Elevate Your Voice: How to Craft a Brand Presence That Clings Like a Fart in a Lift

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Swell AI Transcript: S3008 - Bethany Joyce.mp3
00:00 Louis Grenier Your brand voice should be like a fart in a lift, absolutely inescapably everywhere. Yeah, that's really embarrassing, but that's the one you've quoted.

00:14 Louis Grenier Bonjour, bonjour and welcome to another episode of Everyone Hates Marketers.com, the no fluff marketing podcast for people sick of marketing. Bullshit, I'm your host, Louis Grenier. In today's episode, you will learn how to find your voice as a brand that actually sticks, gets embedded in your organization, and really makes a difference. My guest today is a self-confessed one-trick pony. She's a brand voice strategist. She's been a copywriter both in-house and for digital agencies. She worked with brands across many sectors. She's traveled more than 40 countries. She has two kids. And I'm just going to read to you a quote that I saw from her recently, which is, I've got two small children, so I'm used to working with stubborn, distracted, uncooperative humans who always think they know best. And I think that's a very, very good description of what parenthood is about. So anyway, Bethany Joy, very happy to

01:06 Bethany Joy have you on board. Welcome. Great. Thanks. Happy to be here. What are the main symptoms of a poor voice from a brand? Probably a voice that is inauthentic when a brand is clearly trying to talk to you in a way that isn't actually true to who they are and what they're like. And I think you can tell quite quickly where there's a disconnect between how a brand wants to put themselves across and how they actually are when you really engage with them. I mean, authenticity is such a kind of buzzword, but in the most real, literal sense of it, I think a voice that kind of shows a brand inadvertently is trying to be someone that they're not or be something that they're not is probably the worst for me. Do you have an example of a brand that has this symptom? One of my first clients ever, when I was looking for myself in this area, was a hospice, a really amazing, lovely local hospice, obviously offering end of life care. When you meet them, they're just the loveliest group of people. The environment at the hospice itself is amazing, surprisingly warm and full of laughter and humor, a real focus on obviously helping people live out the last of their life in a really joy-filled kind of way. It was an amazing place. When you went on their website, it pretty much sounded as if it had been written by like a 1950s school matron. It was just very clinical, very cold, very austere, and it was just giving totally the wrong impression of who they were. I can think of another one of an organization that was all about innovation, forward thinking, smart city stuff, and yet all of their language was very old school, traditional, not very innovative. I could give lots of examples of, so not brands that people would have heard of, but companies where actually their language is just, like I said, it's this wall. People from the outside, if they don't know the company, all they've got is the website or the social media or the blog or whatever, you read it and you come away with an impression of this organization, which actually is just totally wrong. It's really not what they're like and the brilliance of who they are, and the language is kind of blocking. So inauthenticity, as in not necessarily a purposeful manipulative thing, but actually just a lack of awareness. I see that way too often,

03:16 Louis Grenier and it's depressing. Yeah, and I love your example about the house piece. I think that's a good way to define it. I realized, because I started talking about symptoms, that we didn't really define what a voice means. And if you don't mind, I'm going to read out loud something that you wrote that made me laugh. Out loud, literally out loud a few months ago. It's very simple. It says, this is how you define it, right? I would say. Your brand voice should be like a fart in a lift,

03:46 Bethany Joy absolutely inescapably everywhere. Yeah, that's really embarrassing. That's the one you've quoted. You can tell that I'm influenced by my small children in their pure sense of humor. Yeah, I suppose it was, well, you know, these things just come to you sometimes and then you sort of put it on LinkedIn and they think, that might have been an error. But yeah, I guess it was just that sense of inescapable, that your brand voice does need to be something that saturates everything that you do and everywhere that you talk and everywhere that people come across to you. Because I think that's the other thing, a sort of link to this authenticity thing. But sometimes I do see that a brand will do a bit of work kind of developing their voice, thinking about their voice, and they'll do it kind of in the right way with the right intentions. And they will be beginning to develop something that is authentic to who they are, but it still only shows itself like on their website and then maybe their blogs and a little bit on their social media. But once you get a layer further in, once you start getting to the emails and signatures and T and C's when you sign a client contract or the sales PDFs or that kind of further and further in, then it's not there. And it kind of feels like it's just a costume that the brand has sort of put on, but then you've gone backstage to the real thing and it's kind of not there anymore. And so I think that was, yeah, that was the thing with that analogy of it just needs to be ever is to permeate and saturate everything in order for it

05:13 Louis Grenier to actually be an effective voice rather than just a little comms device. You should be proud of it because it's the brilliant analogy and maybe some people won't like it, but that's the point. So two mistakes I would say, right? Lack of authenticity is one thing. And then the second would be probably like having a cohesive voice on the website, but nowhere else. So it's inconsistent. So inauthentic, inconsistent, would you have a third mistake, something that you tend to see

05:40 Bethany Joy brands go wrong and then we can obviously talk about the right way to do it. I see people basing it on the wrong thing. You know, most businesses obviously have a kind of, you know, vision, mission, values, positioning statements, like all that kind of stuff that you develop from a business perspective, which is, you know, fine and great and useful stuff. But often I find that that is where people start when they're thinking about their brand voice. And often stuff like their brand values is kind of where they begin and what they try and base a voice off of. And there's two problems really with that. One is that values are really the wrong kinds of words because values tell you about how you should act as a business. They don't actually tell you about how you should sound. And it's really mainly because the value words, partly they tend to be quite ubiquitous. So a lot of businesses have very similar values, which is totally fine. Things like integrity and trustworthiness and the quality of their products or people first, customer first, that kind of stuff. That's all totally valid and really great for a business. But obviously it's very common. So it's not great in terms of developing a distinctive voice. Well, I mean, it depends if the business is actually doing that.

