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EPISODE 53: Bridging Spoken and Written Content

by Sep 28, 2021Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • Ways writers learn their client’s voice
  • The differences in brand voice through spoken and written content
  • Curated vs. off-the-cuff content
  • Steps to bridge the content gap to most accurately capture brand voice

A lot of writers refer to a client’s past content to help capture their voice and guide the copy they set out to write. But if you’re only looking at past content, you’re actually missing a crucial part of brand voice: the actual VOICE of the client.

It’s the difference between written content and spoken content – or perhaps more accurately, curated content and off-the-cuff content. You need to understand how your client sounds in planned professional communications, and how they sound in a more unstructured, casual atmosphere. Only then can you bridge the gap to capture their most authentic brand voice!

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Different ways to learn your client’s voice.
  • The differences between curated content and off-the-cuff content {and what they mean for brand voice}.
  • Key steps writers can take to bridge that content gap.

Bridging this content gap will help you write copy that speaks to a client’s most authentic voice, which will in turn make it easier for them to connect with their audience.

Got questions about bridging the content gap or how to capture brand voice? Join us in the Polaris Writer Lounge to ask a network of fellow 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 to another episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. This is Jessi, and I'm joining you solo today. As we talk about how to bridge the gap between spoken and written content. So I want to start today by doing something a little different. I want to start with an activity. And so if you're listening to this and you're able to, I'd love for you to grab something, to write with and a pen and some paper or something where you can jot down some quick notes. And if you can't do this right now, that's totally fine to save this activity for later. And what I want you to do is I want you to take a moment to think about when you have a new client as a writer and you are still getting settled into the work that you're doing with that new client, maybe those first few pieces of content that you write, maybe you're still in the onboarding process. If you can think about a recent client that maybe you've been in this situation with where you're still feeling each other out, and I want you to jot down how you go from still getting used to that client, to feeling really comfortable expressing their voice in content and sounding like them in the content that you create.
So just take a couple of minutes and write down everything that you do as a writer, as a content creator, as a copywriter, to get settled into the voice of your client, especially during that early time period when you have them. Go ahead and pause this recording. If you need to and jot down anything that comes to mind, and then we'll go ahead and get started.
And I want to start, hopefully now you have a list, hopefully you've paused the recording and jotted a few things down, if not go ahead and do that. And now that you do have that list, I want to talk about the difference between spoken and written content and a couple of areas where as writers we may tend to gravitate towards and a couple of things that might be more beneficial to think about. So one of the things that we've noticed over the years is that a lot of writers default to looking at past content, to capture voice. And this is a really awesome opportunity to look at what a client has already created. And so I think this is natural for a lot of writers to look at past social media posts, past blogs, past emails, to see, okay, how does this person sound when they're writing their own content?
And that's great. It's really important to kind of know what's out there. And it can also lead to a bit of a struggle. When you, as a writer are trying to sink into the voice of the client. One of the things that I think we've mentioned on past episodes, we used to hear a lot from our prospects, from people who came to talk with us was I've hired writers before. And they're great writers. They're really good at what they do, but they don't quite sound like me, there was a gap there, there was a gap yeah. Between how the client felt like they sounded and what the writer was able to produce. And so what we became really interested in was figuring out why does that gap exist? Because as a writer, if you are not nailing the voice, it doesn't matter if you're nailing the content. If you are sounding authentic to how the brand wants to sound, then you're failing to really hit the mark and check all the boxes that the client is looking for. Even if it's the best sales page ever, it needs to also represent the brand.
And so, we want to make sure that every writer is equipped to do that. We know that you're a great writer. We know that you're staying up on best practices for copywriting and content creation. And we want to make sure that you also feel like the content is authentic to the brand. And so when we kept hearing this over and over again from prospects, that they weren't hiring writers who knew how to write, but couldn't capture their voice, ee wanted to know why we wanted to know where that breakdown was. And we wanted to know, how we could potentially look at providing tools and resources to bridge that gap.
Because if you're in a sense situation where your incredible content isn't hitting the mark on voice, then you end up as a content creator in a situation where you may have lower retention, where you may have, you know, more of that feast and famine cycle, where you may have more revisions with the clients that you have, which means that you're overall making less money and able to expand less. You won't have the same capacity because you'll be spending more time within each individual client project. And so the more you can hone in on brand voice and add that to skillset, the easier it is for you as a business owner to expand, to work with more clients, to have more longevity with the clients you have. And so in order to find this really important piece, we needed to figure out how to bridge that gap between what the client was expecting as far as voice was concerned and what was actually happening.
