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EPISODE 73: Use Word Banks to Become a Content Chameleon

by Feb 15, 2022Brand Your Voice, Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • What is a content chameleon?
  • How to mimic your client’s voice without sacrificing strategy
  • The fastest way to learn your client’s vocabulary
  • Three steps to become a content chameleon using a word bank

Most writers spend significant time studying the craft—sales copy, headlines, email sequences, website copy, etc. Learning these strategic writing skills is valuable and does help you become a more well-rounded writer, but knowing how to nail the nuances of your client’s voice requires an entirely different skillset. 

One of the most common problems business owners face when hiring a writer is finding someone who can do both—write strategic content and make it sound like their voice.

But that’s easier said than done! This is especially true if your only reference to a client’s brand voice is past content. This can set you up for a cycle of endless revisions and an ongoing struggle to keep clients happy for the long haul.

It is possible to confidently mimic your client’s voice and maintain a streamlined strategy across content. The easiest way to familiarize yourself with your client’s voice is to deeply understand their cadence, stories, and vocabulary.

Vocabulary includes the words and phrases they use and the words and phrases they avoid. Think of it like the brand’s own personal SEO—keywords and phrases! When you hone in on these, you’re able to make strategic decisions around which words and phrases to choose, and more accurately adapt to your client’s voice {like a chameleon!} . As a result, your client {and their audience} resonate more deeply with the content, and you have fewer revisions and higher retention.

 

Here’s the three steps to become a content chameleon using a word/phrase bank:

  • Collect: the best way to capture someone’s language is by getting them to communicate! We recommend verbal communication, as it tends to be more natural than written. Yes, this requires talking to your client! You can also listen to audio recordings of them, such as videos, podcasts, voice memos, interviews, etc. If audio is unavailable, try to find “off-the-cuff” content they’ve written in the past—such as emails or Slack messages. As you listen and read, make a list of the following:
    • Words:
      • Conceptual Language (Nouns)
        • Industry-specific or program-specific terms
        • Names of frameworks
        • Nouns the brand uses frequently
      • Descriptive Language (Adjectives and Adverbs)
      • Action Language (Verbs)
    • Phrases:
      • Direct quotes
      • Metaphors
      • Analogies
    • Avoider Words and Phrases: 
      • Figuring out what your client doesn’t say requires a conversation, but they might not know how to answer right away. Instead of asking “So, what words don’t you say?”, trying to ask probing questions around why they do use certain words/phrases. For example, “Why do you use the phrase target audience?” could lead to a convo about why they don’t like the phrase “ideal client avatar”. 
      • Add to this list as you get feedback and revisions. During editing, ask your client to highlight any words or phrases that don’t represent them.
    • Use: This varies by writer. You can read the word/phrase bank before you start writing as a refresher, especially if the client is new. Or, you can write the draft first and then go back and incorporate/replace mundane or generic words and phrases with content from the word bank. However, it’s important to not overstuff {just like with keywords in SEO}. Keep it natural!

    • Refine: Create a process for keeping the word and phrase bank alive. You can update it every time a new word/phrase/avoider is identified through revisions, or you can set a reminder to update it on a quarterly basis. Whatever works for you as a schedule to keep the bank up to date.

 

Homework: 

  • Create a word bank for one of your clients {or your own brand if you don’t have a client you’re able to chat with!}

 

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. And today we are going to be talking about how to use word banks to become a content chameleon. And I'm excited to talk about this chameleon concept and drill down into this one specific tool around word banks, really it's word banks, phrase banks, and avoider banks. And we'll go into a little bit of detail about what each of those are in a couple of minutes.

