So you’ve started a blog. Or you’re just about to. You know it’s a great driver of the Inbound Approach. You are fired up, you’ve already read this post and you are fast approaching PEAK FLOW STATE. You are unstoppable! Go you!
Not so fast muchacho! Have you thought how you’re going to talk to your audience? In a way that builds credibility, adds value and delights your audience? It’s not just what you say but how you say it. The problem with the internet is its now really easy to publish content, and that includes bad content as well as good.
So how can you find your authentic voice not just for your blog but also all of the inbound messaging you use throughout your business and more importantly how can you maintain it? especially if there is more than a single person speaking on behalf of your business or brand?
Use these five proven tips to help you get started.
Before We Start: What are you like in Real Life?
Think about the way you act and speak. Are you excitable? Are you quiet? Are you rash? Are you judgemental? The truth is that your written voice is going to be much like your spoken tone. Many will deny that, but when creating content (at volume and pace) it’s going to become apparent fairly quickly. One of the ways to minimise overbearing tone can be to employ a guiding editor but that’s going to impact dramatically on the first point below …
1. Be Authentic
You have heard this a million times, but it’s absolutely true. Throughout life you’re told Just Be Yourself, and despite what a hundred internet gurus might tell you its always better to present your true self, and not your perceived self.
Think about it like this. You’re going to a party. You decide to make yourself more interesting by putting on a French accent, it’s all going well at first and you’re regaling the guests with your tales of living in Paris. Then you make that one comment, and you’re done.
But how is it possible to have this level of authenticity when there are multiple voices speaking for your brand? Exactly the same. Allow the voices within your own organisation to add colour and richness to your tone, not only will it illustrate the diversity of thought inside your organisation, but it’s highly likely they will bring an energy to your content that might not be able to.
You got to have style and learn to be original.“My Philosophy” Boogie Down Productions (1988)
ProTip: Writing guides, brand guidelines and micromanagement of content creation is going to kill authenticity. Create a workflow that empowers content creators but aligns with your company tone.
2. Always Have Your Buyer Persona In Mind
The Inbound approach gives us a true north, The Buyer Persona. When creating obessively think, how am I adding value to my audience? We’re not suggesting that you compromise what you say or how you say it, but think both about tone and content. Seth Godin often talks about being as narrow as possible to be viable, meaning try and be laser focussed on what your intended audience need at the point when they come to you for help. As much as you might want to include holiday photos or concert reviews on your blog if its about Inbound Marketing (for instance) stick to that subject.
ProTip: Be incredibly careful to not just create content that is of interest to you. If thats what you want to do start a private blog or write a diary. Remember: Always try to add value!
3. Don’t Try and Bluff It
This really shouldn’t be said, but we will. Along the lines of being authentic, if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Just stop. If you are a business owner identify the one thing that you are an expert at, and focus on that one area. This area of expertise will be of interest of others, being a generalist makes the content harder to find, and also puts it into a much bigger pool of content where it’s less likely to be found. Be as specific as you can.
4. Don’t Use Ten Dollar Words
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway might have been talking about Faulkner when he spoke of ten-dollar words but its essential advice for all of us. It’s all too easy to lapse into flowery language and buzzwords as a way to make yourself look like an expert. This approach is illustrated in the Campaign for Plain English which has been running since 1979 in the UK. If you can’t explain what you do simply then it’s likely you can’t explain it at all. When looking at it from the Inbound Perspective you have no idea of who is reading the content so to make it as widely accessible is common sense. If you are an expert in a field that is emergent in other markets this becomes crucial as the audience might be reading content that is not in their native language.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Use Humour
We give this advice with a caveat. Humour can be an incredibly powerful tool to build connections. Obviously it has be in keeping with the overall tone, and if your business is incredibly somber it might not be an optimal idea. However if you have the confidence and ability, test and learn and see if it can help drive your content performance and engagement. Unless you’re elsewhere in the cosmos, your blog audience is 100% human and pretty much all of that audience will have a sense of humour.
ProTip: Humour often doesn’t travel well across borders so bear that in mind when thinking of your international audience.
Eating Our Own Dogfood: The Inbound Pilot Approach
Inbound Pilot is a small business and blog based in Boston, MA. Just like you, we are competing for the attention of a global audience using an Inbound Approach. So what is the voice that we have chosen to use? We’re eating our own dog-food and practising what we preach. The phrase “eating your own dog food” originates from Microsoft in the late 1980s and means the internal use of a company’s own products or services in its day-to-day operations. If the ideas presented here are good enough for our audience or clients then it means they are good enough ideas for Inbound Pilot to use itself.
ProTip: We inject humour into the subject of Inbound Marketing primarily through the captions we add to the imagery in the blog. Imagery works well to guide the viewer of the page through the blog, and allows for a visual stimulus alongside the text. However, we decided that simply captioning the imagery with words to describe what the viewer could see was dry. So we decided to mix it up. It’s a thing we do. You’re welcome.
Bonus ProTip: When using a quote, we always align with the right hand side of the page as it helps the flow of the article and helps the reader keep reading.