06:47 Louis Grenier Those are like all bullshit stuff that everyone says, right? I mean, we both know, challenge listeners here, we both know that most values of any company is absolutely bullshit. Like we know this, right? Let's just be very…

07:00 Bethany Joy Well, it kind of goes, it does go back to the authenticity thing of, you know, it's fine if those are your values, but are you actually living them out? Are you actually doing them? And you're right, there are a lot of companies, it is just a talk shop. It is kind of bullshit. But even if they're true, if they are actually accurate and representative of the business, there's the fact that they're very common. And you're right, everybody says that their values that everybody has, they're not specific enough. They're not, you know, their values, not attributes. And so like if you're talking about say, you know, something like integrity, well, I can name you like 10 people that I know who all have really strong integrity, but they're all have completely different personalities. They all sound completely different. And it's that's true of businesses that there might be maybe not very many, but there definitely are some businesses I can think of that do have, you know, real integrity and really do put people first, but they all do it in a very different way. What I often see is businesses taking those values as their kind of starting point. And you know, they've all basically got sort of professional but friendly and innovative. And then they're trying to build a voice out of that. And it's you just you can't, you can't, you can't build voice off of that.

07:58 Louis Grenier You need much more specific personality attributes. That's, that's what a voice stems out of. I love that. And I think the lack of specificity is a major mistake when it comes to voice, message, positioning, focusing on like what target audience I mean, specificity is a cure for so many things in marketing, isn't it? So inconsistent, inauthentic and unspecific were probably the three main symptoms of a voice that sucks because everyone has a voice,

08:26 Bethany Joy every brand has a voice, whether they like it or not. Right. That's actually a really key point that a lot of brands miss as well. And not just brands, but I find when I hear people talking about brand voice in the kind of marketing space, because I do think it's becoming more more known now. I mean, obviously, the concept of a visual identity branding in terms of how it's visually expressed is common now is a common understanding of that. But I think there's a growing appreciation for verbal identity for how a brand sounds and brand language. And as I see that getting talked about more and more, I just feel so frustrated because I often hear people talking about, you know, you need to get a brand voice or can you help us? Can you give us a brand voice? And I'm always trying to say to people, no, you already have one. It's inescapable. Unless as a company, you're talking to your prospective customers entirely through the medium of interpretive dance. Like if you're talking to people, if you're using language in any way, you will have a voice. There's no way to opt out of that. The question is, is your voice serving you well or not? Is it as you know, those things you put in it, is it authentic? Is it consistent? And is it based on the right things? Is it an effective voice? And I think that's the biggest kind of thing. What's the biggest takeaway I'd say to people today? Don't there isn't any business that's exempt from this. It's not like, oh, maybe we'll think about a brand voice this year. Oh, no, wait, we'll save that until 2025. It's like, you don't have to think about it, but you do have one. So if you don't think about it, if you don't do some work to make sure it's good, you're taking

09:46 Louis Grenier the risk that it's bad. There isn't another option. Do you want to continue the interview with while dancing instead of talking then? I don't think that would be a positive for anybody. Especially as a podcast, I don't think people will understand, right? Yeah. Okay, great. Great intro. I think we have kind of nailed the main symptoms. Before we go into a step-by-step of how to actually redefine, re-engineer, re-whatever the voice, your voice, as a solopreneur, as a small business owner, or as a big brand, I want to touch on something that I found interesting in your point of view about voice is the fact that I'm a big proponent of focusing on customers, right? Asking them questions, the right questions, looking at their behavior, watching, you know, stuff like that. But you say that the voice shouldn't be something that your customers or your audience feed you, right? It's something that needs to come from within. So can

10:42 Bethany Joy you tell me a bit more about that? In loads of areas of marketing, obviously it is really important to think about the customer. And my background, as you said in the beginning, is as a copywriter. And I feel like I've spent a huge portion of my career just repeating that mantra of saying to businesses, it's not about what you want to say to people, it's about what people need to hear. And constantly trying to shift people's focus to that and get them to think about their audience. So of course, that is very, very important. But I think that it brand voice, in terms of when you're thinking about actually developing it, and you're thinking about actually what you want to sound like, it's one of the few times, one of the few areas where actually you need to be really careful that you're not overly influenced by your customers, because ultimately, it's your voice. So it needs to sound like you. And I have definitely worked with businesses where brilliantly, they have loads of customer insights and loads of access to their customers and focus groups and opinion polls. And they've got all this great stuff at their fingertips, and it's so brilliant. But then they get almost distracted by that and thinking about, oh, well, our customers often talk like this, so how can we do that? Or this is what we think our customers are like, so we need to talk in this way. And there's quite an important piece about being true to yourself as a brand. It's about what you are like. It has to be you. It has to be authentic. And you have to base it on what you are like as an organisation. And frankly, if people don't like that, then they're probably not a good fit for you anyway. And you need to have the strength and the confidence to have a very clear voice that really is you. And it's a sort of take it or leave it kind of thing. I think that is so vital. If you try and go down the road of pleasing everyone or sounding like everybody, that's just chaos. It doesn't work. And it actually isn't attractive, because I think as human beings, we are most drawn to, as you sort of said in the beginning, people who have a point of view, people who have a perspective, people who are just confidently and unapologetically themselves, even if those selves are actually very different from our own, that's what we're drawn to. And so I think having the strength in the context of tone to be who you are without being