Marie:
Yeah. So it's probably no surprise that we really like the idea of becoming a content chameleon because Jessi and I met on an Anamorphs forum. If you don't know what that is, it actually has nothing to do with today's episode, but it was a forum for a children's book series that we both loved and read at the time when, and part of the premise of the story is that a group of children could turn into animals. There's a lot more to this book series, but that's sufficient for now.
But what was really interesting about that, and I think actually may weirdly inform our livelihoods now is, one of the things that would happen when one of these kids would turn into an animal like, in the first book, one of the characters turns into their own dog. Not only do they look like a dog, but they think like a dog a little bit, you know, like at one point someone chastises him and he's like, oh no. Or, oh, there's someone in my yard, bark, bark, bark, you know, little does he know it's the dog. He just turned into like the actual dog.
And so I think that that's a skill that takes a long time for us writers to do, to get into the actual mindset, to think like our client. And I do think that's something that happens over time with more conversations, with more exposure to them and their brand and their philosophies, their services, their products, their why. But one of the things you can do pretty quickly to start kind of getting most of the way there, or at least kind of sound like it to increase your client satisfaction, and therefore your's because they're gonna be happy with you, is to learn how to sound like them on the surface. And when you do that on the surface, you're gonna be learning also why, like, if there's something words or phrases that they avoid, there's probably a reason why, and that's gonna teach you something else about their mindset, the way they think. And it's just all gonna help you really step into that client's business so that you can be a valuable to them with the content you create.

Jessi:
Yeah. This is actually a really difficult skill that I think a lot of writers sometimes struggle with because, well, I think there are a lot of different reasons and they're different for each person, but most writers who are making a career out of their writing and wanting to get better, often spend a lot of time studying the craft from a strategic perspective. So you learn how to write better sales copy. You learn how to write email sequences. You learn headlines, you learn all of these different strategic things that are very valuable and do help you become a better writer, but often the focus on strategy sort of takes away from the focus on the actual nuance of the language of the client, because that's a little harder. That's a little, well, it's different from client to client. You could have a docket of 10 clients and each of them could have a drastically different voice.
Even if similar strategies would apply to their businesses, the copy itself might end up sounding kind of different because their audiences expect something different. And this is one of the big problems that business owners who are hiring writers have is they know they need a writer, they'll hire a writer, they get this content off of their plates. And the writer often writes really great strategic copy, but it comes back and the business owner feels like it just doesn't quite sound like them. And so from their perspective, it doesn't hit the mark, even if it hits all of the strategic checkpoints. And so that ends up leading to you as a writer in a situation where you have a ton of revisions, it goes back and forth a bunch, which means it cuts into your profit margins potentially. And it also means that you may struggle to keep your clients around for the long haul, because they're not seeing both, they're not seeing the strategy and the voice, and we wanna make sure that you are in a position to hit both of those marks.

Marie:
Right. So we want you to, if this is something that's happening for you, and you're recognizing that within your own work, first of all, don't panic. There is a way for you to comp mimic your client's voice and keep a streamlined strategy. Do both like what Jessi was saying, and really the easiest way to do that mimicking, not mimicry because we don't wanna make a mimicry of them. That's a worse connotation though, is to really understand the cadence of their storytelling, what those stories are themselves, their vocabulary, vocabulary is probably the easiest. One of all of those, because it's the least subjective. You know, if they're the kind of person who's gonna say the word high performance, as opposed to hardworking, like you're a high performance business owner, as opposed to you're a hardworking business owner. Cool. You can just repeat that back and you're already gonna be on your way to sounding like them.
So the vocabulary that we're gonna be talking about in this episode is the words and the phrases that they use. And also it's having a deep awareness of, or at least a passing awareness of the words and phrases that they avoid. It's like, the brand's own personal SEO in terms of like, these are the keywords we're shooting for. It's different because you know, you're, this doesn't have anything to do with SEO, but it's more like this is the stuff that is on brand for us. It's gonna keep you aligned with our values. It's gonna keep you on track. It's what you can pull from to get inspiration and to sound like the brand.

