Setting out your branding guidelines for your shiny new business is exciting, isn’t it? But it can also be a little bit overwhelming. We know that. We’ve been there. While your visual brand identity can seem the place to start – your logo design, for example – your verbal identity is just as important. Without it, your brand will feel less coherent, more forgettable, and ultimately less successful.
What Is Brand Identity?
Your verbal identity guidelines are your brand’s roadmap for what you say and how you say it. It’s a pretty important piece of work. It’s what you’ll need to refer to every time you write for your website, email your customers, post on social media or update your product descriptions, and it serves as a vital resource if your business outsources content creation.
So how do you write successful verbal identity guidelines? Here at Wizard of Content, we think it’s down to these five considerations.
1. Define What Is Important For Your Small Business Branding
You want to define the pillars of your verbal identity early on in your branding document. Start with a clear outline of what you’re talking about here, keeping your definitions concise. You want to speak in terms that non-writers will get as well as your pro-copywriters. We like to keep it simple with ‘brand personality’ and ‘tone of voice’.
2. What Is Brand Personality? And Why Do You Need It?
The fundamental, unchanging element that defines Who. You. Are. Your brand personality is what your customers relate to and what helps them create an emotional connection to your brand. Think about three or four personality traits – you might be energetic, principled, and helpful, for example – list them out and expand on why each represents your brand.
3. Get Your Tone Of Voice Definition Right
The way you speak to your customers makes a significant, immediate impression. Get it wrong, and it’ll negatively affect their entire view of your brand. While your tone of voice can vary depending on who you are talking to, and how their needs and feelings change, at all times it reflects your underlying brand personality. So how do you pin down your tone of voice guidelines?
- Consider who your audience is – and always try to be empathetic.
- How is your audience feeling when you speak to them? Excited about a purchase? Stressed by a problem with your customer services? Your tone will change dependent on their emotions.
- How are you speaking to them? You might be more personal on social media, but more professional by email.
4. Have You Made A Written Checklist?
Ensure your in-house or external copywriters are keeping their writing on-brand by creating a mini-checklist for each of your personality traits. So instead of just saying “be energetic” you could say:
- Are you using an active rather than passive tone of voice?
- Have you cut out fluff?
- Does your copy flow at pace instead of feeling weighty and cumbersome?
5. Get Your Grammar Dos and Don’ts Sorted.
Most brands will follow a standard grammatical style guide that will form the building blocks of consistent writing. You might choose to add in your own little flairs to reflect your personality, for example, avoiding the passive voice or always allowing contractions for a more informal, spoken tone.
Whatever you choose, keeping it consistent is key to your brand’s success. The tighter you get your verbal identity guidelines the easier it will be for your staff – and any outsourced writers – to sound like the brand that’s in your head. Your verbal identity is how your brand speaks to your potential customers. Make sure they remember you.