Developing Your Brand Voice - Liza Dunning

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hello everyone and welcome to another

stupid expert session my name is Nicole

Cole and today we are excited to bring

on Liza Dunham to teach us about

developing a brand voice she currently

works as the brand writer in marketing

content lead at Airbnb where she is

proud to be a part of the mission to

create the world's first

community-driven super brand Liza is a

founding member and the branch creator

of Scout mob a mobile app and e-commerce

platform aimed to connect locals to the

best of independent makers and local

businesses she developed everything from

the name and company mission to launch

campaigns and content strategy as well

as new product launches like hand-picked

and shop outside of work Liza loves to

travel enjoys photography and has an

obsession with spicy foods and other

people's dogs she's acted as a panelists

speaker mentor guest columnist and

advocate for all things creative

entrepreneurial local and edible so

without further ado I'm going to turn

the time over to Liza hi thanks so much

for that introduction I'm so excited to

be sharing with you guys today again my

name is Liza Dunning and I'm going to be

going through developing your brand

voice so let's get started to start off

I just wanted to kind of talk about what

I even mean by brand voice I know it's a

term that we throw around a lot in this

industry or people talk a lot and it can

mean a lot of different things to

different people but you know most

importantly I want to talk about why it

even matters and you know to to kind of

drill it down to you know the most basic

terms a brand voice really expresses

appearance human qualities so it tells

us who the company is through its people

and rather than talking about its

marketing qualities or product qualities

we really want to know that this day and

age what it's all about when it comes

down to the people we like to see behind

the advertising and the kind of the

transparency and authenticity of what

who they truly are a brand voice also

helps differentiate a company and its

unique values from its competitors so

say you're in a space with a lot of

other people that do the same thing you

do how are you gonna stand out and how

are you gonna differentiate how you're

different from

your competitors and and finally a brand

boys kind of helps make a product or a

you know company feel more familiar it

creates trust so if you you're used to

seeing a brand's voice and kind of

understanding the language that it uses

in it it feels familiar to you you're

gonna trust that brand more so it's

really important today when there's so

much noise so much content so many

products out there how are you creating

voice that stands out and really

connects with people

but before we go into that I just kind

of want to differentiate between a

couple things that we use a lot of

people try to use interchangeably and

then they're very different so I think

it's something that we should go over

first voice versus tone really when we

come down to it voice is the thing that

should stay consistent it's your

personality it's it's what you know sets

you apart from other people it conveys

your beliefs your values in your

character your tone however can change

based on a few questions and you know

this kind of varies for different people

so you ask yourself what's the situation

the reader is in and how do they come to

find this content so what's the

situation that this content will put the

reader in and is this a sensitive topic

so as are you talking about security is

it politics or religion or something

that feels sensitive so really when

you're creating content your voice

should say the same but depending on

where you're showing this content you

should really ask yourself you know how

did this reader get here what kind of

mood are they gonna be in what kind of

mood will this content put the reader in

and then what kind of you know topics

are you covering that could be more fun

could be less fun for them to talk about

and really empathize where your consumer

is so jumping right in to develop a

brand voice I've created five these just

to make them more memorable so five DS

of developing brand voice and they're

all kind of actionable things that you

can kind of walk through ask yourself

questions think about these five kind of

tactics and develop your voice hopefully

by the end you can have you know your

tenants and your exercises and things

that help you develop a really

compelling and authentic voice so these

are the five

we'll kind of go through them one by one

but I just wanted to make sure you kind

of see all of them up front

we'll start with defining your why and I

wanted to start each chapter with kind

of a quote that set up what I was you

know wanting you guys to kind of take

away from this but this is from simon

Sinek it's a pretty popular guy with his

book start with why people don't buy

what you do they buy why you do it what

you what you do simply proves what you

believe and this is pretty big right now

as I go back to kind of setting up why a

brand voice even matters people care

about your why they don't care about

your what there's millions of people

doing the same thing that you're doing

but why does it matter to you and that

is what's compelling to why they might

you know choose you over someone else

and they again with each chapter I

wanted to kind of set it up with a few

questions to ask yourself that kind of