12:40 Louis Grenier overly influenced by them is really important. What's so important about what you just said is the tension between two things, right? There's a tension between understanding customers, understanding what they could want, understanding their needs, and catering to that with your product, with innovation and stuff like that. And the other, which is like being unapologetically yourself and standing for something and something that comes from within. And I think the brands and the people who seem to really stand the fuck out, right? Who really are doing something right in that context are the people who can navigate the tension well. They know when to seek customers' insights, but they also know when it is time to fucking go for it and just trust your instinct. We've, I think, painted the landscape pretty well about why it's so important to have a voice, the type of mistakes people do when making one. Now let's talk about more of a step-by-step method that listeners can kind of follow. Listeners would be like solopreneurs, small business owners, in-house marketers, all the way to like working for bigger brands. So I understand that maybe the methods that you use might depend, but let's try to find some common ground that we can advise

13:54 Bethany Joy people on. So what would you say is the first step to redefining your voice? Almost before that, I think it is helpful to say, I do think actually that no matter what your context is, whether you're a solo business owner or you're working in a huge company or somewhere in the middle, the sort of principles actually are kind of the same that you would follow. It's just obviously the outworking of it is going to be slightly different if it's just you, as opposed to whether you have to consult with like 50 different stakeholders in 10 different countries or you know, the scale of it changes. But I think the principles and actually the things that you need to consider are very similar. I suppose the first place that I would start is actually given what we said about the fact that a voice is inevitable, is inescapable. I think I would start with a sort of getting the lie of the land kind of piece of just taking stock of where you are right now, actually trying to understand what your voice is doing right now, just to see where you are. And I think some people, they already kind of have a rough idea, but just spending a bit of time digging into it, looking at your different communications from across the business, asking, you know, getting some perspectives from outside as well as internally and just trying to get a sense of, okay, how are we talking right now? Is it consistent or not? Or is it very different? Different people in the business write about us differently. How do people on the outside view us? If we take a more objective view, how are we coming across at the moment? If people didn't know the inner workings of the company, what are we appearing like at the moment? Just really trying to get a sense of what's happening right now, because that's often a good sort of measure of, you know, whether you're looking at it and going, okay, it's not quite right, it needs a bit of work, but actually we're on the right track, or looking at it like this hospice did, you know, looking at it going, oh my gosh, like I had no idea, that's awful, that's completely not us. We really hadn't thought about that, we didn't realise that. And just seeing how kind of how far you are from where you want to end up, I think it's a helpful place to start.

15:44 Louis Grenier We could call that step like auditing your existing voice or something like that. Now I'm interested in your experience, let's say I hire you as a brand voice strategist, let's say for my business, and your task to do that, like to first audit, like what do you ask specifically to get access to in terms of resources, but also people, like specifically,

16:05 Bethany Joy what do you do? The first thing is I just normally ask for, or try and get access to, as many of their different communications as possible. So obviously some of that is just, you know, externally available to me, I can look at their website and their social media channels and blogs and podcasts or videos, stuff like that. But obviously I'd also ask for access to, you know, like regular email campaigns that they send out, and I would try and really make sure that we get across the board spectrum. So if there's a sort of regular internal communication pieces, there might be like an intranet or an internal newsletter, depending on what kind of organisation they are, they might be like making funding applications, is there any of that stuff to look at? Scripts for sales calls or sales centres, just like really any point at which someone inside the organisation is talking to someone outside the organisation as the organisation, you know, not just… So I wouldn't ask to see obviously like people's sort of personal emails, like me, an employee sending an email to one person externally, but anything that's kind of going out from the organisation, I basically try and see as much of that as possible to look at it all together. And then I also always ask to see any internal documents they've got around vision, mission, strategy, purpose, values. Sometimes they have existing branding documents, usually they mostly relate to visual branding, but sometimes they have some existing verbal branding documents, so I'd always ask to look at that kind of stuff, strategy documents, just to get a sense of where they're at internally, and then any access to any audience related stuff they have. So if they have feedback groups set up, if they've got even like analytics sometimes of what's going on on websites and who's looking at what, and maybe if they've done any big campaigns recently, might like to see some data and some insights from that. It does really depend on the company and what they're doing, but yeah, give it all to me and then I'll decide, I'll see what's useful, I'd rather have more than less. So it's the beginning, the audit phase does tend to be a bit of an onslaught of information, but I think it's useful. And that is something I would say of, oh, this isn't a plug for like, this is why you should hire me, but as in, I think there is something beneficial in the outside perspective, in the objective perspective. So even if you're in a position where you can't afford to hire somebody to help, like maybe you're a really small business, even just like collating all that stuff and then asking a friend or asking a mentor that you have or another colleague or another freelancer, you could sort of do it for each other. I do think that objective external perspective is really helpful because a lot of the time we're just too close to our own stuff and especially if you've done a lot of the writing of that, you obviously know everything that's behind it, it's that burden of knowledge thing. And so any situation in which you can get a more objective external perspective to help you with that audit

18:45 Louis Grenier process, that is really useful. Yeah, because you can't see the label from inside the jar, right? The minute you enter a company as an in-house marketer or you have your own company, that's it. You're just not objective anymore, you can't see things clearly. So I agree to your point, having a third party to look into it, whether it's you or freelancers or friends or whatever is very important. So what I'm interested in knowing now is how do you get from a place of, I have all the documents, I have all the voice stuff in front of me, to this is what's lacking, right? Like to the house piece example, right? So there is a step where you collected everything, read everything, fine. But how did you go to a place of knowing this is not you at all and

