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Voice Values How-To

Intimacy wo exposure - Blog

I’m really bad at awkward silences.

Don’t get me wrong, I love silence. In a house with two girls of pre-preschool age, it’s hard to come by. I cherish every single second of ear-ringingly empty quiet (at least until a cat knocks something over or the baby wakes up). But I’m talking about those lulls in conversation when it’s obvious that someone needs to speak up.

And oh, I speak up. For a textbook introvert, I do a whole lot of speaking up.

When faced with the prospect of an awkward silence, I have a habit of filling in the quiet with every little detail of my life. All those things I’d rather not share? The embarrassing stories? Deepest secrets? Private thoughts? Suddenly, I can’t hold them back.

Do you do this? It’s awful, isn’t it? I’m a relatively private person by nature, but one awkward silence and I’m — to  steal a phrase from every mafia movie ever — singing like a canary.

In a lot of ways, the internet is the ultimate awkward silence. Even if a blog post ends up with a hundred comments, a lively discussion, a viral social media presence, when you’re sitting down to write, it’s just you and your writing playlist/Netflix binge. It’s a perfect storm for oversharing.

To top it off, there’s a pretty good chance you want to get a little personal in your writing. In fact, Intimacy is one of the most common Voice Values for our clients. It’s one of the reasons we’ve left our day jobs, to create a career with a more human side, favoring connections over the stability of a regular paycheck. (Yes, even us introverts.) It’s why so many of us prefer to work one-on-one or in small groups. It’s why we’ve scaled our businesses to retain that personal connection. Intimacy and authenticity is what we’re all about.

So how do you foster intimacy with your readers without feeling quite so…naked?

Well, first of all, you need to be intentional.

You’re bound to share some things about yourself, no matter what. You want to share a bit, if you hope to connect with your readers and potential clients. Especially if your brand features you as a person, it’s almost impossible to avoid — at least without coming off as dry and distant. Even if you don’t have what would be considered a “personality brand,” giving your business a face helps your Right Person understand why they’re hiring you. It makes working with you about working with you, and features you, yourself, in particular, as an important part of the process. (Which you are.)

So what do you want to share with your readers? Think about your life. What areas will your Right Person naturally understand?

Do they share your love of hiking, or will they admire your encyclopedic knowledge of craft beer? Maybe they’re homebodies who would love to know that you knit, even if they prefer a good book for their cozy evenings by the fire. What do you do or love or know that gives them some insight into who you are as a person, outside of your work? You may have a hundred interests, but focusing on just a few key pieces helps create a more cohesive picture of who you are. Start there. You can always share more and build on this as you go.

Now, what’s off-limits?

It’s okay to keep some things to yourself. If you don’t want to share your children or your sexual preference or your health struggles with your readers, that’s okay. Hey, if you don’t want to share your knitting or hiking or beer drinking, that’s okay too. It’s also okay if these personal details become the cornerstone of your brand. It’s really up to you to decide what feels right to share and what belongs to you alone. But decide that before you write a single word, or there’s a very good chance you’re going to find yourself with the awkward silence of a blank page, and suddenly every childhood trauma is spilled out in front of you and all you wanted to do was share a recipe for quinoa salad.

Transparency is not the same as intimacy. There is no reason to feel you need to share everything in order to foster an authentic connection with your readers. It doesn’t make it any less authentic. It doesn’t make it any less intimate. It just means you’ve created healthy boundaries. And that’s a good thing!

No matter what you choose to share, though, be sure to keep it real. If you’re hiding your personality or pretending to be someone you’re not, you’ll be maintaining a persona that simply isn’t you, and that’s not sustainable in the long run. Before you know it, you’ll find that you’re avoiding your readers because you don’t want them to figure out that your public face and your private face don’t match up. You’ll be working with clients who are drawn to this false sense of you — and, more importantly, scaring off the very people who would line up around the block for what you really have to offer. When you choose to be just who you are, it’s easier to communicate, to connect. What you share doesn’t need to be a complete picture of who you are, but it does need to be you.

The other side of intimacy, of course, is listening.

If you’re just spilling what you’re all about, you’re not really fostering intimacy, you’re just creating a confessional. Help your readers feel seen. What do you know about them? Is there something they have in common? Something they’re going through?

Intimacy is about recognizing and highlighting the camaraderie you share with your readers and clients. It’s understanding them and building a relationship — a give-and-take that happens over time. It’s not about exposing your deepest secrets in one frantic ramble to fill the silence. When you’re intentional about what parts of yourself you want to make public, and when you take the time to listen and learn about your readers, you create a genuine rapport.

Keep it authentic. Keep it reciprocal. And, if it’s private, keep it to yourself.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

How do you cultivate intimacy with your readers? Do you have a tendency to overshare, or to undershare?



When I was in college, I discovered that I have an accent.