get you in the right mindset to be

thinking about these things so when

you're developing your why what does

your company do why did it start why do

people want to follow you or use your

product and what other companies do you

admire so it doesn't have to be

companies in your space but just

companies that you feel like they're

getting their brand right they feel true

to their why they feel like they're

standing out for a good reason and just

kind of ask yourself questions like this

it doesn't have to be these four but

questions that kind of give you a gut

check on you know why are you you know

why are you doing what you're doing

what is your brand and why does it

matter I wanted to give you a few

examples of companies I think that have

done this right REI I think looking at

the words they choose really like

drilling down and seeing which words

they've chosen and why kind of give you

an idea of why they matter and what

really matters to them so you know you

look at these words inspire educate

outfit outdoor adventure you this is

pretty you know seems pretty intuitive

but they've chosen these sports for a

reason and they stick with these words

for a reason and you see these words

repeated often in their content in their


conversely here's SoulCycle you know

they're always allowed for their amazing

branding and those people that are super

passionate about being part of their

community but it started with a mission

statement like this that were they

use these words they chose these words

very carefully and you can really read

this out loud and say these words are

more picked to kind of you know

exemplify their passion their excitement

their energy but community the words

like addicted obsessed you know you can

kind of already know what you're gonna

get from them before you and walk in one

of their studios just by reading their

mission statement and then everything

that you kind of see from what they do

to the shirts that they put out there to

the classes that you're in the

instructors that they pick you kind of

can see that all come to life through

this mission statement um all right so

moving on to number two how do you

differentiate from the crowd this is

another quote from Jason freed when you

write like everyone else you're saying

our products are like everyone else

would you go to a dinner party and

repeat with a person to the right of you

is saying all night long would that be

interesting to anybody why are so many

businesses saying the same things at the

biggest party on the planet the

marketplace and I feel like that really

kind of gets to what we're saying here

there's you know a reason we want to

differentiate and there's you know it's

fine-tuning your wording but it really

goes a long way in terms of the

marketplace going back to another gut

check questions you can ask yourself in

this section are you know I want the

brand to make people feel blank

I dislike brand voices that sound blank

this brand makes me feel this way and

three characteristics that's describe my

brand are you know blank blank and blank

it can be five characteristics but

really honing in on what you want my

people to feel and how you kind of want

to stand out this is an exercise I won't

go into each kind of column but if

you're really gonna pick three

characteristics a really great thing to

do is kind of describe what you mean by

that word and then examples of do's and

don'ts of actionable things that you can

kind of see come to life so if you're

sharing a brand with co-founders or

other people that are creating content

that will be using the brand voice kind

of being on the same page of the same

book and understanding what you mean by

the word passionate or by the word

quirky you know if the description for

passionate is you know we want to we're

passionate about a world where everyone

belongs wherever they go what does that

mean in actual

and what doesn't it mean so kind of

giving yourself a work chart like this

and kind of you know coming together

with whoever you're working with on the

brand voice and making sure you mean the

same things with the same

characteristics just to have an example

I wanted to point out to brands that are

in the same space they have almost

identical product lines or at least

they're in the same industry and just

kind of see how they brought their brand

voice to life so using blush is a you

know cosmetics and you know skincare

line how do they you know differentiate

themselves from a L'Oreal so they use

words like handmade and natural and you

know quality so they're really more

about this like earthy fun natural line

and having fun with that versus L'Oreal

who's been around and they they want to

kind of tout their proven science and

their luxurious cutting-edge technology

so again you they're very similar

product lines but you know who they

stand for what they're about and how

they're differentiating from each other

another thing I would suggest doing is

making a list of keywords it kind of

goes back to the work chart from before

but making a list of keywords not just

characteristics but things that you

would say words that your brand news is

often just like a person would things

that you kind of use a lot in your

vocabulary every day and then a list of

words that just feel off that doesn't

feel like your brand would ever say them

so whether that's a pun or you know

overly flowery words if your brand is

very serious you're not going to use

really like poetic words it would just

feel off so make sure you have a