19:28 Bethany Joy this is the problem, right? Like in that specific example, it actually was just as simple as showing them some of that. I think a lot of times in companies, well, it depends. If you're a small company, you don't have much of a marketing team, then obviously, writing and marketing stuff, it doesn't come naturally to you anyway. So you kind of just do it as like a side thing to your main job and so you don't think about it very much. But even in bigger companies where there is actually a marketing team, certainly outside of the team, there's just a lot of businesses don't actually spend that much time looking at their own stuff. Because why would you, you're getting on with doing the business stuff for the business. Like for those guys, it was just a case of actually me combing through all of that stuff and then kind of picking out some examples and kind of bringing it together and literally, you know, in a workshop with them kind of going, okay, let's look at this, let's read through all of this. Just kind of take a step back. If you didn't know the organization, if all you ever had about this whole space was these bits of text, what would you come away thinking? And I mean, that was like a huge just penny drop moment to them that they, in a different context and with nothing else to think about, they were just in that room for sort of two hours. That was the thing they were doing. They suddenly were able to read that and in a different coming at it from a different perspective and they just like they all just kind of went, oh god. And it was a real, yeah, penny drop sort of moment. So I think sometimes it is just literally taking the time to look at it with that mindset that then, you know, you're not looking at it for factual accuracy and not looking at it for is it covering all the right benefits of the product. You're not looking at it for any of those tick box things. You're just looking at it from a perspective of what does this suggest to people about us? What does this make people think we're like? And then actually, I think that it's just that mindset change that that is often the biggest

21:22 Louis Grenier kind of realization of the people that they then go, yeah, that doesn't sound like us at all. We would get that there's someone listening and they want to do it on their own, let's say. You might ask them to like isolate maybe the homepage of their website because maybe it's probably one of the most important thing for their business. And maybe they try to look at it from an outside perspective and ask themselves, okay, if I don't know anything else about that business, forgetting that it's me, what would I kind of take away from that? What would be the

21:51 Bethany Joy personality of the brand? Is that the right word? Yeah. And sometimes it can be helpful as well. Like obviously, businesses are quite used to doing like competitor research and stuff like that. But often we don't look at our competitors or other people in our sector with this particular lens, that it can also be helpful almost alongside or even before you do that for yourself, go and find some other brands that are in your sector and have a look at their stuff and think, oh, what does this make me think about them? What kind of personality is being evoked by this? And then go and read your own stuff and kind of, it's helpful like, oh, actually we come across as more this than them, but oh, yeah, we come across as less that. And actually they really came across like this or we're really coming across like this. And so it depends on the sector. Sometimes it also helpfully reinforces that everyone else's brand voice is a bit shit as well. And it depends if there are any good, any strong voices, but it's still, even if actually you look at a lot of competitors and think, actually, I'm not really getting much of a sense of personality because it's quite inconsistent or it's quite bland or it's whatever, that's still a helpful thing to know. And then just, that's a nice kind of comparison point that when you come to look at

22:59 Louis Grenier your own, it's just another reference point that could be useful too. So what's the output of such an exercise where you look at the voice from different sources and you try to ask yourself, like, what's the personality of it? Like what do you tend to create as an output of this? Is it like an exercise where you kind of personify that brand and just, if it was a person, it would be

23:20 Bethany Joy like sounding a bit like the guy from the office or, you know, what's the output on that step? Yeah, it's the sort of part B in a way to that step then is definitely spending that time thinking about what you do want people to see or feel about the organization. So that's the first bit, it's almost like the sort of negative, potentially negative piece of what are people seeing at the moment? What are we, what sense of a personality, if any, are they getting at the moment? That naturally throws up sort of gaps or points where you think, gosh, that's wrong or that's wrong or they're totally missing this or this isn't coming across at all. It shows you where those gaps are. And so that helps you, as you say, move to that next step where you say, okay, well, if this isn't quite right, what is right? What is it that we want people to know about us, to feel about us? You know, what is the personality that we want our language to evoke? And that's why, you know, it kind of ties back to what we were talking about earlier of when you begin to have that discussion and making sure that you are basing it on the right things. So trying to mine what the actual identity and personality of the organization is, not what are the values or what are the things that are important to us or what are the key things we want people to know about our product. But actually, it's so hard. There's a lot of cliche, I think, around that. If your brand was a person, what would they be like? And it's so frustrating. But unfortunately, that is kind of part of it. It's that realization that, you know, as humans, that's a huge part of how we interact. You know, you talk to someone even for just like five minutes at a party or a networking event or something, and you get quite a good sense of whether they're someone you want to keep talking to or someone you want to never see again. That's the same with brands. And so you've got that little window, or it's not just about what you're saying, it's about how you're coming across, how you're talking to people, that are they going to see you as a brand that they think, yeah, I kind of want to hear some more from those guys, or I trust those guys, or I'm interested in those

25:08 Louis Grenier guys, or not for me. And so you do have to think about that personality element. You're familiar with my work, I would say, right? I mean, maybe not overly familiar, but probably enough to answer that question. If you were to describe the everyone hates marketers personality, or like my personality, because it's, you know, it's a solo business, what would you say,

