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EPISODE 52: 5 Steps to Chameleon Your Client’s Brand Voice

by Sep 21, 2021Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • How writers can earn their clients’ trust
  • Consequences of distrust between writers and clients
  • Setting achievable content expectations
  • How writers can turn into content chameleons

We’ve been in the copywriting business for a while, and in that time we’ve noticed a trend: Business owners WANT to outsource their content creation… but at the same time, they don’t always TRUST the people they’re outsourcing it to.

It’s not that they’re inherently distrustful of writers! They’re just afraid to let such an important part of their business be taken care of by someone else.

So as a copywriter, one of your jobs is learn how to build that trust between yourself and your client.

 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How writers can earn their clients’ trust
  • The consequences of distrust between writers and clients
  • How to set achievable content expectations
  • 5 steps to turn writers into Content Chameleons

When you become a Content Chameleon, it helps build trust between yourself and your client – and that means better content for them, and a much higher potential for outgoing work for you!

 

Learn more:

The ROI of Brand Voice

Networking for Writers

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Jessi:
All right, welcome back to another episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Jessi here, it's been a hot minute since I was on an episode.

Marie:
You're back!

Jessi:
I am. It's really great to be back. Marie's been holding down the Fort for, for me the last few weeks, and we wanted to dive right back into things, continuing to talk about brand voice. We just finished up a series about the types of stories that can help influence brand voice. And now we want to get a little bit more into the nitty gritty of it, specifically how, as a writer, you can actually be trusted as the primary content creator for your client. And this may seem like kind of a weird topic because like, that's your job, right? You're the writer. So therefore your clients should trust you to write. But what we found over the years is that actually, it's not quite as simple as it sounds often. There are clients out there who really want to hand their content off to someone else, but also don't trust their content with anyone else. And so it turns into a bit of a power struggle sometimes between the client who really does want to hand this off and really feels overwhelmed with content creation and knows it's what's best for them and their struggle to actually do that, to actually loosen their grip on something that they've been doing since day one of their business.

Marie:
Yeah. I find that this happens most often with clients who either have like a really personal story that they, it's hard for them to imagine that somebody else could speak with the power and conviction that they have. And I've seen this happen with clients who are like, I'm an amazing writer. I just don't have the time and bandwidth to do it. And I'm sure that they are, they typically are. And the conflict I guess, comes in when they're like, okay, but you didn't do it like a hundred percent the way I would do it. Whereas, I'm going to talk a little bit about like mindset coaching. I know you're a writer, so you're like what that is out of my wheelhouse, but one of the things you can do is help set their expectations and their mindset around like how close is close enough.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. I think it's a big shift of mindset in general to just be like, okay, this thing that I've been doing forever, someone else is going to do it now and a lot of things can come up there. And I think that this is particularly problematic when as a writer you are being brought on as essentially a churner. And we've talked about this in past episodes, this whole idea of, you know, are you a writer who is churning out content, or are you a writer who becomes an integral part of the business of your client? And there's not necessarily a wrong answer there, but I do think that the writers who are churning out content, the content is essentially being handed off to you as a task to complete without you having any real say in the content itself and the strategy around it, things like that. I think that this problem comes up more in those situations because there's less of an opportunity to build that trust with the client. And those clients tend to be clients who cycle through writers a lot more. They will bring a writer on, turn out some content and then move on to something else. And then when they decide they need a writer again, they'll, they might come back to you where they might go to someone else. And so, regardless of which type of writer you are, whether you're focused on just the writing, just the tasks, or if you're more of a strategy focused writer, just be aware that this can show up in slightly different ways based on your role within the client's business.

Marie:
Yeah, for sure. And also remember your positioning and the relationships that you're making, the connections you're making actually can really be what paves the way to shifting that. So if you are looking at saying, Hey, I'm not sure I want to be a Turner anymore because of some of these reasons. Again, there's nothing wrong with it. It just comes with a different bit of a client mindset, but ultimately a lot of that comes down to you and how you're positioning yourself and who you're networking with. So, by the way, we do have a networking for introverted writers podcast episode previously as totally a tangent. So I'm not going to go into it here, but you can check out that episode.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. So I think, you know, just to sort of paint the picture here of like what, what we're kind of shooting for and what, as a writer you may be be yourself, you know, is this idea of working with business owners who have a business that you feel passionate about supporting, but also the business owner feels passionate about staying in their zone of genius. They want to step up out of the content creation. They recognize that even if they are really good writers, like Marie mentioned earlier, that's not where their time and energy is best spent. But the key word in all of this is trust and developing that trust can be really hard, especially early on in the relationship when you're still feeling each other out, you're still trying to get to know them, get to know their brand. And they're still trying to get to know you and make sure that you can actually do all the things that you said that you could do. You know, no amount of testimonials or case studies or sales conversations ahead of time are going to substitute for you actually being in their content, creating content for them. That's really when sort of the rubber meets the road. And there's this test of, okay, can this relationship work in this way, in this new iteration of the relationship we forged.