Jessi:
It also keeps the brand recognizable. And I think that's where the analogy to SEO comes in because they're the key words that audience members will maybe not consciously, but subconsciously see certain ways of talking that the brand has and be like, oh, I recognize that as being authentically that brand. And if this is something you do naturally, a lot of writers are really good at mimicking the voice of their clients, just naturally, that's a skill that a lot of writers come to the table already having, this episode still is valuable because it allows you to systematize what you do naturally. And we've talked about this in the past that you can't keep, keep all of your skills, whether they come naturally or are learned up in your head all the time. Because if for some reason, you're in a position where you're hiring a team, or you need to figure out how to scale your process and things like that, you wanna have it actually systematize. So even if you do this naturally having a set system, a set way to document the vocabulary of your clients is going to help you as a business owner who is a writer, create a more sustainable business for yourself. When you go in on that process, it really just creates a lot more ease in your business.

Marie:
I totally agree. The other way that it's been so surprisingly helpful for us- And I'm sorry that I interrupted you Jessi.

Jessi:
Oh, you're fine.

Marie:
is that when you're able to articulate the fact that you do have a system and a process, as opposed to just winging it, or just say like, well, this is what I do. It's just in my wheelhouse. It gives your clients or your perspective clients, a lot more confidence in you and they are more likely to work with you. Like we've had people tell us, you know.
I was interviewing three or four different copywriting firms and I ended up going with you all because you have processes. Yeah. And I trust that those processes are gonna hold up, even if there's something unexpected that goes on in the project. So yeah, you can, you can really make them feel secure.

Jessi:
Yeah. So this can lead to you securing clients. It can also like lead to you, keeping clients from longer because when content comes back, it does have that blend of strategy and voice all kind of put together and taken into consideration together. It also means most likely fewer revisions for you, which means cleaner first drafts means you have more capacity for more work or, you know, to have more clients. If that that's what you want or to choose not to, if that's what you want, it just gives you more freedom all around in your business to have this process clearly laid out and really something that happens every single time you get a new client.
And I wanted to make sure to draw that point out specifically because adapting to the voice of clients naturally is something that Marie and I did. We did not have a system around this for a very long time. We just did it because it was one of the things, one of the skills that we found ourselves just doing, and that was that worked great for a little while. It worked that we would just, you know, take a new client, talk with them and we'd get the voice pretty close to right the first time. Once we put this process in place, we got even better at what we were doing. Naturally. We got even, you know, before we were hitting, hitting their voice on target, 90% of the time, now we're 95, 97% of the time. And it allowed us to eventually hire a team, train them in our process. And regardless of whether they're naturally good at mimicking voices or not, they have a process they can go to so that all of the team members end up creating content that is at that 95 to 97% on target with the voice point.

Marie:
Absolutely. So, okay. Hopefully if you're, you know, thinking like I'm not maybe great at this, or I wanna know what the process is now we're gonna get into the how. So there's three steps that we're gonna go through here. Number one's collect. Number two is use, number three is refine. CUR... I don't think we should use that one.

Jessi:
We don't use that acronym. It's not a good one.

Marie:
That's rude.

Jessi:
We may, we may create a better acronym for this in the future because, each step really is important.

Marie:
I'm like why did I say that?

Jessi:
That's just how it fell out.

Marie:
I just was thinking.

Jessi:
Yeah.