25:30 Bethany Joy just as an output, just to understand the way you would go about it, if we were meeting about my voice? I love that you're very direct and no bullshit. So you're very happy to just call stuff out. And I think that engenders a sort of trust. There's no double speak, there's no trying to please everyone, you're just like, this is what I think, boom, I'm saying it. So I do love that there's a directness and a no bullshit thing. And I feel like what also comes across with that is as a real sort of, I start to know if you used to word, but a genuine passion and a warmth and passion of that you actually love what you do. You really want to see people not to be shit. Like you're not, that's the reason for your direction as in you're calling out bullshit, because you're like, there's just no point in wasting time on stuff that isn't going to work. Like, I actually care about you guys getting this stuff right. And so I'm going to call you out when you're bullshit so that you actually do something that's good and worthwhile. So otherwise, what's the point? Let's all go home. So I kind of feel like those are probably the two biggest things that come out for me. There's sort of no bullshit,

26:26 Louis Grenier but accompanied by a genuine passion and warmth and desire to see people stand the fuck out. Thanks for saying all this. I wasn't fishing for compliment. I was more fishing for the output. And so what you tend to naturally do then is to describe a behavior or like something that emanates from the brand, right? It seems to be like, yeah, I don't think it's cliche to describe it like as a person. I think it's totally valid because it helps a lot. So a little exercise that I tend to do about voice is to try to match it to a personality or character or someone that you know closely,

27:01 Bethany Joy because it really helps as well sometimes. I've done that a few times for clients where we've developed a kind of, you know, we've got the voice and we've developed a sort of toolkit around that and we've got some sort of key attributes and stuff that help kind of anchor the voice and all that. But we've also developed almost like a cheat sheet sort of how do you get quick access, you know, you're writing a piece and you just, you've got to write it quickly. You haven't got an hour to sit and read through the whole toolkit and guidelines and stuff again. Like what's your sort of post-it note on the computer, like quick access to get into this voice, get into this personality. And often it is like, think about Harrison Ford, but more, a bit more smiley or, you know, channel broodog, but a bit less hypocritical or whatever, you know, or listen to this particular band, listen to the Beatles and it will put you in that sunny, happy sort of positive mood that is great for, you know, just kind of shortcuts like that and like a really

27:55 Louis Grenier helpful way into a voice. Yeah, it can definitely be a really useful thing. Okay. So we have on one hand the existing personality and voice of the brand, right? We've collected all of the material that we need and we have a sense of what this person would be like, right? And we describe that and then you mentioned the gaps, right? So, and then we identify the gaps, but to identify the gaps, we need to know what they would want to sound like and to project, right? So you mentioned about their identity. So how do you get to extract out of them those things that tend to be so bullshitty in corporate environments, right? Like, which is like, we want to be sound like, exactly as you said earlier, we want to sound professional, but friendly and we want to be innovative and yet accessible and all of this shit. So how do you sift through that to actually get to the

28:42 Bethany Joy really important part? I think it's, so it's normally stuff that will come out in the context of like a workshop or something where, I guess there's lots of different exercises, lots of different ways of tackling it. I think it normally depends on what the main problem or barrier is for a particular organization. So, you know, sometimes we'll do almost like a sort of first pass at an exercise of, you know, what do we think your personality is like or whatever, and you'll end up with quite a lot of these, we're professional or whatever. But then what I'll do is, you know, we'll get those like on post-its maybe or something, and then I'll basically go through and sort of ruthlessly take out all the post-its that are just bullshit words that we're not going to use and say, okay, right, well, we're getting rid of all of those, you're not allowed those, so what's left? And then try and like push in on some of those. And sometimes it's taking a particular attribute and just really pushing them on what they mean by it and maybe using different examples. So, you know, they might say, oh, we really want to be friendly. And then sometimes I'll try and get them, it kind of depends on like how well I know the group, but, you know, I might say to them, okay, like look around at one another, who do you think is the most naturally like friendly person in this group? And they might pinpoint, oh, that person comes across with another person. And I'll say, well, tell me more about their personality, why are they so friendly? What do they do that makes them friendly? We just kind of dig into that. We say, okay, well, do you think your brand is friendly like that? Or do you think your brand is friendly more like because they're so informal? Or are they friendly because you sense they really care about you? You know, we'll try and push into those attributes and actually dig down to use a much more, like you said, a more specific word or phrase that really encapsulates that rather than just friendly. But again, try to push down into when you say professional, like what do you mean? Do you mean that it's about what you're able to know that you're really, really good at what you do? Is it about authority? Is it about trustworthiness? Is it about, you know, and I just push, push, push to get underneath those words. Okay, so that's really good. So the specificity comes back to it. You mentioned the word attributes a few times. So what do you define as an attribute? I definitely push people more towards adjectives. So the actual describing words. So rather than like something like integrity, that the attribute, the adjective, I guess, would be sort of trustworthy, or honest, or, you know, whatever. So try and push them, push them more towards a kind of describing term. But I guess I use attributes because I think it helps with like what you were saying, the idea of it being a personality that you, I try and push them to use words and phrases that are words and phrases you would actually use about another human being. Like, you know, you go to a, you've been to a party and you've met someone cool and you come back later and say to your partner like, oh, I had a great time tonight. I had a really interesting conversation with so and so they were really xyz. You know, you don't tend to go, I had a great conversation with this person because they were really people-centered and full of integrity. And I just felt that they were really high quality, that you just don't use those words. This idea of actual personality attributes, basically trying