Marie:
Right. And I mean, as we all know, content, especially for like a solopreneur client, but really any client, it's a very intimate thing. And so it can be very scary for your clients. So I think just remembering that and having a lot of empathy for where they are, is a great way to approach it. But if you're able to succeed in this, I mean, this is really how you make yourself invaluable to your client, you know? Because then they're like, oh wow. There's somebody who gets me, who gets my voice, who I trust to put out content who I can hand off the reigns. And it really ends up being a, win-win obviously it's a win for you and your business because you could have an ongoing client forever and it's a win for them because they're able to step out of content creation and go spend their time doing something else that only they could do.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the keys to this is the same thing that we come back to again and again and again, in this podcast and in our business, which is voice and that's for so many people, the hardest part of outsourcing their content. They typically know that if they're hiring a writer who positions themselves as a writer, that writer is going to know how to write, they're going to know, okay, this is what a sales page looks like. This is what an email sequence looks like. This is what social media posts look like. That sort of stuff is sort of assumed when you're hiring a writer, especially if you're hiring a writer that is specifically positioned as a writer in that particular field. But the voice part is the part that is not necessarily included in that list of expertise that the writer has. But it's also the most important point because it's the linchpin of, can I work with this writer, not just to create content that meets my strategic goals, but that also still sounds like me because my audience up until this point has been connecting with my content that I've created. That sounds like me as a business owner. And I don't want to dilute that by having someone else step in and write my content. And so when we're looking at building this trust, yes, a big piece of it is can you actually write the types of things you say you can write, but the even bigger piece of it I would wager is can you emulate the voice of the person or the business that you are trying to emulate? Can you become that content chameleon?

Marie:
I was literally about to say content Chameli.

Jessi:
Yes.

Marie:
We've apparently becoming to others, little chameleons after kind of running this business for so long because, yeah, we're in each of those brains. So let's dive into specifics here. Five steps that you can actually take to make that chameleon process happen. Um, so step one is sort of just bringing everybody on board with this idea. It is up to you most likely the writer to talk about the importance of brand voice, why it is worth the investment of your client's time and energy and money to sit with you and help you learn the brand voice, because that kind of thing can happen over time. It can kind of happen through osmosis essentially of like taking a look at their old content or just having a lot of conversations with them. But if you're able to really focus on it and have time to like dig in that can really expedite that process.
By the way, there is a podcast episode on the ROI of brand voice. So you can take a listen to that. If you kind of feel like you need some like points to kind of convince your client that like, this really is going to be worth your time and my time, because you're gonna have so many fewer revisions, you're going to be happier with the end product, that kind of thing. Take a look at that or take a listen to, I guess, that episode cause that could really support you in this.
And I think part of it too, is, you know, as you take your client through a brand voice process, it's important for you to think of yourself, even if you're, you kind of are like that churner for them, or not think of yourself as not just a writer. Yes. You're talented writer and you were also a content strategist for them. You were there.
We actually used to have a client package called the chief of messaging. So you'd have, everybody will have a C-suite right. Their chief of marketing, their chief of sales, their, you know, chief of whatever chief of marketing is like a new one that we quite coined or messaging as a new one that we coined. We probably didn't, we probably weren't the first pin that, but it's something that you used, it's like we can come in and be a leader in this area, within your company, even if it's a tiny company. And I think the thing about that positioning is it can really help a client understand that you are more than just a writer. And I also know that a lot of writers are nervous about taking on that title of strategist.
In fact, a lot of people in general are nervous about it because it sounds like real big and like, you know, unattainable. But you don't have to know everything. You don't have to have experienced everything to be a strategist. You need to experienced enough that you feel like the recommendations are sound for them. And at the end of the day, you know, if you're making those recommendations anyway or you're thinking them, but you're not actually communicating them and then you're like, I don't know why my clients having to do this. This is ridiculous. Like if you're having those thoughts, because you could think there's a better way to do it, then position yourself as a strategist and an utter those thoughts. Maybe not in like an angry muttery voice, but more like a, Hey, have you thought about this because blah, blah, blah, could, could help you in this way.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. I think to, you know, one of the ways in which I've started thinking about this process of not just taking on a new client and writing for them and proposing strategy and emulating their voice. One of the ways I've started thinking about it is sort of similar to acting. So like when you, when you're bringing the step one, the spring and the team on board, you're essentially getting familiar with the script and not just the words that are on the page, but the flourishes, the tone, the way in which the character moves across the stage or in the writing version of that, the way in which the content is distributed, the way in which engagement happens. And so this whole bringing the team on board piece of this is making sure that everyone's on the same page about who this character is, who is this brand or this individual, if it's a personal brand and how are they presenting themselves to the world and is that documented somewhere that everyone can easily access.
And then when you get to step two, once everyone is on board, you're running a trial, this is like your dress rehearsal or your practices leading up to opening night, where you, as the writer are taking on content and starting to generate content, starting to do what your best to doing, which is writing. But also knowing that this is, these are the first pieces of content that you're writing. So maybe they're not the highest stakes piece of content, but they're probably a little bit more robust because you want to get feedback. You want to be able to make sure that the person who you're writing for can really see that you are taking this role seriously, that you're able to step into the character and the voice of the brand. And so when you're ready to do that, once you've done all of that onboarding, once you've gotten a sense of the voice, once everyone on the team knows where you fit into that team and it's time to write, this is where you can ask lots of questions.
You know, is this a story that you would tell or is that a story that you would tell or do you have an anecdote or an experience for that, or when you say this and pass content, can you tell me a little bit more about what you meant. When you're running a trial and when you position the first piece or two of content that you are creating for your client as a collaborative effort, as opposed to, I'm just taking this off your hands and it's going to be perfect the first time that allows it to continue to feel like you are taking true responsibility for not just the content, but how the content is presented to the audience at the end of the day, it shows that you're in it for the long haul.