Marie:
Anyway. Okay. So anyway, collect. Okay. So what we have found is the best way to do this is not what a lot of clients think is the best do this. A lot of clients are like, ah, yeah, just take a look at my existing content. And that way, you know, you'll kind of know how we talk and yes, that is part of our process. Yes, we do research in terms of like, what has, you know, been out there before we do explicitly ask them, Hey, are there any pieces of content that you felt were extremely on brand in terms of the way you were communicating that way we can get them to send to us what they feel was kind of the Paragon of this. That's what I'm more interested in.
But a lot of the time, the reason that they're working with us is because maybe they've had a writer and the didn't do a great job of being on brand for their voice. Um, or they feel like, you know what, they're what they've been putting out hasn't been really connecting with people. And so therefore they've kind of veered from their own truth a little bit. And they're trying to get back to it. So what we found is the best way to capture someone's language is by getting them to communicate with you verbally, this may not be what you're interested in. I know a lot of writers are like, don't talk to me. I don't want meetings. And I get it. Like if the phone rings, I'm like, Ugh, do I have to answer this? Like, but when somebody is speaking with you in a kind of off the cuff, more informal manner, they, and this also could include like emails and messages, and even like pre-scripted video content sometimes, interviews, like if they were in a podcast, you can take a listen to podcast, interviews, stuff like that, but also you interviewing them, they're gonna feel a little safer in the moment. And also you cannot literally hit a backspace button on your life. So they are, self-editing a little bit less. And that means that, it doesn't mean you have to put every single thing they say down on the page because they may kind of need to do you a little self-editing cuz there's still like they're verbal processors. They haven't really finished thinking through what they're saying. And actually the active meeting with you is helping them clarify a few things, but it allows you to ask some deeper questions and say, Hey, what did you mean by that? Or can we talk about this a little bit more? And that will help them get to that point of clarity while also sharing more of just their idiomatic isims with you.

Jessi:
Yeah. So we've done a few episodes on our full brand voice process and more or less what, uh, Murray is alluding to is the, the interview that we create a brand voice guide out of. And one of the most important parts of that process is really what is happening when we are having those conversations with our clients, because yes, we're collecting the core messaging, things like their mission and their vision. We're collecting stories that they tell. And while all of that is happening, someone is sitting down and writing down the literal words that are coming out of their mouth and compiling them and phrases so that they can be curated later on and gone over with the client to see, okay, which ones of these words are reflective of what would be in written content and which isn't. And Marie mentioned this in passing, but just as a quick accessibility note, if you have a client who cannot or does not want to verbally have a conversation with you, that's fine. You can still do this. However, the more off the cuff, it can be the better. So if you're looking at written content instead of verbalized content, look for the off the cuff content. So that's where it's emails, DMs, quick conversations back and forth are going to be a lot easier for you to find their true words then if you're looking at a blog post that refined and edited before they hit the publish button. Because we, we wanna take out the self editing as much as possible.

Marie:
So there's three different categories of words that we recommend you look for. One is conceptual language otherwise known as nouns.

Jessi:
Back to English class.

Marie:
Yes. So these could be industry specific or program specific terms, names of their frameworks, nouns just in general that the brand uses frequently. Then there's descriptive language otherwise known as adjectives and ad verbs. And then finally there's action language, otherwise known as verbs. So we've find it's helpful to split them out into these three different categories, because if you're writing something and you're like, oh, I need a really good verb here. That way you don't have to like go dig through all the nouns, you know. It kind of allow because ultimately a word bank is a tool for you, the writer. And so how do you need to think about language.
This is how we think about it. Like Jessi said, she taught English for a time. I don't think you were teaching grammar. Exactly. But that's certainly a part of, you know, the baseline, I guess, of the curriculum you were already teaching Jessi that they hopefully already came knowing some of, but you know, maybe that's how English majors think a lot of the time, but you know, whatever works for you is totally fine. And then there's also freezes. So these are direct quotes from them, metaphors that they may use analogies that they may use sometimes it's sort of regional things that they say like, I, Marie might say fix into and I'm from the south.

Jessi:
I wouldn't say that.

Marie:
Yeah, Jessi wouldn't say that would not show up in her brand voice guide. But you know, that's something that you could put in there is like, oh, this is like a regional thing that, that comes out of Marie's mouth, much to her chagrin.

Jessi:
Well, yeah. And I think, yeah, there are a lot of different places that these words and phrases come from. Some of it is maybe regional, some of it, maybe cultural, some that may be industry specific. And just to briefly step back to the high level again, just to make sure that we're really, really clear on what's being created here. It is a literal list of words and phrases.

