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difference between brand voice and personal voiceYou don’t want there to be a difference between your brand voice & your personal voice, but there is.

The idea of a difference feels artificial, inauthentic, and potentially dangerous. What if the voice of my brand FEELS different to my Right Person than my own voice does, & when they work with me or meet me in person, they feel the disconnect?

But there is a difference — albeit sometimes a subtle one — between brand voice & personal voice, & the difference exists for a reason.

Here at The Voice Bureau, we believe passionately in the separation of brand voice and personal voice. We find it empowering — and we teach our clients and customers how to embrace and appreciate the difference.

The differences that matter to you, as a brand creator or business owner are:

  • shaping & editing vs. ‘off the cuff’ & unfiltered
  • personable vs. personal
  • Right Person focus vs. self-reflective or self-reflexive focus

Let’s go through these one by one so you can explore the difference.

Shaping & Editing vs. ‘Off the Cuff’ & Unfiltered

At their best, brand voices are always shaped and edited. An ‘off the cuff,’ unfiltered brand voice isn’t very effective or trustworthy. Whereas a personal voice, writing on a personal blog, can be ‘off the cuff’ and unfiltered, and still be readable and enjoyable to others.

You are not your brand. Not even if you’re a solo business owner. Not even if your Right People say they hire you for YOU.

Why? Because YOU’RE a person, whereas your brand is a construct of personality plus (value) proposition plus awareness of your potential buyer. No matter how much of your personality you allow into your business brand, there’s still a distinction — a necessary, human, life-affirming one. (To distinguish between your self and your brand is to affirm that you are more than, and separate from, what you create.)

Your brand voice is an expression of your brand. Your brand voice might incorporate your own particular personality, and it may feel personal, but it still belongs to your brand. If your brand went away, so would its brand voice. (This is why it’s possible to tweak and evolve the voice of your brand in order to aim at new goals, to up the interest of a particular segment of your market, and to position yourself differently as you move your brand into a new phase.)

Personable vs. Personal

A brand voice can aim to be personable in how it moves online, whereas a personal voice can afford to be, well, personal. Your personal voice is the voice you might use in your personal blog (not your business blog), your emails, your non-business Facebook posts, your love letters, your diary.

A business brand that leans on the personal as part of its currency and energy opens itself up to great risk.

What happens when life happens, as it inevitably will? If the brand creator becomes temporarily jaded, gets hurt by a collaborator, feels betrayed by a subcontractor, goes through a divorce, has postpartum depression, feels weary at life or marketing, is disappointed at a failed launch? You can’t put your brand voice on Prozac. As a business owner/leader/CEO/brand manager, it’s your job to protect your business and brand from the vagaries of the market, and once in a while, from yourself!

Personable, in the context of marketing a brand, means to show up as approachable. Making your brand voice personable means to give it a point of view, a distinct perspective, a style that is recognizable, relatable, and human

I didn’t come up with the ‘personable vs. personal’ distinction. I heard someone talking about it in a podcast interview a few years ago. The person (I wish I could remember who!) gave the example of taking her kids out for ice cream. A personal Instagram post might show her two daughters crowded on her to her lap, everyone angling their tongue at the top scoop of a huge cone. A personable Instagram post (one she might use on her business IG account) might show a downward shot into the colorful ice cream barrels. It’s still real life, it’s just not personal to the business owner only. It becomes personal to any IG follower who loves ice cream, loves color, loves their memories of going to the ice cream shop as a kid and standing on tippy-toe to look down through the protective window into the frosty, chock-full barrels of cold, creamy goodness.

Your personal voice is personal. Your brand voice is personable.

Right Person Focus vs. Self-Reflective or Self-Reflexive Focus

Your brand voice is shaped at least 50% (and sometimes up to 100%) to speak to the Right Person reader, client, or customer in a way that would extraordinarily appeal to them. Your brand voice MUST resonate or else it’s a flop.

Want some input on how to shape your brand voice to appeal to your Right People? Sign up below to Discover Your Voice Values. We’ll send you a rich, 48-question self-assessment that’ll get right down to business — and to brand voice — in about 10 minutes.

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Your personal voice is yours. It’s self-reflective (meaning, focusing on yourself and your own experience) or self-reflexive (meaning, focusing on your own creation of self). You can develop and shape your personal voice however you want, or let it be raw and untouched and first draft-only as long as you’d like, in whatever realms you’d like. In your personal voice, you can write for you and what pleases you, without worrying about the demands of the market and the preferences of your Right People.

The differences between your brand voice & your personal voice are significant & meaningful.

