Does your content sound like you?
Developing content for your website is more than just a matter of listing all the relevant information and then organising it in a coherent fashion. In order for your organisation to stand out from the internet white noise, you need to have a distinctive voice that sounds like you and is consistent with the overall values and character of your organisation.
As a copywriter, finding the right voice for a client is fundamental to a successful piece of work. This means that, at the outset, I need to spend time with the client making sure that I understand the unique characteristics of their particular organisation / business. Whether the client's mission is to sell shoes or support refugees, there are likely to be a number of other organisations with a similar focus. My first is to identify those key messages which differentiate the client's organisation from others working in the same sector. I also want to understand as much as I can about the organisation's values and character, so that I can put together the building blocks of the vocabulary that will make up a consistent 'voice' for the client to talk to their audience.
Example - Forge Denim
I have recently produced the web content and marketing materials for Forge Denim, a new company making high end raw denim jeans and related menswear. When we started working together we spent some time talking about why the founders, Richard and Alex, had set up the company. Both guys were long time denim aficionados, who had cemented their friendship over numerous conversations about what made for the perfect pair of jeans. When they decided to set up their own company they agreed on some core principles:
- They wanted to incorporate the craftsmanship that is part of the denim heritage, but take a modern approach to design and fit.
- All the clothing would be manufactured in the UK using companies that were selected for the quality of their work, and the care that they showed towards their staff and the environment.
Identifying the unique elements
Whilst these principles waere enough to differentiate Forge Denim from many rival brands on the market, there were still other companies who could claim a similar approach. As we continued our conversation, some other points emerged. Richard and Alex had set out to make the very best jeans that they could - not the best jeans for a given price. Part of this approach was an obsessional attention to detail, not just in terms of the fabrics and standards of manufacture, but aspects such as:
- The exact sizing of the hem so that the jeans would look right whether they were worn with trainers, loafers or workboots.
- The shape and angle of the pockets so that they were easy to access and were large enough to accommodate a smartphone without gaping.
- Covering the back of the metal cuff buttons on the jackets with fabric so there was no risk of the wearer's watch being scratched.
Picking up on this, a key element of the Forge Denim 'story' became this exceptional level of quality, and the attention to detail that had gone into every aspect of the design and manufacture of each item of clothing.
Another part of the story that I wanted to capture was something about Richard's and Alex's personalities. They describe themselves (accurately) as a pair of down to earth Sheffield lads, who just want to make the best jeans they can. They are certainly not fashionistas and neither are they hard core denimheads, constantly referencing some obscure 1950's Americana. (What became apparent was that they did know all this esoteric information - it just wasn't how they spoke about how their work.)
By this point we had enough material to put together the building blocks for the copy that would appear on the website and the other marketing materials that we were working on.
Brand Tone of Voice / Vocabulary
- We decided to primarily use We / Our and You / Yours in the text rather than the more formal / corporate 'Forge Denim Jeans ...' to give a more personal feel to the copy.
- The language would be clear and straightforward - neither patronising the audience or making it feel exclusive to hardcore 'denimheads'.
- There would be some elements of humour but this would be an occasional aspect and the humour would be quite dry - reflecting Richard and Alex's pattern of speech.
We also agreed a list of phrases / sentences that capture the brand’s ‘voice’ including:
- We make the best jeans that we can, not the best jeans for a price
- Premium quality jeans made by craftsman
- We respect the denim heritage with its history and craftsmanship whilst making jeans that fit well and look good today
- Our jeans feel right from the first time you wear them
This wording was then woven into the content across the site, so that any visitor to the site would come away understanding something about the Forge Denim ethos.
One other element that came up several times in our conversation with the importance of the company's Sheffield location. Both Richard and Alex were born here, and the city has shaped both men in terms of their approach to work and life. Alex mentioned in passing a personal connection with one of the companies that they work with. We picked up on this, and it became part of the 'Our Story' copy:
"Forge Denim is based in Sheffield, the city where we grew up and where we still live. (The branded steel buttons for Forge Denim jeans are made by a company located in the same street where Alex was born.) Sheffield is a city of makers, which values craftsmanship, plain speaking and treating people fairly. We would like to think that Forge Denim reflects these values."
I really liked this section as I felt that, working together, we had really captured the essence of what Richard and Alex are doing, and had found the right 'voice' to express this.