Know your audience, know your message.

Here’s something we sometimes hear when working with clients on Verbal Identity: “I can’t say that”. Those three little words might be rattling around in your head, too, when thinking about your brand’s voice. And they need to chill out!

This is bigger than just your brand, of course, but for the sake of this article, we want to try to shake “I can’t” from your vocabulary when talking about your brand.

Obviously, there are some topics you would be best-served to avoid, and we all know what they are. But there’s so much people avoid saying out of a sense of “is this appropriate”, “Is this professional”, or “will I lose customers”.

If you’re hesitating, hemming and hawing, or otherwise feeling like you’re walking on eggshells when speaking in your brand voice—you’re in the right place.

Once you’re able to answer questions like “who is my brand speaking to” and “how do I speak to them”, this becomes an easier task.

Don’t make it weird.

You know those moments when you’re at dinner with new people, and you’re not saying a whole lot because you’re going over all the ways you could accidentally offend someone? Your brand does the same thing. It avoids interacting, and sounds stilted when it does try. And your audience picks up on this! Knowing who you’re speaking to and what kind of messaging (from the world, from other brands) they’re used to will help you avoid situations like this.

Don’t contain multitudes.

This is the uncomfortable sense you get when your brand has grown in a direction that feels like a giant, fire breathing amalgamation of every voice that’s ever been involved in your brand, EVER. Your brand feels like an oversized Katamari ball. And when you’re trying to say everything, your message is diluted down to nothing. This leaves your audience feeling confused, overwhelmed… generally uncomfortable. If they’re not moving away from you exactly, it’s only a matter of time before something calm and soothing that feels like it’s speaking directly to them sweeps them off their feet – and they’re gone.

Focus on the positive

In some cases, there are things your brand simply cannot say. In this situation, it’s best to acknowledge them, take them off the table, and focus on what you CAN say. It can be tempting to comment on every trending topic, but it’s just not always appropriate. 

Sometimes it’s just a matter of feeling like you have permission to, say, use expletives in your marketing, or permission to take a pass on politics when you’re just not a political company. If your audience is younger, or you’re a company like Cards Against Humanity—hell yeah, you absolutely should be swearing!

Do any of these scenarios ring true to you? If you’re struggling with questions of voice and audience, we can help. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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