The Risks & Rewards of Writing in Your Own Voice
I rarely get the chance to write in, what I would say, is my own voice. I write for a lot of clients, as both an agency and freelance copywriter, most requiring fairly specific narrative voices.
A lot of clients, particularly small or moderately sized businesses, are terrified of developing a unique voice of their own. They don’t want to risk anything; they don’t want to be seen as unprofessional, too informal or open themselves up to mockery.
I understand that fear, of course. I also understand how difficult it can be to really nail down a strong, unique voice for a brand. Still, there’s a kind of ambivalence on the part of a lot of business owners about how their business is presented online.
The fact is a strong, unique voice can add real value to your business. It can become part of your brand, work to engender trust and even convey information about your business with every sentence.
However, there’s also the risk that writing in your own voice can appear too informal, long-winded, or even too curt. In my experience, independents and creatives are much more willing to experiment with using their natural voice.
It’s hard to find your own voice. It can be even harder to develop an authentic, appropriate voice for your company content. Still, it should be one of the first focuses for any business, whether you’re preparing for your first content marketing campaign, or just writing for your own website.
I always try to convince people to nail their brand’s voice early. Changing voice halfway through a campaign can be extremely jarring, so getting it right the first time is absolutely essential.
Getting Your Own Brand’s Voice Right
When it comes to deciding on a voice for your brand, you need to find the balance between your own natural voice and extensive research to understand what your customers expect. Few of us are naturally as eloquent or technical in our language as we might want to appear. However, there comes a point were creating a brand voice can lead you to stray too far from your own natural language and tone.
For example, and as you can no doubt tell, I’m naturally long-winded. If I was representing purely myself, as I am now, I can write however I want.
If I were writing on behalf of one of my clients, I would be attempting to copy their tone of voice to a greater or lesser degree. This can, without the correct guidance or preparation, lead to ugly results with disjointed and irregular content that is unpleasant to write and even more unpleasant to read.
The Risks of Writing in Your Own Voice
So, if you think your natural voice is strong enough to represent a brand of your own, or you’re given permission to write content in the way that you see fit, you need to be aware of the risks. And, just as importantly, how to avoid them.
Don’t get me wrong, the freedom to write as you is a great sensation. But it can be risky. Some of the biggest risks and mistakes I see when someone’s writing in their own voice include:
- Finding Out Your Voice Isn’t That Strong, or Exciting, After All
- Your Voice Isn’t Technical Enough
- You Find Yourself Relying on Clichés
- Your Voice is Too Informal / Formal
- For Digital Content, Sacrificing SEO for Character
Any of these issues can be a real death-knell for your content. If you find yourself falling into any of these risks while writing in your own voice, then you need to work on developing your voice before employing it in real, customer-facing content.
Finding Out Your Voice Isn’t That Strong, or Exciting, After All
A lot of copywriters and content creators I know settle into a fairly dull voice, riddled with passive tone. I’m never surprised when they find their content is struggling to convert, even if it is optimised to rank highly.
No one can realistically expect to start typing and find their voice is perfect. Even if you’ve been writing for as long as I have, for as many clients as I have, you’re still going to need some time to get into a rhythm – to find out what works and what doesn’t.
Writing in your own voice or combining your voice with a brand’s voice can deliver great results. However, when it doesn’t work out, it can also be hugely damaging to the ego.
Whatever the reason your voice isn’t working out, don’t be afraid to practice. Keep at it. Your voice should, and will, evolve as you continue to learn, gain more experience, and deploy your own particular style on behalf of varying clients and across different styles and mediums.
Your Voice Isn’t Technical Enough
A lot of the clients I work with like to use specific, technical terms. Technical can have great benefits for SEO and means I’m more likely to appeal to people looking for specific terminology.
However, some of the more complex terms are difficult to fit, naturally, into a fairly conversational tone. One of the main skills a copywriter or SEO content creator can have, in my opinion, is the ability to integrate unnatural terms into your content without breaking up the natural flow of your language.
If your voice isn’t technical enough, or you’re struggling to include the right terminology, it’s just a matter of practice. Work on finding complex pieces of content and translating them into writing which conveys the same information but is simple and easy to read. Turning technical content into engaging content, is a skill that can’t be underestimated.
You Find Yourself Relying on Clichés
Sometimes, I fall into this category as much as anyone else. Clichés are boring, true, but they work as shortcuts to ideas and feelings which could otherwise be misconstrued. I’m not saying you should use clichés like cold as ice in your content, but there’s nothing wrong with using idioms. A good way of avoiding clichés is if Steely Dan or Foreigner have ever used it in their lyrics, avoid it like the plague.