Marie:
Yeah.

Jessi:
It's no more complicated than that. You can put it in a Google doc, we're splitting it up because we and our writers have found it really helpful to have it categorized so that the nouns are in one place. The adjectives and ad verbs are in place, the verbs, the phrases, because when you are actually using the list that you come up with, which we'll talk about in a minute, it's a lot easier to just quickly have a quick reference guide, but you can structure it however you want. In fact, something like direct quotes, which falls under phrases, sometimes we set completely off to the side because sometimes a direct quote can be pretty long. It might even tie into a story.
So find the way to organize this, that works for you, but know that we're talking about something that at its core is very simple. It is a list of words and phrases that you can use as a tool when you are writing.

Marie:
One other sort of pro tip around this, or I guess two pro tips quickly. One is you may be concerned that some of the stuff I'm writing down is a little like mundane, you know, like that example I gave of like high performing business owners, maybe this the, or coach for high performing business owners, you know, there's a lot of different synonyms for that. Like I said, you know, hardworking or successful or whatever that means you may need to actually dig in and ask for a definition of those words too. And that's fine. You can put that next to the word, like, how do they define high performing? You know, are these people who are going to the business version of the Olympics are these people who are just like hustling, like what's the deal? What do they define as that? And you may think like, eh, there's like a million ways to say that I don't need to include that.
But what I would say is even the mundane stuff can be really helpful because when you are writing, it's all in the details. Right. And so sometimes it's just helpful to say this is the way they would say it, as opposed to that way. These are the little things that are gonna make the content make you really become the content chameleon in your client's eyes.
The other sort of pro tip around this is we oftentimes our list of words and phrases will span multiple pages, multiple columns. It seems weirdly obsessive, but it's all in service of using like your client's time is precious, and your time is precious. So if you actually do get like an hour to sit down with them or whatever, you get, like ask them a bunch of questions and interview them, like you want that to be productive and to yielding useful stuff for you over time. So we take note of kind of every little tiny thing, because you kind of never know when that detail's gonna be useful. And so, yeah, feel free to just like go to town on this.

Jessi:
In fact, I like to set little per personal goals for myself when I'm interviewing a client of, okay. I wanna make sure I get at least 50 nouns. Because it helps me listen a little more actively too, to what they're saying. If I know I'm looking for not just like, you know, the 10 nouns that stick out to me. But really, really digging in, and then there's no such thing too much. It's much easier to have a ton of words that then get cut back than it is to only have a few and then have to try and go back and re-listen to conversations and pull more out. So I always try to err on the side of having more than having less.

Marie:
Agreed. So we've talked about how to collect words and phrases. I think another thing within this collect area that we should touch on is collecting the avoiders. So what does your client not say? Sometimes this will require a specific conversation around it. Ask them what are words or phrases you do not like? Sometimes it's like, there's just words that they find icky. Sometimes there's stuff that it represents a deviation from their values to them, for whatever reason. And that's useful for you to know. Sometimes it's just like a word they think is like really tired and overused. Sometimes it's like, I wouldn't use that because I like to keep my language very accessible and simple, and that word has seven syllables in it, you know? So we wanna make sure that like, we use a simpler synonym for that.
All of these, you can see already, like a lot of these conversations really help you understand more deeply what their values are. They may not also know the answer right away. So you can kind of guide them through that questioning process, kind of do that like, well, you know, why don't you like to use that? And just continuing to ask why not only you gonna get your avoider, but secondly, you're gonna understand the business more deeply, which is gonna impact your ability to write for them across the board. It also really makes the client feel great that you're thinking about this it's kind of next level stuff. So it makes them feel and rightly so that you're like very advanced and good at this stuff. And also it keeps you out of that position of being the writer who's like doing well, doing well, doing well. And then you put like a red light word in there and they're like, I would never say that ever. And they're like, did you even listen to me? You know, like, they're probably not gonna say that in that way, but like, they're gonna feel like, Hmm, maybe they don't understand me as well as I thought they did. And so you just prevent that from happening more and more, the more you're willing to have these conversations. And even if they're like, Ooh, that didn't sound like me. They're they'll say like, Hey, you know, Joe would put that on the avoider list because now they know there's an avoider list. Yeah. You know, as opposed to them being like, I don't think Joe gets me.