They’re there for a reason and the reason is to support the thriving of your business. While at first we might start a business for personal reasons — to make money doing something we love, to fulfill a personal dream — we quickly realize that in order to thrive, we have to consider our Right People every bit as much (actually, more) than we consider ourselves.

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

Do you notice a distinction between your brand voice and your personal voice? What have you made of that? What do you make of it after reading this post?

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next year's words await another voice

The Voice Bureau is transitioning from a solo-led brand to a co-directed collaboration.

My collaborator Katie Mehas, who joined my team in late 2012 and has served as (first) the Voice Bureau’s Project Curator since 2013 and more recently as Doyenne of Operations, is now standing alongside me in a co-visionary, co-directorial role.

CHECK OUT OUR UPDATED ABOUT PAGE HERE. Then follow the links on that page to read our personal About page and learn more about our coterie of writers.

Even though my biz friends swear they’ve seen my brand as more of an agency than a solo ‘personality’ brand for the past however long (phew and GOOD, I say), I still have felt stuck to my own fly paper around this idea of being seen as a ‘personality’ brand. I have struggled with being the ‘face’ of the brand (with my face in the header for years), even as naturally as this role seemed to have come to me.

Personality brands are magic when they work and the personality at the center can relax into them.

I’m thinking of brands like Emily Henderson the interiors stylist, author Elizabeth Gilbert, and Little Paris Kitchen chef Rachel Khoo.  You’re very much watching those brands because of the personalities driving them. You love what they CREATE, but you also love the way they engage with what they create, and how they invite you into their process, their life/lifestyle, and aspects of who they are. Other personality-focused brands you may know about are Danielle LaPorte, Marie Forleo, Susannah Conway (whose brand voice I profiled here many moons ago), and Yoga With Adriene (my fave online yoga teacher).

Personality brands are often the first type of brand a creative solopreneur will create. They represent a direction connection between creator and creation. It’s a beautiful thing.

3 things to know about well-run personality brands:

  • they’re never just run by the personality him or herself (Adriene has Chris, her good friend’s husband, who shoot and produces her videos; Liz Gilbert has a team that helps her with tour events, marketing, and of course, editorial) — even though the ‘face’ of the brand is the only face you’re apt to see
  • they have the flexibility to morph over time as the creator himself or herself grows, expands, and develops new passions and interests — as long as the brand has built itself a loyal community
  • they almost never started out doing the thing you see them doing today — all brands are iterative (i.e. they go through lots of changes over time), and most personality-led brands evolved into doing the kind of work they get paid for today (just Google ‘how [person’s name] got her start’ and you’ll find lots of background info on what they were up to before today

Personality brands can create tremendous value for their audience/readership/customers/clients/collaborators. People are naturally interested in other people, so it’s easy to see why a strong, confident, polished personality brand can really take off.

But leading with personality isn’t the ONLY way to shape a memorable and impactful brand. In fact, I’ve been tiptoeing toward a different vehicle for my own work for a while.

For the past couple years, I’ve been majorly struggling with presenting my work in the world through a personality-centered, or me-focused, brand.

So much so that I’ve been looking for a different way, a way that won’t dilute the power of what I’ve got to share or bastardize it in any way. Granted, I’ve never been overtly chatty about my own personal life through my business brand. The stories I tell about myself are mostly business-related, and I’m pretty private with my non-business use of social media. This you’ve probably perceived if you’ve followed me for long.

But I’ve still been afraid that removing my face from the site header and social media profiles would make our existing readership feel less connected, and new people less likely to connect. I know the power of an interesting personality. I’ve been afraid to be all business, no person behind the business.

But my truth is: being front and center has stymied me and kept me feeling hog-tied around creating the content I want to create. And just around showing up, period. That’s not serving anyone — not you, not future clients, and not even me and my team.

So for me, and for our clients and readers, it’s time for a shift.

A few years ago, a woman named Katie Mehas entered my life through a mutual writerly friend. We met via a private Facebook group for copy and content writers. I admired her clear mind, her been-around-the-block pragmatism, and her sharp wit, characteristics bested only by her kindness.

As you might know if you’re a frequent reader, I’m a Type 4/Wing 3 on the Enneagram, INFJ Pisces. Katie is a Type 1/Wing 2, INTJ Cancer. Two Water signs, two complementary Myers-Briggs types, and her Enneagram type 1 is my Type’s 4th growth point. Nice.

I didn’t know when I first met Katie that in a few years’ time, she’d become the complementary brain behind The Voice Bureau.

But that’s exactly what’s happened and happening. Katie’s my creative counterpart.

I’ve always liked standing in the ‘royal we.’

