From Nike and Pepsi to GE and Microsoft, major corporations spend millions each year on marketing initiatives to carefully shape, protect or revitalize their brand image. The success of a marketing campaign can hinge on a single word or image choice. That’s why these companies have also invested millions in brand style guides that carefully define and protect branding and tone across all internal and external communication touch points. Why? A distinct and unwavering brand voice is a core communication attribute. Any communication inconsistency can create brand confusion. Consistency matters.
But what about at smaller companies that don’t have a seven-figure marketing budget– is it still worth the time to invest in a voice and tone exercise? Absolutely. In fact, we think it’s even more important for social media brands that may have a smaller market share or not be as well known as their competitors. When a company like Pepsi makes a major PR blunder, it can recover. When a lesser-known social media brands makes a mistake, it’s much more difficult to bounce back.
Recently we’ve been taking a deep dive into brand voice and tone for brand messaging. We’ve looked at why it’s important to clearly define these critical brand elements before launching a big content program. We’ve explored how voice and tone are distinct but complementary elements and drilled down on how to develop a brand guide for social media, including visual elements. And we’ve looked at the importance of voice and tone for delivering a consistent customer service experience. In our final post in this series, we’re taking a closer look at how to put these pieces together across all communication touch points. From sales to marketing to customer service, how can you bring your brand voice and tone guide to life and keep it consistent across organizational silos? The solution: a brand profile that serves as your company’s “single source of truth” for all written and visual brand elements.
The brand profile is the most important document a company has for public relations, customer service, marketing, and sales. A brand profile establishes a unique and distinct voice for all external and internal communications. It propagates a single, crystal clear perception of a company’s values. Finally, it governs the messaging used everywhere from the company’s website to social media campaigns to customer service. Without a single, central brand profile, it’s virtually impossible to keep brand voice and tone consistent across siloed departments.
We like to think of a brand profile as a “master recipe” for a company. No matter how many cooks are in the proverbial kitchen, they all follow one, single recipe and deliver the same perfect meal each time. A brand profile makes it easy for different team members across departments to pitch in and help at different stages, without adding the wrong spices or overcooking the meal.
Every brand profile should include the following basic elements: mission, vision, voice, tone, word list (preferred words to use or not use), logo, colors, and image guidelines. Next, the profile should include examples of voice and tone used to help minimize confusion when being used by different departments, consultants or freelancers. In our previous blog post, we looked at how a company’s description comes to life in its internal (employee-facing) brand guide and then external (customer-facing) website copy and customer service communications. You may find it helpful to define specific use cases and include examples of preferred communications. If your customer service team spends a lot of time using Twitter or live chat to address client needs, consider defining how customer service reps should interact with customers based on the communication channel. If a major part of your company’s marketing program is thought leadership, you may wish to define a specific blog post or white paper style so every piece of content your team produces has the same feel.
When creating the brand profile, it is important that every department feels included. This should not be an initiative exclusive to Marketing. Every department interacts with customers and clients in different ways and will bring a unique viewpoint to the brand profile creation. When all experiences are reflected in the brand profile, there can be buy-in across departments. This helps to break down silos for the betterment of the brand.