Marie:
Yeah. And I think like really making sure you do set their expectations, that this is a process and do not expect it to be perfect the first time or maybe ever, but also isn't that okay. Because what, how do we define perfect? How does the client define perfect? If the client defines perfect as exactly to the letter, how they would have written it, you'll probably never get there, you know, but it's kind of like, you know, since we're kind of talking about literature and plays and things like that, like, you know, I remember being in middle school and reading Dante's Inferno and the teacher was like, you need to get this translation of it because there are more literal translations out there, but this one mimics the cadence and the feel of it a little bit more, it takes a few more liberties, but it creates the same emotional reaction.
And so that in my opinion is what you're going for more than just like, is it a literal translation of like, what would the client say? Cause sometimes part of the reason, sometimes the client is hiring a writer like you is also because they don't actually trust that the way that they would say it is a hundred percent of the best way to say it. Like you as an outsider actually are valuable for being an outsider because you're able to see, oh, maybe their audience isn't responding to this message that my client keeps putting out there. But like, if I just spin it this other way and still again, kind of emulate the feelings and the values, the language, then like it's okay. That it's different. In fact it's better.

Jessi:
Absolutely. Which leads into step three. So step one is to get the team on board, make sure everyone's on the same page. Step two is to run that trial. And then step three is to receive feedback, to listen to what your client has to say about those first pieces of content. And the key here is to get specific feedback often you'll get, I'm sure everyone can relate to this with me back that sort of like, it just doesn't quite hit the mark or can we just punch it up a little bit or, you know, things that are a little vague that can be helpful as far as compairing, like, okay, this is a problem spot, but artist's helpful in knowing what the problem actually is. And so the big key here as a writer, when you're receiving feedback, especially on early pieces of content, is to ask them to tell you why something isn't working or why it doesn't feel like the brand voices hitting the mark that Y can help them articulate often things that they've never actually articulated before. It's just a sense that they have that, oh, this is offer this works, but getting them to articulate, it actually gives you really valuable information and allows you to apply the feedback that they've given on that one piece of content to all future contents, to add to their brand voice document, to continue to sink deeper into that character and into that role in a way that feels more authentic rather than just sort of glossing the surface.

Marie:
You know, another part of it is not just talking with your client, but actually if you have access to data like performance metrics, taking a look at that too. Because this is another place where a client may be like, well, I want you to punch it up a little bit more and then you can be like, yeah, but have you noticed that, like when I take this tone instead, there's like three X engagement, right? And so, that's also a place if you have access to that, or if that's a service that you provide to take a look at the data that you also pull that into the feedback and let the numbers also guide you, it's not the full story. You know, if you discover, if your client discovers that, like only these messages perform super well, but they're actually not comfortable with that messaging or it's like old or it's like performing well, but that means it's pulling in the wrong audience or something like that. Obviously like you need to chat with your client about the context of that, data is just numbers at the end of the day, and you do need to have context around it to interpret it. But, um, I would also say just that you take a look at that as you go through.