31:40 Louis Grenier to focus them on using words that you would actually use about a real human is quite important. Yeah, I think that that's spot on. Another thing that I like to do is when to remove any adjectives or attributes that other competitors could also use to describe their voice or their behavior as a brand, right? And that usually removes 99% of them as well. So again, it's all about specificity, right? So I would say the outcome to summarize what you said is really like a set of adjective and descriptive paragraphs next to each of what it actually means to be, let's say,

32:16 Bethany Joy very friendly for them, right? Is that correct? Yeah, definitely a bit of, you know, not just the word, but sort of unpacking. And sometimes a reasonably common thing, but I think a helpful thing can be putting a sort of parameter around it. So we are this, but we're not this. Like we're very, you know, might be that we're very warm, but we're not overly colloquial. Or, you know, some brands might be very colloquial, very informal, but some brands might not. Or, you know, we're, there's something about wanting to feel authoritative, but not stuffy and academic. So sometimes putting a we are this, but we're not this can be helpful, sort of defining the parameters. And definitely when you get to stuff like, I don't know, let's say sort of like a humor, an element of humor is an important part of your voice. Definitely a bit of explanation of what the parameters of that are. You know, when we say we think we're quite funny, I mean, are you funny, like sarcastic, funny puns, funny, outright jokes, or are you kind of snarky? You know, there's just, the key thing is sort of giving people, in the most positive way, giving people the least amount of wiggle room to interpret it wrongly. Because obviously the more specific you can be, and the more supporting information you can give, the more clearly you're going to get a shared understanding of our attribute. Because I think when you just have like, well, we want to be friendly and professional. I mean, five different people writing on behalf of your brand could interpret that so differently. So as specific as you can be, and as much more sort of further

33:48 Louis Grenier explanation as you can give, and you're unpacking those is very helpful. Yeah, I think that's the key, right? Like writing this as a stranger, like writing this so that a stranger who knows nothing about your company could write something if they are gifted enough

34:06 Bethany Joy using that voice without asking any questions, right? So to get that specific. Well, and because to be fair for a lot of brands, I mean, perhaps not, you know, if you're just a solo business owner, maybe not quite so much, but bigger companies, that is literally what you might be using those brand voice guidelines for. Like if you hire in copywriters, or you get an external agency into help with some campaigns, or, you know, that's you're going to literally give them that that's going to be a huge part of them understanding what your organization is like, and how to write and speak and create marketing stuff in that tone.

34:36 Louis Grenier Okay, so we have the audit of the situation of today and where the voice is, and we have where needs to be. How do we fill the gaps, which I think is the next step, right? So

34:49 Bethany Joy what then what do we do then specifically? Then the next kind of piece that I think often, I don't know if I can say this without being patronizing, that some people who I've seen doing brand voice work, but who have maybe slightly less experience in it, or maybe like copywriters who sort of offer a bit of tone of voice stuff on the side. I'm not trying to be rude and do them down, but the piece that I often see them missing is that they do that sort of initial piece of work, and then they jump straight to like creating guidelines and kind of explaining it all in that packet. And that's great, those, that stuff has a place, but there is a kind of piece in the middle, it's also obvious, but I'm just doing the writing of actually creating the sound. So actually sitting down and saying, okay, well, before we get to create a new copy, why don't we just start by, let's take, I don't know, some paragraphs from our website homepage, or from a blog that someone's written, or a key bit of sales or product information, or whatever, let's just take that and say, okay, well, this is how we used to do it, but we've identified all the reasons why that isn't great. We know where we want to be now, so let's just have a go. Let's actually try now we know how we want to sound, let's try and write in that way. And again, that is where the potentially getting a bit of help from someone external, I mean, it's totally depends on the setup of your business, you might have a big marketing team with lots of people who are really strong writers. And so you might be able to do this internally, or it might be that this is a piece where you do need a bit of help from someone who's a great writer and a good communicator, but just actually sitting down and just writing a whole bunch of stuff, and also playing around with, like, okay, if we think this is our tone, what's, what's like the furthest we could push that and let's write something that's really, really, really in that tone. And how do we feel about that? And actually, oh, yeah, that's really exciting. Okay, now maybe that's a little too far. Let's put it back a little bit. You know, you can't really find out any of that stuff by talking about it theoretically, you have to just do it, you actually have to have pieces of writing in front of you to play with and push and pull on and say, if we had this in this context, would it work? And what about for this part of our audience? And what about when we're saying this stuff, we're talking about that, how does that play out? And you've got to spend the time actually just writing and creating stuff, it's got to be the next piece.

36:51 Louis Grenier So I'm nodding like an idiot. If you're listening to the podcast audio, you probably don't see if you're watching this. Thank you. Because that's what I was kind of hoping you would go. And I love the fact that you said to push the envelope, you know, to really go to the edge of the map, how does it feel, right? And that's what I tend to do with clients, not about voice, but in general, in terms of behavior, like they want to go, they want to stand the fuck out in certain ways. And I make them do like a campaign, for example, an actual thing that will go out, let's say tomorrow, and try to see how far they're taking it, right? And what tends to happen, and I don't know if it's your experience with the voice stuff, is that you push the envelope to the point where they feel it's risky, and then they see it, they let's say they ship it, and then they realize it's not that

