The first time I tried brewing coffee I had a million questions. What goes where? How much is too much? Is it supposed to sound like this? As with anything, it eventually became a task I could cruise through on autopilot—top up, filter down, 3 scoops of grounds, water in, hit the second button on the bottom left.
Adopting a brand voice isn’t all that different—and, oddly, the questions are even pretty similar (“What goes where? How much is too much? Is it supposed to sound like this?”). And while a brand’s voice may also come to be like second nature, most copywriters are tasked with writing for multiple brands—and multiple brands means multiple voices.
No matter how easily you can get in the mindset of Brands A, B, and C independently, it can still be tricky bouncing from Brand A to B to A to C to B to C to A to C before lunch without losing track of what makes each distinct.
Here’s what I do to keep track of them all:
Make It Personal
Believe it or not, I have a friend. Let’s call her Jane. When I started writing copy for Rock Center, I was told the voice is somewhere between a city local and a tourist.
Jane moved to Queens a few years ago. She has all the “I <3 NY” enthusiasm of a first-time visitor paired with the know-how of a native New Yorker. When I am writing for Rock Center, I think of her.
Making the connection between an actual person and a brand voice allows me to make the latter more vibrant. I think about what Jane would want to hear about. I think about how she would say it. I picture myself as Jane and let that influence my writing. It fills out the personality and makes copy read more authentically.
If you’re struggling to get into a brand voice, start by finding your Jane.
If you’re in a bad mood don’t try to be funny.
Similarly, maybe 9am on a Monday isn’t the best time to tackle a research-heavy think piece.
Allotting some time to “warm up” and “wind down” with more straightforward and fact-based copy allows your peak hours to be spent cranking out your creative best.
I try to capitalize on my 2pm energy burst by using this time to work on my most involved writing tasks, while “lighter” briefs and assignments are taken care of as I wait for my morning caffeine to reach my brain.
Which brings me to…
Don’t drink coffee? Start. What’s wrong with you? Coffee is wonderful.
Not to mention the act of getting up, walking a bit, and brewing a cup helps me approach a Word document with a new mind. That 2pm energy burst I mentioned earlier? Usually the result of coffee #3 or 4 catching up to me.
If nothing else, your experience brewing it might just make for a great blog post introduction.
Reddit. Mashable. Tumblr. YouTube. Twitter.
Without discipline, these are black holes. You might click something at lunch only to discover it’s suddenly 4:45 and you haven’t started that blog post due at EOD. But when used in moderation, these sites offer just enough distraction to wipe one brand out of my head—making the switch to the next voice all the easier.
Tip? Set a timer on your phone. 5-10 minutes of putzing around, then back to the grind.
Right Click. Synonyms!
I’m not the only one who knows about this trick, and yet it feels like I’m revealing something deeply personal all the same.
In Word, you can right click on a word and view synonyms—a sort of built-in thesaurus. Looking at a list of synonyms as you write gives you options. And options allow you to find words that more precisely reflect the brand you’re writing for.
Let’s look at the word “beautiful” for example. In addition to Rock Center, I also write copy for Ryan Homes—a new-home construction company.
When describing one of Ryan Homes’ neighborhoods, “scenic” or “lovely” are better options than the tired adjective “beautiful”—as they carry a friendly, charming, and safe connotation. But when I’m describing an elegant private event space at Rock Center, “stunning” is the better fit.
To be sure, all mean beautiful. But not in the same way. Capturing the subtle differences in why they are beautiful is exactly how you distinguish different voices. Thanks, Word.
Have any other nuggets of wisdom to offer? Let us know! Tweet @HZDG and share what helps you be a more effective writer.