I grew up in central Pennsylvania, in a suburb of Harrisburg called Linglestown. Now, I definitely knew people who had accents. Locals, even. People who threw around “yinz” (think “y’all” for the northern set) and “crick” (the stream of water behind our house). Even a few bonafide Pennsylvania Dutch folks, with all those weird turns of phrase. But me? Flat mid-Atlantic affect. Perfect voice for radio. (I’ve done a few commercials. NBD.) Or so I thought, anyway.

Fast-forward 18 years. Scene: a small but diverse liberal arts college in Southern California. I’m thrown in the mix with bright-eyed students from around the world. I’ve got friends with all manner of very obvious accents…and out of nowhere, I’m informed that I have a funny way of saying things. An elongated “o” in the middle of words. A lilt at the end of my sentences when they go on a little too long that makes it sound like I’m asking a question when I’m making a statement.

You’d think this would have come up sooner.

So now I’m suddenly self-conscious. I avoid saying things like…that company that makes PhotoShop. I clip my thoughts. Period. End of statement.

A year after graduation, I moved to Florida, my vocabulary packed with new lingo that immediately pegged me as an out-of-towner. Not so rad. Now, with multi-year stints in three of the four corners of the continental U.S., I’m a verbal mutt, with slang and speech patterns from all over. I’ll never fit in anywhere, accent-wise. But I’m okay with that now.

I wrote recently about how hard it can be to see our own special talents, the things that can make us uniquely useful. Our voice works the same way.

It’s tough to notice the idiosyncrasies of our personal speech patterns. But when we try on a voice that isn’t our own, there’s nothing more uncomfortable. Have you ever tried to fit in with a group by injecting some of their vernacular in your speech? It’s super awkward. You might even try to psych yourself up to say something but end up tongue-tied, totally unable to force the foreign words past your lips.

So why do so many online businesses sound like carbon copies of each other?

When a business is successful, it’s tempting to copy everything they do. Their look. Their style. Their business model. But what works for one business doesn’t work for everyone. And, even more importantly, copying what works for someone else means wearing a skin that doesn’t quite fit. Do you really want to speak in someone else’s voice all the time? Your business is your passion. Shouldn’t you be yourself?

There may not be too many people out there with a Pennsylvania-California-Florida accent. But it’s who I am, and when I use my own voice, my authenticity comes across. And, in business, when I relax into my Voice Values — rather than trying to be an audacious goddess or a love-led group-builder — I’m offering my best self, and the people who need me will know me. When I try to sound how I think people want me to sound, I get panicked. It’s untenable for me to pretend I’m someone I’m not, to wear the voice of a business that isn’t tailored to my own personality. What works for someone else just isn’t me.

And that’s okay.

Whether your Voice Values attract your Right Person because they see you as a kindred spirit or because you offer something they need but don’t have, knowing what’s important to you can be the first step in really hearing yourself. And, once you hear yourself — you learn your own accent, your own idiosyncrasies, the language that speaks to you and through you — you can really own it, and people will sit up and listen. It’s fine to try on an accent from time to time (who hasn’t gone a bit British after a Doctor Who marathon?), but speaking in your own, true voice? Well…

Yinz should give it a try. It’s pretty rad.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

Have you ever tried to sound like someone else in your business? How did it feel? How does your voice show up in your work?


Voice Values Guide to Content Creation Inspiration

If you’re growing a brand online, you know you need ‘great content’ in order to survive & thrive.

You know that great content is the first type of currency your Right People will receive from you. Great content educates your clients before they ever hire you. Great content inspires, teaches, empathizes, rallies, and even enthralls.

You know you’re supposed to blog, tweet, Facebook, create images for Instagram, and maybe even podcast, Periscope, or YouTube. That can feel like SO MUCH and in fact it is SO MUCH. (And no, you don’t need to do it all and be on all the platforms. But that’s a different post.)

When content creation calls, but you’ve still got a business to run, where do you find the motivation & inspiration to keep creating?

What if I told you there wasn’t just ONE or even TWO common inspirations/motivations to create great content? What if I told you that your inspiration for creating great content inherently goes beyond (a) “because I need to if I want to do business online” and (2) “because I want to connect with more of my Right People?”

Well, I CAN tell you that! Your motivation for creating great content — unique content that’s skillfully created with artistry and confidence, on-brand for you, and highly compelling for your Right People — is intrinsically inspired by who you are and how you already move through the world.

Your inspiration for content writing (& other types of content creation, like visual & audio) is encoded in your Voice Values, which are the drivers of your innate brand voice.

Discover Your Voice Values is our proprietary brand voice self-assessment. Always free, always insightful.

Haven’t taken it yet? 48 questions, about 10 minutes of your time, and you’ll self-score your way to clarity on what’s naturally powerful about the way you tweet, Facebook, write blog posts, and email your list.