37:38 Bethany Joy far, and then they want to go more. Like, is that something that you see? Or? It's a mix, I think, with different clients. But yeah, I definitely have had that experience where there's an initial, oh, God, can we do this? But then once they do it, and it's actually out in the world, they're like, oh, okay, that wasn't quite as scary as I thought. And actually, people responded well to that. And that's good. And, you know, I think a lot of it is it's that fear of the unknown, isn't it? And it's they're doing something that they haven't done before. So there's a lot of uncertainty. But then once you actually just get on and do it, you realize it's not that bad. Okay, so we do a real life exercise on a piece of writing to understand what this does start of a guideline feel like. And then we tweak things around, right? What do we do next? Once you've got a really good set of pieces of writing that everyone just goes, yeah, that's us. That's how we want to sound. That's right. Then what you need to do is really start creating a kind of roadmap to get to that sound. So basically thinking through, okay, who are the people in the organization who are going to need to be communicating in this tone? What is it that they are going to need in order to be able to do that? And one another piece, I would say, often really gets overlooked, is actually a piece about listening to people and asking people what they need. So working with a client in the moment where we had a really great session, that we've done all this work on the voice and got it to a place where we were all quite happy with it. But we had a really great session with a wider group of content creators from across the organization, where we just kind of sat down and said, okay, this is what we've come to. This is where the voice is going. This is how it sounds. What scares you about this? What do you think is going to be most hard about writing in this tone? And why do you think that? And where are the potential challenge areas? And what do you think is going to be helpful? And if we were going to give you some guidance, would you prefer to watch something or listen to something? And do you want examples? And do you need dos and don'ts? Is that helpful? Is that too restrictive? And we basically just kind of talked it through with them. If we're going to expect you to use this voice, what do you need in order to make that happen? And it was so interesting because a lot of it was about some practical stuff that could end up in a toolkit. A lot of it was, yeah, we really need lots of examples. That'd be great. And it would be helpful to have some sort of vocabulary lists of these are the kind of words we like, and these are the kind of words we don't like. And so it's helpful to get a lot of that practical stuff. But what was really interesting is that also a lot of what came out was to do with processes and some stuff for them internally of like the process of who gives the brief and who creates it, and then who signs it off and who's got ultimate authority. And it goes through so many voices, and that's not always helpful. And there's all these layers of the editorial process. And it was really interesting to me how much of the discussion ended up being about sort of structural process stuff and what they needed to make their jobs easier. And it was a really great, really positive discussion, actually, that I think will have further reaching implications for their cons, which is really good. But so that was like a really, really helpful step because now as I'm working with that client kind of creating the toolkit, we know that we're actually putting together something that's going to be genuinely useful to people rather than just me putting together like a really boring 10-page PDF with quite a lot. I'm actually pulling together something quite interactive, lots of examples, and we know we're giving them what they need in order to reach the goal. Would that be the number one tip perhaps to get decision makers on board about The Voice or would you recommend something else about this? When you say get decision makers on board about The Voice, do you mean get them on board with the idea of doing the work in the first

41:10 Louis Grenier place and developing it or getting them on board with using The Voice once it's? I think that's a valid question, so maybe both. Maybe we can backtrack and think about how do we, let's say the marketing manager reaches out because they know the experience, the importance of The Voice, but the

41:25 Bethany Joy CEO doesn't know fuck all about it. How do we get them on board? Probably the key thing is, it's a similar thing that it's kind of rooted in listening that actually what you want to do is recognize that unless you've got literally the best, most loveliest, most amazing CEO in the world, broadly they are going to be focused on their stuff, what's important to them, what they want to achieve, where they want to take the business. They've got very much their own agenda and their own set of things that they want to achieve. I think just making sure that you're really attuned to those and taking the time to figure out how the brand of voice work that you're suggesting is going to help them achieve those things. I don't know, maybe they've got a real awareness on a slight shift in the business that they need to grow their appeal to a particular segment of the market or they're having like real trouble with a particular set of stakeholders or whatever. And you know that's really top of their agenda at the moment. Then thinking about how the stuff you do with brand voice is going to help in that scenario and how it's going to help them achieve those goals is really important because then they can suddenly see how this thing adds value to their exact set of priorities. Because I think there's all sorts of useful stuff you can talk to them about why it's good for the business as a whole. And actually as a side note, I do have a free resource on my website that is five numbers that will clinch your case for brand voice work. So it's a free paper that basically has a good set of kind of stats and stories and stuff in it that kind of show more generally why brand voice stuff is useful for a business. So that can be helpful and there might be some useful stuff in there for people. But I think it's about making it as specific to your business as possible and saying you know what is the business trying to achieve at the moment, what are the goals and how can I demonstrate that this work I want to do is going to further that.

43:14 Louis Grenier So I'm going to ask you a tough question that is impossible to answer. Oh great. The CEO asked you how do you prove the ROI of that work? What are you saying to them?

43:25 Bethany Joy Yeah I'm not going to lie that's a bitch. Although interestingly it's mainly hard because brand voice touches or should when it's good, touches everything. You know we talked about that consistency and that saturation so it can be quite hard to measure because it runs through everything. So you know every campaign, everything, there's always other stuff going on as well as how you're talking to people. But I do think there are ways and it's about having that mindset from the beginning as you embark on the road process. So you know for example I'm thinking of something we did with a client where they had some emails that went out promoting a particular show and they, well actually it was a season, a season of shows, they had kind of reasonable stats from across the last couple of years of you know these emails promoting each season you know went out sort of quarterly or whatever and they had a kind of fairly steady open rate, click-through rate, a booking rate, all that kind of stuff that was fairly kind of consistent. And so I think that's the way I see it. Fairly kind of consistent and so we did a bit of a trial where we did the next one of those emails in the new tone of voice and you know it didn't change anything else about it but just changed the way it was written and then kind of measuring and seeing that actually there were some really interesting cases of increased the open rate slightly but at least the click-through rate massively and the booking rate massively because we changed the description of some of the shows and that kind of stuff. So it was that was an interesting obviously just kind of one section I think you can pick key pieces of the business where you can measure we've got a specific thing we want people to do let's try and test it in the new voice and see if they're more or less likely to do it or how they respond. So there are definitely ways of measuring the impact in in kind of isolated areas and then actually there is a stat in that paper that I was talking about where there have been it's not easy but some attempts to look at an organization as a whole and how you measure the impact on a company's bottom line and there is then there's a link to the study in there there is some evidence that it that companies who have a strong brand voice have I forget the exact number but it's something like 23 percent increase in profits from and there is some some research behind that which is interesting if you're if you want to geek out on stuff like that so that that's why again the paper is quite helpful if you've got a boss who