Your Voice is Too Informal / Formal
You need to be able to modulate the formality of your written voice depending on the topic, context, and brand you’re writing for. If you’re struggling to make your natural voice appear more formal or informal, reconsider your target audience! I imagine, for example, that I’m writing a message to a new client if I’m trying to create formal content. Similarly, if I’m writing informal content, I imagine I’m trying to convey a message to a friend or work colleague.
For Digital Content, Sacrificing SEO for Character, or Character for SEO!
I write a lot of web content – content which needs to rank highly as one of the metrics of its success. So, with that in mind, I need to consider the optimisation of the content on every level. The kind of language I use, the headings I write, the tonality of the piece overall – all of it plays a key role in its optimisation.
A mistake a lot of new copywriters make is thinking they have to choose between SEO and characterful content. If you’re scared that your content is too unique to appeal to a search engine, then I’m sorry to say you’ll need to adapt it. Similarly, bland content – even if it ranks extremely highly – will not be pleasant to read and is likely to have a negative impact on conversions.
Finding the balance between SEO and engaging content isn’t easy, but it’s one of the key markers of a great copywriter. If you want your web content to soar, you need to accept SEO as an integral component of your writing process.
The Rewards of Writing in Your Own Voice
Now, here’s where a lot of clients get turned off from writing, or allowing me to write, in a natural voice. “With all those risks,” they think, “the rewards had better be worth it!”
The rewards of writing in a natural voice are rarely immediate. It’s rare that you can upload two pieces of content, one written robotically and one in a natural voice, and see one consistently outperform the other. There may be minor differences in conversion rate, bounce rate and a range of other technical terms, but as often as not the content is just one part of a greater whole. Factors like web design, site speed, time of day, pricing, and a range of other things often beyond your control will play a key role in deciding how successful your content is.
The rewards of writing in a natural voice are long-lasting for your brand and business as a whole. Some of the reasons why you should develop a natural voice for your brand or business include:
- Humanises Your Brand!
- Makes Your Content Recognisable!
- Create More Consistent Content!
Writing in a Natural Voice Humanises Brands
Content written in a natural voice, however, is essential when it comes to developing your brand identity. It’s part of a long-term effort from companies to humanise themselves, appear less robotic and more welcoming to enquiries and engagement.
By humanising your brand, people, customers, and clients feel able to engage with you on a personal level. We’ve all seen this becoming more and more essential over the past few years, as social has become one of the main ways in which brands reach people.
If you can’t humanise your brand, particularly if you’re targeting a B2C audience, you’re never going to reach your business’ full potential. So, whether you’re writing for a client or copywriting for your own business, developing a natural-sounding, honest tone of voice is absolutely essential.
A Unique Voice Makes Your Content Recognisable!
Creating content that’s recognisable and stands out is integral for any kind of business. The internet is louder than ever, and actually making your brand noticeable is extremely difficult.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the so many different methods of communicating, getting your brand’s voice coherent is hard.
A strong voice can help you and your content to stand out in any industry and across any media. So, if you’re writing for a brand and you’re struggling to make your content work, review other media – take a look at tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, on-page content, emails – whatever you can find!
A recognisable voice can offer real benefits across your business, including improving engagement for all types of content!
Greater Consistency of Content!
A major concern for a lot of business owners, particularly those who have multiple people writing content for them, is the change in a company’s voice as the writer changes. They’re scared that the voice will be lost as soon as someone else takes over their content.
In my experience, they’ve got this backwards. When I start to write for a new company, one of the first things I do is research the tonality and topics of content they’ve already produced. If they have a distinct style, and a unique brand voice, it’s much easier to settle into a routine of creating content that I know they’ll be happy with.
A strong brand voice means copywriters can create more consistent content, for your brand. It’s important to think long-term. As your team changes, new people are hired or you need to expand your reach, a strong, natural voice for your brand can make all the difference.
So, Why Are We So Afraid of Natural Voice?
While there are risks associated with creating a natural voice for your brand, these are nothing compared to the risks of creating robotic, dull, everyday content. Whether you’re writing yourself, looking for a freelancer or managing a team of content writers, don’t ever be afraid to develop a unique, engaging, and dynamic voice to represent your business and your brand.
Here at Social Media for Artists, we can help you to define your personal or brand’s unique identity. For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch today!