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Voice Values How-To

Making the Case for a Dash of Audacity

Despite what my Crayola-colored hair might suggest, Audacity is not one of my top Voice Values.

In fact, it’s pretty far down my list. I tend to favor a measured, cautious approach. Accuracy is more my speed. Slow and steady. Dot my i’s, cross my t’s. Fortune may favor the bold, but brash and brazen give me hives.

It doesn’t help that our current climate here in the United States is basically a tableau of Audacity gone wrong — an endless stream of entirely over-the-top things said or done seemingly with the sole purpose of shocking us until we’ve become numb to the constant onslaught of stupefaction and vulgarity. Can he say that? Is this legal? Is this real?

Audacity done right, though, can bring a punch of humanity to your business — a spark of motivation, a much-needed laugh, a gentle nod to your fellow outsiders. It just takes a light touch and a bit of self-awareness. A nudge, not a slap.

Whether you’re looking to embrace Audacity as one of your top Voice Values or you’re interested in just a pinch for added flavor in your brand conversation, Audacity can be a lot of fun. It’s bold and daring. It’s loud and courageous. It’s…not for everyone.

Or, well, it can be. You just have to know how to use it.

Audacity is an interesting Voice Value because it gives you permission to be who you are, no apologies. You can be Audaciously non-Audacious — brazenly square, in a room full of dance-party unicorn badass babes. There is a rawness to Audacity, a realness and an authenticity, a willingness to see a trend and say, in the immortal words of Arya Stark, “That’s not me.”

In a brand conversation with a softer, gentler feel, Audacity can help you build a sense of urgency.

In some cases, Audacity comes through as playfulness. It’s not necessarily a no-filter nose-thumbing at the establishment — sometimes, it’s a play on words and a refusal to take itself too seriously. Not everyone with a high Audacity value is comfortable with — or interested in — swearing in their business communications. (And not everyone who lets slip the occasional burst of colorful language is sporting a high Audacity value, though it’s often a sign of some Audacious tendencies.)

Audacity shows your readers that you’re not afraid to be authentically you. Sometimes, that presents as a rebellious middle finger at the establishment. Sometimes, it’s a refusal to fall in line with what’s expected or “cool.” It’s rejecting the narrative and replacing it with something that feels more true to you. It takes courage.

Letting loose a tirade of invective is certainly Audacious. Airing your dirty laundry is Audacious. That doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. There are certainly businesses who have built their reputations around scandal and feuds, but I think we can do better.

I recently placed an order with Lime Crime*, a company that positively oozes Audacity. At their best, this comes across as vivacious, enthusiastic, and inclusive of customers who see themselves as outsiders or even outcasts. At their worst, it’s resulted in a mountain of complaints and criticism — not about their products but about their behavior. To be honest, as someone who votes with her wallet, it kept me from purchasing from them for years, and it was only after several glowing reviews from friends that I was willing to give them a try at all. In this case, a little too much Audacity overshadowed their Excellence and actually detracted from the humanity of the brand a bit — a heartfelt mea culpa would’ve gone a long way to soothe their scandals, and I probably would’ve been rocking those badass lipsticks for years.

That’s the thing about Audacity — it’s easy to wear it as an armor when asserting your individuality, but if you don’t pair it with a bit of vulnerability, it can backfire, and what started as authenticity becomes a facade.

So yes, I think a dash of Audacity could do you some good. You can use it to spur your readers into action. It can make them feel included and special. It might make them laugh, or reply with a hearty, “Eff yeah!” It’s empowering — for you and for your readers. But it doesn’t always need to look the same, and it should never overpower the substance of your brand conversation.

So be bold. Be courageous. But, above all, be you. Because you are why your Right Person is here.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

How do you embrace Audacity in your business? Do you see an opportunity to be a little more Audacious, or does the idea make you want to hide under the covers?


*Yes, that’s an affiliate link. While I can’t — and won’t — speak for the actions of the company, I can wear their lipsticks without leaving little kiss marks all over my babies, and that link gives you $5 off if you decide to give them a try.


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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