Jessi:
Yeah. I think, a couple of important things here. One is in collecting the avoiders themselves often, this is a list that does grow after you start writing for them, and that's fine. That's in fact a good thing because cuz we want the list to continue to grow and evolve with the client and with your relationship with the client. So be open to those conversations and make sure your client knows that that list exists so that they can take advantage of it and add to it or tell you when to add things to it.
The other thing is when you are asking them, if you just ask, Hey, what words do you, you hate? What phrases do you hate? They may draw a complete blank and that's okay too. Two things there, one the revision process and adding then, and two, if there are words and phrases that you notice they do use asking them why they do use them could lead to a conversation around why they chose that word or phrase over potential alternatives.
So an example we can use from our own business that I think we've talked about in past episodes is the phrase target audience that is in our phrase bank. We use the phrase target audience a lot to talk about who you as a business owner, you as a writer are reaching with your marketing efforts. And we use that phrase. And if someone asked us why we use that phrase, we would talk about how we feel that the phrase target audience is broad enough to encompass the different types of people that you are reaching with your marketing efforts, including potential clients, but also including other things like potential referral partners, which feels better for us as a business than the phrase ideal client avatar, which you often do hear from marketing companies, which is also a perfectly valid term, but feels too narrow for us and the people we work with. A lot of the people we've worked with in the past have felt really frozen by the ideal client avatar framework. And so we created our own separate way of talking about this concept. That's a little broader. So from that explanation right there, you picked up an avoider ideal client avatar. We don't use that phrase. We use target audience instead that goes on the avoider list. So sometimes it's about asking them why they use what they do use as opposed to asking them what they don't use.

Marie:
One more pro tip. These avoiders can actually make really great pieces of content. Like that would be a great blog post. Right? I think in fact it is like why we use target audience instead of ideal client avatar as a framework. Right? So like imagine doing that for your clients. And that's another way you can, if you want to step into the role of a strategist for content, see the last two episodes, you know, you can make some suggestions along those lines.

Jessi:
Yeah. One last thing I wanna say about avoiders that is a little separate this process, but I think important this isn't something that comes from the interviews themselves or from you sitting down and typing up a bullet list. But this is a comment that hearkens back to, or a consideration. I should say that hearkens back to this idea of words and phrases that may have regional or cultural implications, you as a writer can have your own list of avoiders that you as a writer come into the relationship saying, these are words I will not use. This is a boundary I'm setting as a writer for whatever reason. And this is something that we used, we did in our business. We came up with a list of words and phrases that we as writers consider yellow light and red light words. Words we never use for various reasons. Often because they come across in ways that are discriminatory or they are not appropriate for us to use in content. And then there are yellow light words, which are words that are only appropriate in very specific contexts with very specific situations. Those are our words as writers. And we come into the relationship saying, Hey, we're gonna build a word bank for you. It will include these words and these phrases that you come up with from our conversations. And here's the list of words that are off limits essentially for various reasons. Or if they're on limits. I don't think that's a phrase. If they're available, they're only available under specific circumstances.

Marie:
For sure. Like an example of this, I would say is the word tribe. There's a lot of, what's the word I'm trying to say, this word, this word has been co-opted within a lot of spheres, a lot of like online coaching, particularly like find your tribe, right? In a way that may not be respectful if someone is actually an indigenous person using this phrase there no problem here. Right. For example, if this person is not, and they're sort of using it without really thinking about the connotations of it and what kind of harmful traditions that it's perpetuating, then we wanna have a conversation, just a conversation with them about that so that we can make sure we get on the same page about its usage. So I think that's a great thing to bring up, Jessi. It's not just the clients you get to set boundaries. It's you too, as the writer.