Jessi:
Yep, absolutely. So this also dives into some of that mindset stuff that Marie was talking about, which is that whole, you know, things do not have to be 100% their way. You are an expert, not just at writing, but at specific types of writing. And even if they are great writers, they may not be great sales page writers. They may not be great email sequence writers, or they may not be up to date on all the nuances of how things have changed over recent years. Or they may not be up-to-date on that data. Maybe they have the data, but they haven't looked at it to see, oh, my audience actually responds more to this tone this tone. And so if you end up in a situation where your client is trying to in the feedback process, dictate every move, there's heavy revisions. And especially if this keeps happening, that's when it's time to sit down and have a conversation about that trust. Because part of them trusting you as a content creator is them releasing control, but also being able to explain that why behind things that they do want changed. And if they're not able to articulate the why that may be a little bit of a yellow flag of like, okay, let's see if we can have a conversation here about what is going astray, because otherwise you may be setting a precedent for them to keep their fingers in every piece of content in a very detailed fashion, which actually just makes your work a lot harder and doesn't reach the initial goal of your client getting out of content creation. So it's actually worse for everyone involved.

Marie:
Yeah. Like for instance, one of the clients that I've worked with has like clinical scientific knowledge that I don't have because I don't have a doctoral degree. And so I still ask for an, a very grateful to receive this client's feedback for that stuff. But to her great credit, she is pretty much handed off things that are just like cute pictures of my kids or like, you know, like the stuff that kind of anyone can understand because, you know, you don't need a degree to understand. And that to me is like probably as good as that relationship's gonna get for that. And that's totally fine because again, I'm not going to get that degree. But yeah, just allowing yourself to have that conversation with the client to say, like, let's talk about expectations. And honestly, like Jessi said, yeah, if things are not going well and the revisions are just dragging out forever for every piece of content. Yeah. It's definitely time to have that conversation. And also, I would suggest you also have it earlier to set the expectations ahead of time before they're like, you know, salty with you.
I was going to say another thing about this, and I'm forgetting it. We'll come back to it.

Jessi:
Yeah. I'll jump in with something I have to say, which is that this actually ties back to a couple of previous episodes we've done around boundaries. So there is a lot of value in getting feedback, especially early on, however, that is not an invitation for your clients to walk all over you and request a hundred rounds of revision. So it's important to also be really clear about this process, be really clear about, okay, you get two rounds of revision, please make sure you're leaving comments and explaining why you would change things. So we do fewer rounds of revision in the future. Not we're going to go back and forth until we get it right, because for some clients that could be an invitation to go back and forth for literally ever, like just forever. And that doesn't help anyone at all. So keep that in mind as you're doing this. Yes. It's a learning process. Yes. It's important to collect feedback and data, but also don't put yourself in a position where you are where there's a inappropriate power dynamic. Instead, remember the business relationship. Remember there are boundaries on both sides that have to be respected.

Marie:
Yeah. Like a really good example of this in a slightly different setting is the book contract that we have Jessi. Like I remember there was a clause in there that says something along the lines of like, yeah, you can go back and forth with our editor on root, on edits and revisions for your manuscripts, but not until like, not past the point where it disrupts the entire timeline and process, because if that happens, then like it makes the whole train fall apart. And so our, you know, hemming and hawing over, like, is it this word or that word cannot disrupt the train. You know, there's a margin there. So decide what your margin is.
I do remember the thing I was going to say, which is, and I'm going to put this out there for the folks who are kind of like me, I'm an Enneagram nine, I'm a peacemaker. I'm kind of like a, like, yeah, whatever you say, kind of person who's had to learn boundaries. Some people I think are very talented at boundaries and it doesn't, it comes more naturally to them than for me, for me it feels like conflict. Oh gosh, no, that's terrifying. So this is kind of for the people like me who may be listening or reading the transcript here. But this was a tidbit that blew my mind when I was talking with Brandy Lawson, who's the CEO of fiery FX. It's a marketing company out of Arizona. Brandy's wonderful. Follow her. She's amazing. And also she said this thing that she basically said, I said like, what is one thing that you will never say to your clients? And she was like, I will probably never, I don't quote me on this, but like the gist of it was like, I'm never going to tell my clients, like, you know, whatever you think or like, you know, how do you feel about this particular thing? Because she's like at the end of the day, I'm the expert and the data is there to back things up. And like, if they like A, but B is working and B doesn't actually go against their boundaries or their values, we need to do B.
And so this is not necessarily advice for somebody who like already feels like they have, you know, they're confident to the point of steamrolling other people, if you're already steamrolling other people, like maybe do some more listening, but if you feel like you're the, if you're like a doormat type of person in your natural form, like me, this is for you to hear this and be like, okay, it kind of some level of kind of doesn't matter what.