You’ll also learn a bit about why certain people are drawn to you and what you should watch out for as you grow your brand.

Enter your best email address below and click Go to get started.

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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.

Enter your best email address below and click Go to get started.

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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What’s the connection between your brand voice & your ideal client? It’s pretty major & you’ve been probably been overlooking it.

Right People RulesHere’s what you already have figured out:

Certain people are drawn to you.

You are drawn to certain people.

As it is in your personal life/friendships/romances, so it is in your client roster and subscriber list.

Here’s what you haven’t yet parsed: the particular alchemy of those seemingly-destined connections. The recipe for that subtle mysterious magic. You’re highly self-aware, but you know you haven’t yet put your finger on all of the insights that will make the client connection thing make sense.

Divining and describing the patterns (and the outliers) that can be found in connection with our Right People is one of my very favorite things to do in my work at The Voice Bureau.  I call it Right People Profiling.

Back in seventh grade, I wrote an innocent, ‘wanted ads’-style matchmaking column for the Valentine’s Day issue of the student newspaper. (What was the paper even called? The Lehman Ledger, maybe?) Anyhow, I wrote about how Kelley W. was obsessed with Jordan Knight from New Kids on the Block and was looking for a “fine, sensitive guy” who resembled him, and how Marcus L. was in search of a special “fly lady” who was looking for appreciation from “a true gentleman.” Keep in mind, I was not quite 13 at the time and the oldest classmate I was writing about was 15.

While I’ve long had an eye for chemistry, I never thought this skill would show up in my work. (Nope, being a professional matchmaker — a less brash Patti Stanger — was never on my radar.)

But being obsessed with the particularities of what makes two humans magnetize each other . . . and then describing the texture of what that is and why it’s works . . . that’s my sweet spot.

At The Voice Bureau, describing the chemistry between you and your ideal client is at the heart of our work.

It shows up in our copywriting projects with clients, in our evergreen courses, and in our signature Voice Values methodology. Truly, your Right People Rules are all encoded in your brand voice.

The 16 Voice Values help brand creators understand what their innate brand voice sounds like (and looks like) in action, and understand why certain people are drawn to that voice and why others are ambivalent or repelled.

Haven’t taken it yet? 48 questions, about 10 minutes of your time, and you’ll self-score your way to clarity on what’s naturally powerful about the way you tweet, Facebook, write blog posts, and email your list.

You’ll also learn a bit about why certain people are drawn to you and what you should watch out for as you grow your brand.

Enter your best email address below and click Go to get started.


I created this paradigm for branding to help brand creators and business owners — especially small, creatively-oriented brands (writers, authors, web and graphic designers, artists and illustrators, singers, dancers, and performers), helping-focused brands (healers, teachers, trainers, coaches, consultants, wellness practitioners), or aesthetically-inclined brands (fashion designers, floral designers, food stylists, interior designers, product designers) — own how they naturally and powerfully communicate when they’re at their best, standing in their strengths. So they can do more of it, consciously and intentionally.

The Voice Values give name & substance to what is already there.

But your top mix of Voice Values don’t stop at describing what you are and how you do it. Your top mix of Voice Values also tells you a LOT about the reader, client, customer, or buyer who is going to be drawn to you, when you’re owning what’s uniquely potent about you in your brand. When you’re owning your voice.

After all, when we speak/write/teach, we don’t do so in a vacuum. We are part of a conversation. Yes, even before we’ve grown our readership to a certain size of audience.

Our voices matter. Because voices inherently do.

If you believe this, too, you’re in the right place.

So what is the connection between your Voice Values and the people who will be innately motivated to learn from you, buy from you, do business with you, read you?

I have some conclusions and some insights to share, and I’m putting them together into The Voice Bureau’s first fully digital, downloadable product. It’s called Right People Rules: Define Your Brand Voice & Your Ideal Client. It’s a digital inquiry kit, which means it goes beyond basic e-book-ness and takes you into self-assessment, self-reflection, and immediate applications of what you learn.

I’m taking what I know to be a big, complex subject and distilling it down to the pith. Well, the pith plus. You know I have a high Depth value.

Noteworthy: Right People Rules is the first of several fully digital, highly affordable products we’ll be releasing . . . and we’re pricing it to SELL. We want to get this into the hands of as many of our potential clients and longtime readers as possible. This work is designed for accessibility. While it’s currently one of our lowest-priced products EVER, it packs so much value. 

Remember what you already know:

Certain people are drawn to you.

You are drawn to certain people.

The why behind that magic isn’t always as easily discernible in our client rosters and subscribers lists as it is in our personal lives/friendships/romances.

If you’d love for ideal client understanding to become a much richer discovery process than it’s been until now, or if you’re turning a corner in your business and need to bring your brand and your audience along with it, Right People Rules is for you in mind.

$95 Pre-Sale happening now, until Tuesday, September 1st when the price goes up to $125.