Don't have time to read? Listen to the article instead
Branding is just as important, whether we’re talking about a person or a company. You don’t have to be a politician or actor to benefit from personal branding but if you do want to forward your career, you will need to engage in it.
Remember when you were a kid and your parents called you in a certain way, you’d immediately know you were in trouble? You know how certain expressions remind you of certain people in your life? That’s what we call a well-defined, recognisable voice.
Brands understand the value of sounding human more so than personal brands do. Generally, because personal brands are much less developed and rarely benefit from the expertise of a specialist to define them. The even bigger issue is that personal brands tend to shrug off defining their voice because they’re a one-man/woman-show, don’t have the budget, don’t understand its importance and don’t know where to start.
Assuming you’ve already defined how you want your personal brand to be perceived, today we’re going to look at three simple exercises to help you define your personal brand’s voice.
Have fun with dictation
If you’re a blogger or vlogger you no doubt think that by virtue of the fact that you’re creating the content, the net result is 100% you. Not a chance. Our writing styles, in particular, are tainted by years of formal education. We’re taught structure, vocabulary and grammar and we all have a certain style of communicating, which won’t come through your writing unless you’re intentional about it.
Video content doesn’t fair much better as, on top of working off of a script, 90% of the time, you’re also trying to settle some pretty big public speaking butterflies flapping around in your stomach. The result, in both cases, is often dull and bland content that resembles a bad, afternoon newscast. Here’s what you can do about it.
Grab a friend and start telling them whatever it is you’d like to blog or vlog about. Ask them to write down what you’re saying word for word – aaaaa’s, uhm’s, and ehm’s included. This will give you an idea of what you would really sound like in writing. Now, grab a hold of your years of proper language training and slash the errors, pointless repetitions and long-winded explanations and you’ve got yourself a copy that will read a lot more like you.
Record. Listen. Cringe
If you can get over how weird your voice sounds when it’s played back, using a camera or your smartphone to record yourself while talking about a topic you’d like to include in a blog post, is a great way to get an idea of how you’d make that point in a face to face conversation.
The thing with recordings, as opposed to using dictation, is that it’s easier to get intimidated by the fact that you’re being recorded and use the linguistic crutches you’ve been given in school. In other words, when we’re nervous, it’s easier to fall back on the things we think we’re supposed to say/do.
For the exercise to be effective, you need to actively ignore (yes, I realise how counter-intuitive that sounds) that you’re recording yourself. Don’t look at the camera, fidget with something if you must and try to speak as if nobody is listening. Yes, your first dozen recordings, at least, will make you want to cringe but it’s a great learning tool and nobody ever has to hear them.
The most fun exercise, by far, is playing with pictures, colours and things. Once you’ve written a blog post, grab a bunch of crayons and highlight or rewrite your copy using a combination of colours that stands for the words you’re using. For instance, if you’re talking about the fun adventures you’ve had during your seaside holiday, use bright blue, yellow and oranges. When you’re done, you’ll have a colour map of what you sound like. Are you as happy-go-lucky and cheerful as the blog post looks? Better yet, does it match your brand colours?
For a more complex exercise, use photos to set the mood you’re trying to convey to your audience. Let’s say you’re blogging about the rewards of setting up your own shabby chic shop in a modern neighborhood. You’ll likely be talking about contrasts, modern vs old, fast-paced vs laid back. Grab Google by the hand and start looking for pictures of urban settings adding each keyword into the search (ie urban shabby chic).
Choose the ones that look the way you want your audience to feel and start writing down adjectives that describe them. When done, you should have an insightful blog post that’s also filled with enough descriptives to make people feel like they’re right there with you. If you don’t like photography, grab things around your house or off of Pinterest. You can always trust Pinterest to have all the things you’d love to hoard.
The Bottom Line
With enough repetitions, any one or combination of exercises, will yield enough material to allow you to shed some of the communication frameworks that you’ve learned in school, allowing for more you, without impacting the effectiveness of your messaging. What’s more, figuring out your own communication style, will enable you to tailor it to support the image of the personal brand you’re building.
You will soon spot recurrent idioms, speech patterns, a predilection for certain words. In other words, you’ll soon find yourself in your own content.