And so going back to that assignment that I gave you right at the beginning, one of the things that maybe you wrote down is looking at past content. And if you did, that's great. If you didn't write anything else down, though, it might be time to look at a couple of other strategies. One of the crucial parts of brand voice, especially for clients who tend to interact with their audience in an off the cuff in the moment way, this is especially true for speakers or coaches, people who really spend a lot of time interacting directly with their clients in a face-to-face way, their spoken language they're off the cuff language is just as important as what's been curated. It's just as important as that social media posts that they spent every word looking at an agonizing over, or that sales page that they put together on their own, trying to figure out how to make it sound quote unquote, perfect, which we all know there's no such thing, but that's what we're all striving for. And that's what a lot of our clients are striving for. And so when our clients, small business owners or business owners, CEOs are creating content and they're doing it themselves. They're trying to put the best out there that they can. And they have this huge influx of information from the marketing world that's saying, well, you should do this and you should do that. And you should sound like this, and you should sound like that. And what it leads to is content that may or may not accurately represent their voice. And so when you, as a writer come in and you're looking at their past content, it's hard to know if what you're reading is true to their voice, or is a version of their voice that has been twisted to meet whatever they were reading or listening to at the time that said that they should sound a certain way.
So it's important to look at both. It's important to look at the curated content that was created intentionally, and it's important to look at the off the cuff content, the content that may be verbal, it may be the spoken content. It may be the, in the moment, text messages or DMS or, conversations that happen over video reels, things like that, the conversations that the person speaking is not, or writing, is not necessarily analyzing what's being said or written as much. So the most effective way to capture brand voice is going to integrate both the written and the, I say verbal, but really it's the off the cuff content. I'm going to say verbal throughout this episode, but I do want to acknowledge that it's not always verbal. It's not always spoken speaking. And having verbal out loud conversations is not the only way in which people communicate off the cuff. What I'm really talking about is curated versus off the cuff content. And so when you're able to bridge the gap between these two, that's when you start being able to take your skills as a writer, your knowledge as best practices for copywriting and whatnot, and this more nuanced view of, okay, how do we make it that, but more like them, more authentic, more in tune to their voice. And so one of the compliments that we received from a client in the past is they said that, you know what we provided for them, it was their voice, but refined. And that's how we like to think about it is it's not fancy. It's not super professional and super buttoned up. It's not, you know, more doily Lacy version of their voice. It's just making it more pure, more clear and more powerful and more aligned to their personality.
And so what we've come to believe over the years is that when you're creating a brand voice to your client, it's really important to integrate formal written and informal language, unplanned messages, spoken communication, as well as that preplanned. Here's an email sequence that I wrote here or social media posts that I wrote. Because if in your onboarding process, in those early conversation with clients, you're not getting both of those. You're not seeing the full picture. If your audience, or if your client's audience then sees that incomplete picture that can lead to problems on the B on behalf of your clients. So, one thing that we've found a few people coming to us to talk about is how they would put content out there, sounding a certain way. Usually it's that more buttoned up professional like, I feel like I should sound like a business person because I run a business and that's what their content sounds like.
But then you get on a call with them and you talk to them and they're actually really kind of more of a rebellious personality, more off the cuff, more maybe in your face, more casual. And a lot of times when people come to us and that's our initial impression of them, and then we look at their content and it's super buttoned up, we dig into the conversation a little more and we find out, oh, well, maybe things aren't connecting with your audience because they are reading your content and expecting one thing. And then getting on a call with you and receiving something completely different. The personality that you show up with on calls is different from the personality that you show up with in content. And so if the consumers of the content read one voice, and then they experience a different voice later on, it's going to feel awkward and disconnected, and it's going to make it harder for people to connect with you or your client for people to want to work with you or your client, because there's no through line from, okay, I got to know you via this content and then I actually had a conversation with you, and it feels like an extension of that content. It feels like a continuation of that personality. So when you do it while you're creating a more refined version of the client's natural voice and of your own natural voice within your own content, so that when you have those conversations, it does feel like they go together. There's not a disconnect between the prepared content and the less prepared content.
So with that in mind, how do you, as a writer do that? How do you go to that list that you started, you wrote down at the beginning of this episode, and how do you make sure that you're not just looking at pot pass content, but you're adding to that list, a process that allows you to absorb off the cuff content and integrate it into your writing process.
So the most important thing is having conversations with your clients, especially early on, but really an ongoing system for having conversations. So yes, look at that past content, however, make sure you're asking questions about where that past content came from. Are they following any specific shoulds that are out there? Are they listening to any specific marketing gurus who are telling you that this is the way to write this sort of thing? Not necessarily that it's a bad thing, but they're following any specific formula or framework, but it's good information to have because that's framing the way that they created the past content.