collection of those keywords you know

post it over your computer share it with

a shared doc with people in your

organization just so you're you know

kind of working from the same language

all right number three this would be to

decide who your people are it is inside

into human nature that is key to the

communicators skill for where as the

writer is concerned with what he puts

into his writings the communicator is

concerned with what the reader gets out

of it he therefore becomes a student of

how people read or listen this is

William Byrne back he's one of

um didi bees founders an agency that's

been around since forever he's the bee

and EDB but I think it's really

insightful the way he kind of talks

about you know you can be an amazing

writer but if you don't understand how

people communicate and who you're

communicating to your words really

aren't going to be very effective so

really it's all about studying how

people read how they listen how they

communicate effectively it's way more

important than you know well some people

would argue otherwise but it's not I

find it way more important to understand

how people communicate then knowing your

grammar and having a huge vocabulary so

really hone in on that skill you know

ask ask questions

what are your people saying what are

they sharing what topics are they

interested in what are they passionate

about ask yourself all these questions

and know that your voice should be

inspired by an actual real person so you

know if you know what your target is if

you know the type of person that you're

talking to ask all these questions of

that person or try to answer them the

best you can yourself you know going

back to what I just said you can kind of

go through another worksheet and create

a persona that represents your target

audience if it's not a real person maybe

come up with a name know their story who

they are in real life create realistic

answers for all of these questions and I

like to say as many questions here as

you can come up with a better it I mean

it can be down to things like favorite

movie ice cream flavor nail polish that

they wear the more real that they feel

the better number for developing your

personality I think this is where it

really comes to life kind of actually

developing what that persona is and

people always ask me you know how how

you know what's my brand how can I

develop a brand voice easily and this is

always a question that I ask them if you

are at a dinner party who are you if the

person sitting next to you you know

talks to you and they have a great

conversation at the end of the meal they

go home and they tell their spouse or

their friend or their family who they

met that night what are the words

they're going to use to describe you and

you know whether its physical appearance

the things you talked about or a job

title whatever it is who are you at that

dinner party and what are you bringing

to the table for Airbnb

we always say we're the host it's pretty

self-explanatory but if you're the host

of the dinner party you're gonna be warm

and welcoming always offering you know

people another drink or a second helping

with food they're probably pretty

comfortable they're in their jeans and

sneakers they're not trying to be

anything fancy but they're really

feeling at home and making you feel at

home they're excited to connect you to

the people that they brought together

they're telling you stories that the

places they went and I'll always kind of

making everyone feel warm and and

welcome and like you know they're

accepted I love the idea that they're

inviting you to another adventure for

tomorrow they're always excited to be

around people another example I love is

Warby Parker and this kind of goes to

show that it doesn't have to necessarily

be a person as much as it can be an idea

that is memorable it can be a very

visual cue so I love that they you know

they're brand inspiration their voice is

inspired by this blue footed booby so

you know the idea that it's family the

Galapagos therefore you have to be

knowledgeable and curious about the

world to even know that it exists it has

this quizzical look on its face so it's

curious it's like a penguin so it's you

know it's got its tuxedo on it's

sophisticated and all these kind of

visual cues that lead you to the types

of voice that you would use when talking

about this brand they I think this is a

great example of a brand that really

nailed that their brand identity

visually but also through all of their

communications and their brand voice

another great example is MailChimp I

think this is you know they've they've

put a lot of their tools of their brand

voice on the internet so I encourage

everyone to kind of search that out

MailChimp has a voice and tone guide

that is public to anyone who searches it

so check that out it's hopefully we can

link to that somewhere in here but one

of the things they've done is created a

list of this not that and I think this

is really great because their their

brain is so fun loving and quirky but

what they do is kind of narrow those

words and those personality traits in so

it's not just it's fun but it's not

childish it's smart but it's not stodgy

it's informal but it's never sloppy it's

helpful but it's not overbearing expert

but not

boss or bossy it's weird but never

inappropriate so I think that's a great

exercise to do is if you're coming up

with these words also narrow and what

you aren't from those words because for

different people those words can be can