For both of the businesses I’ve founded — first, my funky, French-y brick and mortar retail store back in Ohio, and secondly, The Voice Bureau — I found myself naturally positioning them as ‘we’ brands. Even though for both businesses, I was/have been the voice of our social media and blog posts, I sensed that the BRANDS needed to be bigger than me. They (the brands) needed to encompass not only me but also my collaborators, the people I was (and am) serving, and even the vision or the energy of the brand and its mission. For instance, I called my shop THE BLISSFUL (yep, all caps), in order to connote the spirit or the energy of the people who worked there and shopped there. It worked. People felt it.

I’ve usually written in the ‘royal we’ voice in my brand’s copy and content, starting with the magical product descriptions I penned for my old online boutique, and to this day in our blog posts and e-letters, mixing my personal “I” with our “royal we.” For my store, the ‘we’ was my mom and me, and also our shopgirls. At The Voice Bureau, the ‘we’ was (and is) Katie and me, along with our coterie of copywriters.

What Katie’s promotion means for you as a client &/or reader

With Katie coming alongside me in more of a co-directorial role, and me beginning to step back into more of a Founder’s role, here’s what you can expect:

  • more consistent content that’ll help you understand, authenticate, and activate your top mix of Voice Values and your unique brand voice — via blog, e-letter, and free offerings
  • courses and programs that also incorporate Katie’s expertise, which includes editorial (she’s got legit magazine experience) and content strategy — watch out for Run Your Business Like a Magazine, coming 1st Quarter 2016!
  • continued first-tier support for you as a client when you work with us on web copy or content for your brand (if you’ve been a client of ours in the past two years, you know what I’m talking about!)
  • her occasional contribution via our social media profiles and blog

I hope you find our transition away from being a solo-led personality brand to a collaborative, co-directed brand to be even MORE useful to you than ever. That’s certainly our goal and we’re looking forward to inspiring you more in 2016!

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

Are you currently running a personality brand? Have you experienced any struggles with it? 

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Difference between marketing sales branding

What’s the difference between marketing, sales, and branding?

If you’re a business owner — especially a small business owner or a solo — it’s likely that you started your business to go pro at something you were naturally good at and loved to do. You may have ‘backed into’ your understanding of the grand trio — marketing, sales, and branding — learning about it as you went, on a ‘need to know’ basis, and figuring out what worked for you and didn’t. (It’s okay that you’re still figuring this out. Every business is!)

It’s time for some basic definitions of these three foundational business terms. Most importantly, it’s time to understand why the difference between them matters.

What follows are the working definitions Katie and I use with clients at The Voice Bureau.

The definition of marketing is sharing what you have to offer with the people likeliest to buy — & sharing in a way likely to lead to the conversion you want (opt-in, sale, social share, etc.). Sometimes marketing is extremely targeted — i.e. you create a Facebook ad campaign that’ll be shown to just a certain segment of your page Likers. Other times, marketing is designed in the hopes of ‘netting’ the Right People through specific use of certain signals, triggers, and emotional cues. Marketing is taking your offer to market so that people can see what you’ve got, begin to experience it, and form an opinion or a perception of the value of it to them.

The definition of branding? Branding is the “suite of signals” that are signature to your brand, emblematic of your style/essence/approach, by which you are known and remembered. Your brand’s suite of signals incorporates everything people can see, taste, touch, smell (think of that store you love to go that always! smells! so! good!), listen to, perceive, and hear about from other people. The suite of signals is both concrete and abstract — it’s the sign above your front door, your website’s color palette, and your reputation in your community. You can isolate the elements in the suite and/or you can look at them all together.

Now on to the definition of sales. Sales are the mechanics of selling whatever you offer, and the intentional steps you invite people to take to get nearer to conversion. Sales can be looked at as a multiple-step process — this way, it’s easy to see where your sales process is breaking down. Sales is a human process. If it feels cold, you’re doing it wrong. ♥

How marketing, branding, and sales relate to each other

In a healthy business, marketing, branding, and sales are intertwined. They leverage and influence each other.

When it comes to business training and education, sometimes separating them out and teaching one without the other is problematic. It can leave HUGE gaps in people’s learning. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked on beautiful brands for businesses that didn’t have a sales process thought through, much less a sales funnel in place or even under construction. Not to mention lack of understanding and education around the type/nature/volume/mechanics of marketing they’d need to make their business model viable.

These are NOT criticisms — these are the realities of doing business in a fluid marketplace where small businesses are easy to start but not as easy to make thrive.

So, why is it important to distinguish between marketing, branding and sales, especially as a solo or small business owner?