Jessi:
Yeah, that is everything on collecting your word. So let's say you're sitting down with your client, you have an interview, you get all of this off-the-cuff language from all of that. You create your word bank, your phrase bank, and your avoiders. You send it off to the client for their approval. You maybe make some edits along the ways. Maybe they wanna add something or take some stuff off, add to the avoiders you end up with a finalized here is the word bank. Here's the phrase bank. Here's the avoiders list. Now it's time to actually write content for your clients. So you need to use the resource that you just created.

Marie:
Yeah. So first of all, I'm gonna say your method may vary. When I'm writing content, I sort of have a two step process of using my words and phrases. Number one. Sometimes I'll just get to writing and if you're feeling inspired to write great, go for it. Sometimes if I'm like a little stuck, I'll just go and quickly read over the words and phrases and avoiders, and just kind of re-sink into the client's work because as I'm sure you all couldn't imagine, like it's not like I just one client to write for a lot of the time, there may be two or three, there may be more than that. It's hard to sometimes keep them all straight. And so, I just like to go in, get inspired by it.
Then I go and write then when I'm done writing, I like to go back in on my edit before I hand it over to my editor. But if you don't have an editor, you can do this as one of your editing past and just see, are there any just basic words that you can replace with their words or phrases. You can also check through and just make sure that you haven't used any of the avoiders or if you did, you made sure that it was clear that that's not what you're advocating for. Right? Like maybe that whole like high perform thing is about, not necessarily somebody who works hard, but who has financial success. And so, you can say in like the sales page that you're writing, for instance, like, you know, this course is not for somebody who just wants to hustle grind all day. This course is for a high performance person who wants to make sure that their efforts are yielding the highest ROI. Like you could do that. Right. And draw the distinction that way, but just do that quick litmus test to make sure that you aren't using the avoiders inappropriately. Do you have any differences in the way you approach it, Jessi?

Jessi:
My approach is very similar, but I think a lot of it also depends on where I am in the relationship with my client. So if it's a new client, I spend a lot more time before I start writing, really digging into to their word bank and their phrase bank so that I can sink into their voice. Before I start writing the longer I maintain a relationship with a client, the easier it is to do that naturally. And so the word bank ends up becoming more of a tool for after writing and just checking and doing those little replacements and things like that. But I always use it in everything that I write for every client. I at least do one quick pass of, okay, let's look at the word bank, let's look at what I wrote and let's make sure that I haven't missed any opportunities to sink even further into their voice.
That said you don't wanna sink so far in and go so far into your word bank that you end up going back to the SEO analogy, overstuffing it and creating just like something that doesn't sound natural.

Marie:
Yeah. Right. Like the, the word bank is not an opportunity for like writing mad libs that it happened to be kind of in your client's voice. It's gonna sound weird, just, you know, take, take your best approach, you know, use your best judgment, but keep it natural.

Jessi:
Yeah. I remember a year or so ago we were hiring a new writer for our team. And one of the things we always do when we hire a new writer is we give them, you know, a writing basically project ahead of time, a paid project where we just wanna kind of see what they can do. And we give them our own brand voice guide with our own word bank and phrase bank, and a, usually a blog post or something similar to write. And it's interesting because everyone uses it. You know, everyone is appreciative for having that word accessible to them. I think for a writer who's trying to immerse themselves in a new brand. It's a really great resource and they are glad to have it. And when the projects come back in, it's very easy to tell who's using it as an opportunity to Madlib it up and who's using it as a way to create content that feels like it's just integrating the language.
And I do feel like some of this is a, it's an art and you develop that muscle over time. I think if it's something that you're new to, and you're worried about overdoing it, if you can get an extra pair of eyes on it. Great. And we'll probably do an episode in the future where we talk about the benefits of having two writers on a project, even if you're thinking of yourself as a solo writer, but if that's not an option for you kinda keep an eye on how many times you're inserting a word in a phrase from the word bank. If it's like two words, every sentence you might wanna back off a little bit.

