, and it's a business book, in my opinion. Go read it. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. But there's a movie coming out called Air, like Nike Air, that kind of has this story in it. Hobie and I cannot even wait to watch it.
But anyway, Nike is known for its powerful and inspiring tone of voice, which also includes an element of grit. They use short sentences that convey a sense of urgency and inspire customers not just to buy their products, but to go out there and run that marathon, and, you know, just do it. That’s their slogan. But you know the Nike tone.
Here's another one I love: Slack. You know, the communication tool, Slack? I won't lie. If Slack were a person, I feel like they'd probably be, like, the most-helpful person you know. The language used in everything from their blog posts to their in-app messaging is light-hearted and fun, yet professional, and very, very helpful.
I think my tone is empathetic, confident, slightly assertive, and eternally optimistic. The vocabulary I use is basic, but not elementary. I keep it simple, but not overly simple. My sentences are medium to long, and my paragraphs tend to focus on one topic rather than strung-together ideas.
Now, one really easy trick that you can use to describe your tone is the “this, but never that” formula. For example, you could be funny, but never crass. Informative, but never condescending. Friendly, but never overly familiar. Formal, but never cold. You might have noticed I used this formula above. I told you that my vocabulary is basic, but not elementary. It's simple, but not overly simplified. So I think it's a really good way to get really clear. So use that tool. So again, it's the “this, but never that” formula.
Now, also—you're going to love this—there are a couple of really great tools that you could use to help discover your tone of voice if you're not really sure. Now, if you're a data nerd like me, you're going to love this. First of all, you probably already know about Grammarly, and it uses an A.I. to not only spell check your copy, but more importantly, it will give you really interesting insights into your tone, style, and vocabulary.
Another one I love is Analyze My Writing. So Analyze My Writing. It breaks down your sentence length, word length, and commonly used phrases. So imagine if you put some of your content through that; it would tell you what comes up a lot.
And also, have you ever noticed how I usually start my podcast with, “Well, hey, there, friend”? Or how I often refer to Hobie as not just my husband but my hunky husband? Or how I end every podcast episode with, “Bye for now”? Those are just Amy-isms, and you've got your own “isms” that you communicate. It's what makes you sound like you and what makes me sound like me. Notice I didn't say it makes me sound good or smart or anything like that. It just makes me sound like me. It's who I am. So I think including your “isms” in your voice guide is really smart.
And then, finally, there's some more technical things that you could include when it comes to your style, like how you like to use grammar or spelling or punctuation preferences. A podcast episode I just did, I mentioned how sometimes my team—we have a lot of women on my team, and I think women tend to do this more—they'll end a sentence with, like, three exclamation marks. And I tease my team like, “We sound like high school cheerleaders. Like, we have to watch that punctuation. Let's take out five of those exclamation marks that are in this short email.” And so those are some things that we bring up as well in the style guide.
And also, you know there's traditional editorial style, right? Like AP or APA or MLA or Chicago. Or you just throw all that out the window and you just go for a conversational, natural tone, which I suggest, and that's what I do as well.
So you could get really, really granular here, and I'm not going to get into every style detail for the sake of time, but I would definitely encourage you to use this as a starting point, and then do your own research on what's important for you to include in this section.
Okay, my sweet friend. We are in the homestretch. We’re on to the last part of your brand guide, which I call essential content. This is important, and this is easy for you. This is where you're going to grab some A-plus examples of your own content that can be used as a reference. I include a few examples of really good emails we've written, sales pages, social copy that I really love. And in addition to that, I don't just include it; I give some context around it. I explain why I think it was so effective so that there's no question why it's an A-plus example for my brand. So I add those notes so people really understand what to look out for.
And so for employees and contractors or virtual assistants who are referencing your voice guide, having some concrete examples of your most-compelling content in action, very helpful. It’s like the icing on the cake to set them up for success.
Okay, my sweet friend. We've made it to the end of this episode, and I think you'll agree with me that this one was jam-packed with info, right? It's my hope that you took some great notes, that you go get that outline, amyporterfield.com/558, so when you're ready to sit down, do this on your own, you have a guide. And remember, this is something that's going to evolve over time, and it's 100 percent okay if you don't have every piece of this yet. What's important is that you're laying the foundation for all of it right now so that over time it's going to really come together.
So with that, start putting your voice-guide outline together. What information do you already have that you can include? What are you missing? What research do you need to do? And maybe you just do an hour a week and work on this until it's done, and it should just take you a few hours anyway. So I'm telling you, this is worth your time. Create an action plan. Schedule some time in your calendar to actually get this done because it's an important piece of your brand, and I want it to come to life.
And if you haven't already, make sure to download the brand-voice-guide outline. Again, amyporterfield.com/558. I filled it up with examples of my own brand guide, so that will help get you started. Amyporterfield.com/558.
Thanks again for joining me. You know every Thursday I do a longer episode like this, every Tuesday I do a Shorty episode, so I'll see you on Tuesday for my next Shorty episode. Bye for now.