Jessi:
Yeah, I think, you know, a big piece of this is just like knowing your expertise and feeling like you can own it and communicate it to other people. And I think that it's super important during this initial period of time when you're creating the first few pieces of content, getting feedback, and then shifting onto step four, which is taking on a more robust content creation role. So after those first pieces of content where you're getting a lot of feedback, the ideal is that you take over content creation while receiving less and less feedback from the client. Now there may always be a need for some client feedback. Like Marie was saying, if they have an area of expertise that you just do not have, or if, you know, you need new anecdotes or stories that are more recent, that weren't covered previously, if you need clarification on something, we're absolutely not suggesting that you just stopped talking to the client and start creating their content. The dialogue is really important, but as you shift into content creation, you should be able to take that feedback from earlier pieces integrated into the brand voice, and then start to create content without quite as much feedback from the client, allowing them to finally fully step out of content creation and maybe just be there for a final approval. Maybe even it's not them there for a final approval. We've worked with clients who it's their COO, who does the final approval or someone who's in the chief of marketing position, things like that, where essentially their amount of time spent in content is diminishing while your time spent in the content is increasing. And this will obviously change over time, especially if there's new initiatives, if there's changes to positioning and messaging and whatnot, but generally speaking, that's the trend you want to see. You don't want to see your time is increasing and their time is increasing because they're continuing to just be in every single revision and every single piece of content that you create.

Marie:
Right? It is that at point, the ROI is not there for them. It's negative for them. And they're just spending more money and spending the same amount of time. So, let's go through the steps again and we'll wrap up with step five. So step one was bringing the team on board, which is a lot like convincing them basically of the ROI of brand voice, and then conducting whatever your brand voice process is. We also do have a lot of podcast episodes on that topic. If you want to just literally search it, you can find a bunch on our website. Number two is like run a trial, right? Try preferably like in a kind of in-depth piece of content to really sink your teeth into step three is receive feedback. And if your client is not volunteering specific, constructive feedback, guide them to it, ask them the questions. Step four is now shifting into content creation. So your time going up and your client's time is going down in terms of how much content creation is going on. But that's not the end of the process. Step five is continuing to improve your process and earning trust.
So first of all, I would say, please keep two things in mind. One is you can add stuff to whatever the brand voice documentation process is that you have as you go through. Like, if you're listening to them, give a podcast episode, cause you're going to write like an email to their list, telling them about this cool podcast that they were featured on. And there's some anecdote that you haven't heard before, or maybe like one extra little like nugget from the anecdote, poke it in as a future resource for you, they're gonna be like, how did you know all that? Like, it's kind of fun when you can like treat your client to like knowing that stuff that they've shared in other places. And also please keep revisiting the content itself to make sure that the voice is still on point, because this is one of those things where, in my experience, it's kind of like you have like, you know, two rails going parallel and it's like, one is like your client's voice and the other is your voice, your natural voice. And you've been able to kind of like hop onto your client's rail and go along with them. But like sometimes you cut out a start veering back towards your own, you know, your own sort of natural way of communicating. And so just kind of keeping that in check with like very intentional check-ins and you know, just continuing to offer support to your clients as you can, because the more that you're integrated into their brand voice, the more you're going to be able to serve them. And the more you're going to be able to continue making yourself really invaluable to them.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. So for your homework, this episode, what we'd love you to do is take a look at these five steps and how you can integrate them into the beginnings of your client relationships. And I'm intentionally not saying your onboarding process, because this is something that happens actually after essentially a client has been, you know, they've signed their contract, they've paid their invoice. And then you start this process, which is partially onboarding as far as, you know, getting that initial information that you need, but it extends out into the actual work that you're doing together. And it's sort of the transition from onboarding to ongoing work.
And so for your homework, take a look at how you manage that transition period from yay I have a new client, this is so exciting too. We are established as a, you know, business owner writer relationship that is working in a way that feels really good for all parties involved. And what happens during that transition period really sets the tone for the entire relationship for the longevity of the client relationship for the, whether you enjoy working on those projects and you know, all of that good stuff that leads you to have a more sustainable business overall.

Marie:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, at the end of the day, I really think that the linchpin for having that success is having a brand voice process and also you having the confidence to step up and really become that strategist, you know, really come in and support your client on that next level. So thank you so much for listening, hope you found this episode supportive, and we will catch you next time.
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you, and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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