Marie:
Yeah. And I would say like, don't set yourself a goal of like for every 100 words of copy, I must include one word from the word bank. Like don't set rules like that. I would suggest because that is gonna lead to potentially overstuffing.
So then the final thing, the final part of this process we have collect and then use is refine and we always tell our clients, Hey, we are making a word bank for you, a phrase bank for you, but this is a living, breathing document. And so periodically we're gonna go in here and add to it or change it or update it. So we invite you, if you feel like, Hey, maybe this would be a helpful thing for me to have for my clients. We're like, Ooh, we've had clients who work with us. And then like 18 months later, they're like, can I hire you for another project? And you're like, sure, what's your again, it's just so nice to be able to like pull up the bank and be like, oh yeah. Oh yeah, this is so and so. Okay, cool. And they're gonna be like, wow, this is just as last time. Right.
So we definitely do recommend that you integrate something like this into your process. So we would suggest setting up a schedule for yourself for updating the word bank in the phrase bank. You can do this a few different ways. You can do it like on a regular basis that you put it on a calendar. We literally have like a clickup task for ourselves in our project management system. It's like every month I think for our clients to go in there quarterly, whatever works for you to go in and update the, probably the thing that takes a little more time, but is gonna yield the most accuracy is every time you get insight into a new word or phrase or avoider, you add it in, like, if you have a little conversation with your client and they say some real quicky cool thing, you're like putting that in right now, before I forget it. That can be a way to, to handle that, cause otherwise you're gonna forget.

Jessi:
Yeah. I think that the most important thing is to just remember that this is a living breathing document, just like every other thing that we talk about around brand voice, every piece of it. It evolves with your relationship with your client, with the programs your client runs with the way their business is structured. And also I think it's important to remember that a relationship between a writer and their client is a collaborative relationship and the less siloed that relationship is the better. So you can ask your client to weigh in on the word bank you create from them. Don't keep it a secret. They could find it useful. And other people that are supporting their business, if they have an ads person, if they have a branding person may find the word bank actually really, really valuable. So as you're refining and adjusting it over time, make sure that's an open conversation where other people are able to weigh in.

Marie:
Yeah. They may also just nerd out the process. I think it's really cool that you do this. Yeah. So that's it, that's a process for collect use refine. There's obviously, you know, more detail to our process, but we wanna leave it open for you to create your own. And that's your homework, in fact, create your own process. The first, the best way to create a process is literally to just try it once with whatever comes up for you and then refine from there. So next time you're working with a client or maybe a current client that you're working with, or your own brand. If you wanna experiment on your own brand, create a word bank. This can include words, phrases, avoiders. Just get a little bit of practice with it. You may decide that this is really helpful for you and you wanna refine your process over time. You may decide that, you know, no, this all intuitive. And I'm sure I can remember, you know what? This client is like 18 months from now by rereading the copy that I wrote for them. And that's fine. We're not gonna tell you what you must do. This is just, what's helped us. And, we hope that you find it kind of exciting. We find it like a cheat sheet. It's like, you know, when you had those teachers, you were like, and you can bring one index card with notes on them and you would like write to them super tiny so that you could like fit as much information on them as possible to bring to your test. It's like that for us, it's very valuable, and really makes a big difference in terms of our satisfaction and our client satisfaction.

Jessi:
Yeah. If you're interested in a business that you can scale, if you're interested in a business that allows you to spend less time in revisions, if you're interested in a business that allows you to build a more collaborative relationship with your clients, then this tool is really valuable for you as a writer business owner. So give it a try, even if you're skeptical, give it a try, see how it goes, see how it can potentially help you to streamline your own business and create more long term success and opportunities for growth.

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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