The Rules One Copywriter Follows in Order to Capture a Brand’s Unique Voice
Apologies for starting this post with some words from my own biography, but I promise it’ll be warranted.
I began my writing career as a journalist. Specifically, as a writer and editor at an alternative weekly newspaper in Seattle. Unlike the objectivity striving journalism of daily papers, alternative publications like the one I worked for encouraged opinion and, most of all, unique voices in their articles. There was no in-house style, but rather, a motley collection of viewpoints and writing styles.
When I made the transition into copywriting, writing for other voices — especially brand voices — was an uphill battle. Everything I wrote at first sounded like me instead of the client, which meant every piece I received back for revision was inevitably a bloodbath of edits.
Over time, though, I’ve developed a set of rules that have helped me shed my own style and tone in order to successfully capture an array of client voices. These three rules, to be exact:
Rule 1: Start with the information, then focus on the voice
Whether you’re writing a whitepaper, an ebook, or a blog post, your first goal should be getting across all the information the client wants to get out there.
Before I start to really dig in on a writing assignment, I first list out all the points I need to make in the piece, along with brief descriptions of all those points. These act as the framework for what I’m writing to.
Once all the pieces are in place, then it’s time to turn to capturing the voice.
Your own process for doing this may vary — and admittedly, mine’s a little cumbersome — but always start actually writing in a fresh document, with the framework I’ve put together open in a separate window for reference. That way, I can keep track of the points I need to make and rewrite them once I’m in the flow of the voice.
Rule 2: Know who you’re writing for
Brand guidelines are important. Communication principles, brand attributes, third-rail terms — together they make up the foundation of the voice you’re trying to achieve.
But just as important, and the area where you’re most likely to scribble outside the lines of the brand guide, is to tailor your writing for the intended audience. That means referring to your client’s audience personas.
Every marketing agency has its own special sauce when it comes to putting together these personas. Here at A Brave New, we break down intended audience following a format that includes:
- Demographic information
- Biographical sketch
- Needs & desires
- Turn offs
- The type of content they're looking for
With this information in hand, it’s much easier to tailor a client’s messaging using their brand voice, since you’re writing for specific audiences rather than the audience at large. Put another way, it’s easier to get your personality across one-on-one than when addressing a crowd.
Rule 3: Be clear, informative, and most of all, conversational
While the first two of these can be classified as no-brainers, it’s the third requirement — being conversational in your writing — that helps the most when it comes to successfully capturing a brand’s voice.
Leave the highfalutin writing for the academics. Your goal is for prospective customers of your clients to actually read what you’ve written for them. Brands develop their own unique voice in order to get across a little about their beliefs as a company. Don’t bury that voice in a lot of heavy writing.
One last thing…
This isn’t so much a rule as it is a copywriting motto you should follow: If you find yourself using a semicolon, abandon ship because the paragraph you’re working on is already dead in the water.