So yes, take a look at the past content, get context around that past content and have a conversation with them, a casual conversation with them, where you can listen and experience how they communicate in an off the cuff manner. You can either do this verbally through a meeting, or we do it through our brand voice intensive process, or you could do it more informally in DMS, in emails, in text messages. However you prefer to communicate with your clients. The important part here, though, however you do it, is to be listening, to be listening for the anecdotes. The turns of phrase, the examples, the metaphor, the metaphors, the power words. So verbs and adjectives that your client uses naturally. What do they say that they don't even think about it when they're saying. In fact, I had a call with someone earlier today and this was a, it was a sales call. And so this is not someone who we were working with, or are working with at this point. We may work with them in the future and during the sales call, we were talking and she was essentially telling us her struggles of creating content and feeling as if she had a strong sense of her message. Wants something that she could easily and succinctly convey to the world where they would understand who she was and what she did. And during that conversation, I had a sticky note right next to me, and I was jotting down the difference things that she was saying in that off the cuff way that people talk when they're just saying, Hey, here's the problem that I'm having. So that if in the future, she does work with us, if she does decide to do a brand voice intensive or to get content through us, I already have a list from our very first conversation of, okay, here's some things that she said that actually struck me as off the cuff ways of talking about what she does and how she does it that really resonate and may not have shown up in the polished version of what she is writing, because she's just talking about it because she's excited. She wanted to just tell me what she did. And I was just jotting down those words as she talked.
So how can you create opportunities like that? How can you listen during those opportunities and capture during those opportunities? We've talked in the past, in past episodes about our brand voice process and how we do a brand voice intensive, which is a container designed for this. However, you're not limited to that container. You can create whatever process works for you. We operate outside that container too, like in the sales calls, really any opportunity that I have to talk to a client and to hear them just have a conversation with me is an opportunity to get more words, get more phrases and get more stories. So it's not just about what you're doing in the early phases. It's also about creating a system for touching base informally with your client on a regular basis.
So what does that look like in our business? Well, when we work with someone in an ongoing basis, we have a monthly strategy call. That strategy call is designed to plan out content, however, planning content and talking through goals and strategies is also an opportunity to get the client to talk off the cuff again. And so, yes, we're planning content during that, but it's also an opportunity to just be jotting down new words and phrases going and adding it to our brand voice guide that we have for the client. It's an opportunity for us to ask there are any new stories or anecdotes that have come up. So that's one way in which we've integrated, expanding and evolving the brand voice with the brand and with our clients, just so it happens naturally.
The other thing we do is we just make sure we have regular touch points with our clients. All of our clients have access to a Voxer channel that has their writing team on it. That's a great way to just touch base and say, Hey, so I'm writing a piece of content about this. What are some stories that, you know, come up for you around that topic? What are some things that might have happened recently, again, getting them talking, getting them to do things that are in an unpolished manner, allows you to connect that with the more polished version. And then of course, document everything. Update regularly. If you keep all of their brand voice information in a single place, make sure that place is not static. Brand voice evolves. It changes as brands change and evolve. And so on our end, we go back at least once a quarter, take a look at our client's brand voice and then make any updates that have happened over the last three months or so make sure that it still resonates that everything still feels true to that client.
So it might feel like a lot, but the good news is it's really an organic process once you have some pieces set up and once you really switch your lens to thinking about building a bridge between the curated and the less curated content, so that when you're creating content, regardless of what type of content it is, it does sound authentic. It does sound like it's personality driven, and it does sound like a refined version of their off the cuff voice, whether it's their spoken voice through their off the cuff written voice, the curated content that you create, you still want it to sound like them just a little more refined and of course, following copywriting best practices. So with all of that in mind, I want you to look at your assignment from the very beginning of this episode and your homework today is to add to it. Add to what you naturally already do and refine your own process for capturing brand voice. Think about whether you lean more heavily on learning voice by reading or by listening, by looking at past content that's curated versus past content that's off the cuff. Or do you have a balance between the two, if you don't have a balance, what can you do to create more of a balance? How can you integrate more off the cuff content in your initial onboarding process? Or how can you spend a little more time reviewing what already exists? Find the balance so that both are being considered.
And then the second part of your homework is to make sure that you have a system within your business to check in with your client regularly and continue to get information about their voice, continue to have those off the cuff conversations, because at the end of the day, all this is all you're doing is having a series of conversations that build your relationship with your clients. Once you do that, once you're able to go through those homework steps and feel good about the way in which you are capturing your client's voice through both the off the cuff content and curated content, you'll be in a really great position to create that content that sounds like them nails, their voice is personality driven. And as a result gives you more longevity with your clients, allows you to expand your capacity, allows you to charge higher rates and overall have a more sustainable stable business.
All right. So get to it and good luck.

Marie:
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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