In our perspective, it’s important to know the difference so that we know what we need to understand. In my view, every business owner is strong or not so strong in one or more areas. Some businesses are naturally adept at marketing, recognizing opportunities to share their good news and start creating value for potential customers even before a dollar is ever exchanged. Others are strong at sales — helping people who are ready and able to say yes, “closing” the deal on a phone call, etc. Others are keen at branding — they have an intuitive feel for what works for them visually, artistically, in terms of creative messaging. 

It is SO important to celebrate what you’re already doing well. And consider doing more of it!

You’ve probably recognized that when you change one thing in your business, every other thing needs to change at least a fraction to accommodate the newness. You try out a new sales process and your marketing has to come into alignment. You reposition your brand and your sales process needs to take a cue. You buff up your marketing and your brand needs some iteration.

This is normal. This is positive. This is growth. This is how you alchemize all the awesome, innate stuff you’ve got going on into something your Right People will treasure. This is how you go for the gold.

Recognizing where you need to grow — in marketing, in sales, in branding — is respectful of the entirety of your business and your brand. It’s creating the conditions where your brand can be received the way it’ll make the most impact, by the people who will value it most.

Katie and I developed The Voicery in response to this very need. We would be beyond honored to support you in 2016 with your brand voice development and your content strategy, which is integral to your marketing system and supportive of a robust sales process.

Our specialty is brand voice and content. We know just how integral these pieces are to the grand trio: branding, marketing, and sales. Let us show YOU how by creating results for you — in your very own brand, using what comes naturally to you to make it work.

Learn more about entering The Voicery.

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Photo of young woman tilting her head back to the sky, eyes closed. Photo by Minoru Nitta, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.As the end of the year draws closer, here are some things you can do to recenter your brand. Did you like what happened with and through your brand this year? Are you aware of what ‘hit’ and what clicked or does the past year feel like a blur?

Are you ready to know?

If so, here’s some simple end of the year recentering for your brand.

1) Chances are, your brand got social this year. How did it go? Do you know which were your most successful social media posts on each platform, in terms of reach (how many people saw it) and engagement (how many people Liked, Hearted, clicked, repinned, retweeted, etc.). Once you know, you can be more conscious about creating social updates your Right People will love.

I’m by no means an analytics junkie, but I periodically go in and peek at analytics for each social media platform I use for business (Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest), so I can get a feel for what my followers are liking and responding to most. I just use each platform’s native analytics, so I’m not able to see results for more than 30 days or 3 months at a time, depending on what the platform tracks. (If you use an app that allows you to analyze a greater time span, feel free to share it in the comments.)

2) Do you know your top buyers, customers, or clients, in terms of the project that went the best, or repeat business, or both? Understanding who buys from you and why they buy is an incredible gift of clarity for you.

If you don’t already know, ask this person (or business) how they found you and what tipped them over the edge to hire you or buy from you. If this isn’t possible, or if it is but you want to take it a bit further, write down three things about this buyer/client/customer that you truly appreciated in working with them. Sharpen your own saw around your Right People profiling and your brand will click even more next year with the people who get you.

3) What FELT right this year? And why? Sometimes you don’t know the ROI of a certain technique or tactic but you just know it worked. Or you can sense it leading your brand in the right direction — you know it’s caught fire before anyone else can see the smoke. Or it woke something up inside you so deep and so real that you know it’s taking you somewhere important. Pay attention to that magic. It’s real and it showed up this year for a reason.

4) What DIDN’T feel right this year? And why? Did a certain project go completely awry? Did a client relationship fail to click the way you’d hoped? Did you launch something that never felt quite finished, and then it never earned its way in your suite of offerings? Did you implement a promising new idea that never panned out?

For each thing on your list, see if you can write your way into why it didn’t quite work. You don’t need to know for sure, you don’t need data to know, you don’t even need to interview Right People about their perceptions (unless you want to). Sometimes a hunch is enough. You’re creating your brand, after all, and if you’re not all in after a good college try, then something may need to be tweaked (or cut altogether).

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

What worked for your brand this year? Why did it work, in your view? We’d love to share in your end-of-the-year reflections.

 

Image Credit

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IMG_5104

I have a dear friend who recently learned she & her family will have to pull up stakes, leave their house forever, & find a new place to live.