45:33 Louis Grenier wants to see the numbers there's definitely some stuff in there. I like that benchmarking thing I think it's a very good point of if we were to change nothing but the voice what would be the impact and sometimes it can be as direct as email open rate or click through rate but sometimes it could be as indirect as if you change the home page and you do an A-B test on it if you have the numbers to it or if you send direct mail or if you do facebook ads so I like the fact that you know you don't change the call to action you don't change anything else bar the voice what's the impact or it could be feedback as well you can use website tools to measure you know how much people like it or whatever interesting okay so it's already been 54 minutes that we've been talking oh gosh sorry uh no no it's it's all good so I think we've covered a lot of ground I wish we could uh talk for longer but I think we've we've covered already a lot I'm just going to try to summarize from memories what we described so I would say step zero is to maybe talk to the stakeholders first understand where they stand in the business try to understand from their point of view where they are uh step one then would be to audit the voice gathering materials from all the different sources step three would be to define the voice of today using some some sort of a personality descriptor uh they tend to be x y and z and step uh four is to show that to the team or to just read it yourself and see where you want to be uh what the gaps are to describe then the perfect personality that you like to have we are like this but we're not like that and trying to be very specific and then what you describe is a very good step which is uh actually writing particularly in practice straight away and how does it feel can we go further what do we tweak and then we talk to team members to understand what they want as output something that would be helpful for the actual job and once we have that we kind of write down the the actual document and obviously we're not going to go super specific in that but I think there's enough details for people to to run with it or hire people or at least be inspired by this conversation so thank you for playing the game and answering all of those questions I know I'm not easy to uh to deal with but it's for the better goods you described it earlier right I'm not doing it to annoy you I'm doing it to yeah for everyone um to get better so I just have two questions before I let you go what do you think marketers and entrepreneurs founders should learn today that will help them

47:47 Bethany Joy in the next 10 20 50 years I kind of feel like I'm surely just going to give the same answer that most people give which is I surely we just need to learn a bit more about humans um that ultimately I mean what marketing really is just sort of applied psychology isn't it really it's understanding how people work what they think why they think it how they behave and so I think that you know marketing lots of different trends in marketing lots of different tools appearing lots of different ways in which you can engage with humans and how they think and feel but actually that the sort of basic underlying just understanding how humans work and why is probably one of the main things that's not only going to help you now but will continue to help because I think actually looking back at history humans don't actually change that much what are the top three resources you'd recommend one thing I felt like it is really helpful to emphasize is how useful over the last year particularly I have found in-person stuff like off the back of the lockdowns and stuff getting back into actually physically going to meetups and conference it and I actually run a marketing meetup that's local to oxford and I've you know I've loved doing that and actually just how much how much I've learned and gained by talking to other marketers and hearing talks and on different topics and stuff in person that actually your brain just engages with things in such a different way and so obviously there's amazing resources online there's brilliant podcasts all that stuff is great but actually like don't forget to go out into the real world and hear stuff and talk to people that is really really useful and then maybe this sounds contradictory to that but I think it's as well as that but don't just listen to marketing stuff sometimes we just get as marketers you get into this zone where like you spend your entire life on linkedin just seeing things that other marketers say and think and opinions from other marketers and emails from other marketers and podcasts about marketing and obviously most of the world as you say everybody hates marketers no one cares about marketing no one like the whole point of what we're saying about marketing being applied psychology it's about people it's about humans so if you really want to engage with them engage with the stuff that other humans are engaging with you know read interesting novels go for walks see interesting films watch interesting tv series have interesting conversations like just do real world stuff I've had lots of creative kind of insights or things that have made me think from just like reading a novel or a casual chat

50:15 Louis Grenier with someone in the pub where that's really sparked off something unexpected so Beth thank you so much for all of this very very insightful learned a lot where can people connect with you

50:25 Bethany Joy learn more from you so yeah probably having just sort of slagged off spending loads of time with linkedin probably linkedin I don't put out a ton of content elsewhere so I think linkedin and my website which is ethanyjoy.co.uk that's there's some stuff there definitely in terms of kind of resources there's a couple of papers there and some editorials and stuff that kind of tackle a bit more detail some of the stuff I was talking about so those are all kind of free and happy for people to read and engage with those but yeah linkedin is probably the place if people want to connect and chat or just follow for more conversations about how brand voice is like

50:57 Louis Grenier thoughts that's the kind of high brow content that I'm putting out there that's going to be a great title for this episode I can tell you again Beth thanks so much for your time it's great it was good to be here thanks

Creators and Guests

Louis Grenier
Louis Grenier
The French guy behind Everyone Hates Marketers
Elevate Your Voice: How to Craft a Brand Presence That Clings Like a Fart in a Lift
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