How to Find Your Brand Voice: A Guide for Lawyers
As practicing lawyers, we’ve been taught to write a certain way. And let’s face it: The Bluebook doesn’t necessarily encourage the most scintillating writing style. The way we write briefs, memoranda, pleadings, and even client correspondence is very different from the type of writing that attracts – and coverts – an online audience. And it should be.
You don’t want your website copy to sound archaic or laden with legal jargon that will send clients running for the hills. You want to welcome them with concise, clear, engaging writing. Yet you want to sound like yourself: A professional, an expert, an authority, and a resource. This is not the time to be disingenuous, because it will show.
This is why branding is essential.
Branding isn’t just about your logo, fonts, website theme, photos, or colors. It is about who you are. What you stand for in your practice and in your life. Your voice – whether in client meetings, emails, or your website copy – should consistently and accurately reflect who you are.
If the concept of branding is new to you, it can seem nebulous. I created this short guide to help you find your unique brand voice by answering a series of questions. This practice will not only help you stand out in a crowded marketplace, but will allow you to present your authentic self to your clients and colleagues.
How to Find Your Brand Voice: A Guide for Lawyers
By now, you’ve realized branding isn’t just about fonts and logos. It’s not just about striking the balance between professional and personal. You know it is important, and that’s why you are here. You just don’t know how to get started.
That’s why I created this guide.
I teach lawyers how to make their words work for them.
Marketing in 2018 is so much more than word of mouth, mailers, and complex marketing campaigns. Your words can educate, inform, and persuade – and I’m here to help you do that. It starts with identifying and honing your unique voice.
What is voice?
Generally speaking, voice is the impression your online audience receives when they take in your photos, captions, logo, and content.
Maintaining an authentic, consistent voice is critical to success in any content marketing campaign.
Consistency in your voice instills trust and confidence in your audience. It shows them not only that you know what you are talking about, but that you have integrity and are the same person everywhere, from the courtroom, to the board room, to the office conference room, to lunch with your clients and time with your family.
In finding your voice, it is critical to consider that your voice is not about you. The purpose of your voice is to inform, educate, and instill trust in your your online audience, that is, your clients and prospective clients.
How do you find your unique brand voice?
Step 1: Gather Data.
In order to find and hone your voice, look for examples of communications that are quintessentially YOU. Here are a few ways to do this:
Pull up your email inbox and comb old client emails. Write down common phrases you use – what I call "isms" – that feature prominently in your communications. Some of these isms will appear in your email salutations, intro paragraphs, and closing sentences. They also include certain words or phrases that you use frequently.
Next, look through your list of "isms." Which ones sound like you? Which ones come off like you are trying to sound like someone else? In other words, which ones do you use simply because you think they sound professional? Are there any that seem stale or cumbersome?
Run these isms by a few colleagues. Ask them to tell you which phrases sound like you, and which sound disjointed, stiff, or disingenuous.
Based on this feedback, write a list of the isms that you want to excise from your vocabulary because they are “off brand.” Similarly, make a list of the ones that uniquely reflect who you are and what you stand for, that is, the ones that flow naturally and that you frequently use in conversation.
Write out a short sentence or phrase that defines your communication style. Here are a few questions to help you determine your style:
Is it formal and buttoned-up?
Is it informal and conversational?
Is it succinct and staccato?
Do you tell a lot of stories?
Do you use a lot of quotes?
Are you upbeat and positive? Realistic and pragmatic?
How would others describe your communication style?
Step 2: Create a Style Guide.
Based on the information you gathered in the exercise above, devise a style guide for your voice. To do this, fill in the following blanks with a few succinct words or phrases:
I want my brand voice to make people feel ______________________________.
These three words come to mind when I think about my brand voice are: ___________ ____________ and _____________.
Interacting with clients makes me feel ____________________________________.
I feel most confident when I ________________________________________.
A time that I felt I truly connected with a client was ___________________________________________.
A professional whose brand I admire is _________________ because ____________________________________.
Three words I would use to describe my personality in professional settings are: _______________ ________________ and ________________.
Step 3: Pull it All Together.
Once you've synthesized the information in Parts 1 and 2 (I recommend compiling your responses in an easily-accessible Word document), bring in some trusted sources to help you refine and hone your style guide. Gather a few colleagues or friends and ask them to answer the above questions for you. Based on their feedback and your own answers, write a two-to-three sentence mission statement for your brand voice.
By way of an example, here is one lawyer's mission statement:
"In all client communications, whether in person or online, I will strive to speak in a voice that is informal but professional. I use short sentences that are clear, concise, and that flow naturally, as they would in regular conversation. My signature voice will make clients feel that they are having a cup of coffee with me, learning about the law from a knowledgeable but approachable professional."
Take it Step by Step.
Finding and honing your voice is a process that times time, patience, self-awareness, and commitment. While looking to other professionals for inspiration and guidance is certainly a useful exercise, what matters most is maintaining a voice that is consistent and authentic. Walking through these steps will help you continually hone your voice, which in turn will make your content stand out.
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