mean a lot of different things so really

hone in and can narrow that one more

clever but not silly and cool but not

alienating I guess this goes to show the

more you can come up what's the better

the more you're kind of narrowing in on

a really real and unique voice finally

number five dedicating your contents

mission I think this is really important

because we live in a day and age where

you know social media is huge obviously

a lot of your content is going to be

living on a daily basis within the world

of social media on Facebook and

Instagram and everything like that so

what kind of content are you putting out

there and why so giving your content a

mission and how it ties back to your why

is really important so make sure you're

creating stories and finding information

that reinforces that mission it

shouldn't just be content for content

sake how are you building back to the Y

as an example Airbnb is why is to create

a world where we all can belong anywhere

so our content mission is to explore

different ways of living through

storytelling of our community helping

people feel inspired to travel and that

they can feel at home wherever they go

so that really you know give some

structure and some life to what kinds of

content we're putting out there and so

we can always kind of look back to our Y

and say does that fit with that or not

so we focus on real insights from our

community facts data local

recommendations we have real stories

real homes experiences from our

community really showing them humanity

we really like to focus not just on

these picture-perfect travel moments but

actual people who are actually traveling

and sometimes they're not perfect and

sometimes they feel a little too

authentic but that that makes it feel

real the information that enables

readers to travel to new places and feel

like they live there I don't want to

show a few examples because it I don't

have enough time but I put some links in

these slides for

of content that really tie back to ROI

really hone in on our mission in a lot

of different ways you can kind of check

the list and watch these and kind of see

how they reflect each other but not yet

trending is a great example as well as

based on a true view which is a youtube

series we started telling stories of

actual hosts and guess who have these

incredible real journeys together and

how they tend to help each other so

finally I just want to make sure you're

asking these questions before you kind

of figure out your content mission but

what channels are your people using and

why how are your competitors using

content on those you know on those

channels and how are you going to kind

of be different from that what gaps can

you fill and consider telling different

stories on different platforms so how is

Facebook different that Instagram is how

is that different from snapchat how is

Twitter showing up how can you optimize

each because they're all very different

use cases and so your audience is on

them for different reasons

how are you showing up in a way that's

meaningful that stands out that is in

tune with you know why people are using

that channel and what they're talking

about at the time of course I said five

but I wanted to give one bonus point

another D don't stand still and I just

sat here and talked all about you know

how to establish a brand but now I'm

gonna tell you to always be open to

change it and I want to say why that's

important and what I mean by that people

evolve pseudo brands so make sure you're

always iterating you know as human

beings our voices change as we learn

things as the world changes around us

and we you know kind of become different

people so don't be standing still with a

voice you came up with five years ago

and that may not resonate in the current

context of the world today evaluate new

ways and new channels to communicate

your why obviously the technology's

changing social media is changing

there's always some new platform always

be evaluating those and kind of seeing

how you should show up if you should

show up and why just because it exists

doesn't mean you need to be there just

so kind of go back to your Y and figure

out you know if you're a you know a

banking brand do you need to be on

snapchat maybe not

Pinterest I don't know just make sure

you're kind of going back to your why

and why would this platform matter audit

your brand and the competitive landscape

regularly so what is change and how

should you you know obviously there's

going to be new competitors that come

out with a different voice and have a

different thing to bring there's going

to be again technology changes and

product changes so make sure you're

constantly kind of keeping yourself in

check figuring out what's changed

whether it's in your product or around

you and how you can kind of evolve but

most importantly with all that said make

sure you're keeping a strong foundation

you're why the very first thing you

develop should not really change it

should always be your North Star so as

long as that saves the same your your

voice can kind of iterate as you go the

stories that you tell can change but

keeping that why and keeping that kind

of the ethos that you as a person or you

as a brand always have should stay the

same and that's it I appreciate you guys

tuning in for this if you have any

questions I'd be happy to start a

conversation online you can find me at

Liza Dunning on on most social media

platforms Twitter Instagram all the good

ones but thanks so much and good luck

out there