Their living situation is quite unique and so are the terms under which they’ve been privileged to live in the house. I won’t go into those. The important part of this story is that my friend is a capital ‘h’ Homemaker. I know no one more gifted than she at turning a house of any kind into pretty much the most imaginative, orderly, delightful, joyful, interesting, warm, and welcoming home you’ve ever visited. And you feel this way even as a guest. The feeling she creates is palpable, energetic, and yet relaxing. I’m sad that I won’t get to be a guest under her roof one more time before they have to move. But I have amazing memories of spending time with her there. I’ll never forget the way it felt to be there, the way it smelled, the way it looked while it was hers.

But I know that wherever my friend and her family land, she’s going to make the new place into the Best Place Ever. Different from the first place, but amazing in its own right. She has everything she needs to do just that. It all comes from within her, as the best stuff always does.

Branding is like that, too. The best stuff comes from within. It’s the stuff that’s inherent, that comes naturally, that makes us look like magic. Our Right People are drawn to the innate qualities with which we can’t help but present and connect, when we’re taking a strong stance in a realm we’re defining for ourselves.

To me, branding is so much more than choosing a color palette, curating a font family, & selecting a tagline.

BRANDING IS CREATING A WORLD.

Here’s what branding-as-creating-a-world feels like to me, as a brand voice specialist and content creation expert:

I love the imaginative work of feeling for the essential energies of what’s trying to come through in a written piece, in a visual mock-up (I draw these by hand, badly, in a spiral-bound college-ruled notebook, turning the paper to landscape and ignoring the lines), in the positioning of a product.

I loll around in the backstream, the undercurrent, of the thing that’s coming to be, and I see if I can feel the different nuances of it flow through my fingers, one at at time.

I dig the deep intuitively-driven process of sensing into the next forward lunge (or the 45-degree pivot or the hairpin turn) a brand needs to make to get closer to the next desired result.

I feel into the future of the brands I work with, and I articulate what that future looks like, or could like.

People change and so do our businesses. I myself am on my third or maybe third-and-a-half iteration of my work in the world, that is, the creative work that gets me paid. (It’s important to note that I also am pursuing a relationship with creativity that is NOT imminently for pay and I hope you are, too. If this feels like a convo you need to have, go here for more.)

Changing your business is a bit like moving houses. You were all situated, and suddenly, here you are pole-vaulting off the head of a thumbtack into a part of the map you never thought you’d visit. You’re straddling new coordinates and hoping your leg muscles and core can keep you balanced. You’re using the same ingredients but combining them in new bowls with strange new utensils and spices you’ve never tasted before.

How will things turn out? Will others like what you’re creating?

Never fear. Your innate, inherent brand energy is a through-thread that connects these new and ever-changing pursuits of yours.

You can leave the house of your business ten times in a decade but you always keep returning to creating a world.

And the worlds you create have one thing in common that is completely inextricable from them: the essence of you.

This is why I’m so drawn to American writer Ann Patchett’s quote about creating a universe. [See post image above.] While Patchett’s addressing her modality of writing fiction, I take this quote for myself into the realm of branding.

In designing and developing a brand and all its components, we create an order for the universe: that universe. In writing and sharing beautiful content that connects with our Right People’s needs, desires, and interests (and, of course, ours), we set that universe in motion.

I have left the house of my business many times through the years — mentally, emotionally, evne physically to an extent. I’m a person, just like you. I flag, I falter, I flail. Sometimes I have even wanted to say, eff it.

But I keep coming back.

What brings me back is creating a world. (It just so happens that this is my business’s value proposition, too: Make a world of your brand. Start with your voice.)

Make of your brand a world that other people can participate in if they wish to.

Looking for support with this? Check out THE VOICERY, our new, deep, personalized service combining brand voice with content strategy. I’ve co-created and co-deliver this alongside Katie Mehas, Doyenne of Operations at The Voice Bureau and content creation extraordinaire.

This is why I’m so drawn to Anthropologie, to anything Sarah Selecky teaches, to the dark and velvety worlds of Sarah Waters’ books, to my high school friend Tom’s debut novel, to the podcast Working, to Tatine Candles, and to certain dark and stormy Netflix series (like The Killing) — because they create a world and invite me in to it.

It’s why I love to read short stories and novels because every time I want to, I can just turn the page and step into another fully-feathered world. There something’s irrefutably magic about connecting with another perspective, seeing the world through other people’s eyes, hearing dialogue and dialect we may never hear in our day to day life yet somehow we feel like we’ve heard it one million times underneath your skin. Because it’s authentic and innate to those characters in that milieu. Just as your brand voice is authentic and innate to you.

Imagine what YOUR brand can be to your Right People. Are you creating a universe and setting it in motion?

In the comments, we’d love to hear you:

Talk about the world you’re creating through your brand. Describe it for us and tell us how you’re setting it in motion through content.

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