Brand Voice versus Blog Voice
We all know about brand voice.
It’s become one of the focal points of copywriting in the past few years, and virtually all established companies have their own in-house style guides to help externals and contractors produce cohesive, on-brand copy. Here’s the thing – despite copy and content being commonly conflated in marketing circles, they’re not the same thing, which is something I’ve gone over in more detail previously.
The end goals are different, the writing styles are different, and (importantly) the voice is different. I’d go a step further, and tell you not to use your brand voice for content at all.
I know, I know. Unpopular opinion.
But here’s the thing – your brand voice was designed to reflect the brand itself. It’s a very specific combination of elements which were designed to reflect your company as accurately as possible across customer touchpoints.
And that’s fantastic. But your blog posts aren’t designed to simply reflect your brand and act as puff pieces for how awesome your company is.
Done right, they’re the core of your content marketing strategy, which is most likely designed to create brand awareness while generating value for readers and establishing you as an industry authority. That means a different kind of approach is required.
How to Build Your Company Blog
If you’re a large company, build a stable of experts and get them to write the blog posts. If possible, source copywriters who have experience in that field, or find experts with basic writing skills.
This is more relevant if you’re creating technical content that relates very closely to your field.
For example, you’d want a medical professional to write about the root causes of diabetes rather than a freelance copywriter, purely because the copywriter doesn’t have the industry-specific knowledge necessary to create authentic, value-adding content. However, if the content is more general, like ’10 Ways to Lead a More Healthy Lifestyle’, a freelance copywriter would probably be a better choice, because they’ll be able to produce better-quality writing faster.
Still with me? Okay, jump back to those industry experts for a second.
Even if they’ve got writing experience, the quality of their work probably isn’t going to be to the standard as you’d want on your blog (after all, writing isn’t their job, is it?).
This is where editors come in. Ideally, your experts produce a comprehensive piece of content, which the editors then bring up to professional level of writing.
It’s more costly than simply banging out unedited content, but, without expert knowledge, you risk running a ‘churnalism’ blog, where your copywriters essentially repackage content initially created by others (which isn’t exactly great for value-adding or credibility).
People need to trust what they’re reading, and ‘written by Admin’ or ‘written by Company X’ isn’t nearly as convincing as ‘written by Sam Brown, content marketing expert’.
This goes back to the basic tenets of rhetoric, logos, pathos and ethos (high school flashbacks, anyone?). Faceless corporate marketers will never have the same ethos as somebody who has a name, a profile picture, links to their socials and a well-rounded industry portfolio.
This is exactly why we read the blogs of people like Neil Patel, Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin and Brian Dean – we know them and we trust them, because they personally have excellent track records. Would their blogs have the same impact if it was written by ‘Sprout Social Admin’ or ‘Backlinko Admin’? Of course not.
Creating a Blog Voice
Now, back to the whole idea of voice.
You don’t need to worry about brand voice here because 1) your experts should be writing in their own voices in order to sound authentic and 2) brand voices designed for copy certainly don’t always work well with content.
What do I mean by that last one? I’ll use an example from my own copywriting experience.
One of my corporate clients had an in-house style guide for copy, with one of the requirements being that first-person (we, us, etc.) was never used. All well and good, but that restriction, while doable, isn’t exactly conducive to writing an engaging, trustworthy blog piece.
Ultimately, I was able to flag it as an issue and get permission to write outside the brand voice, but it’s an excellent example of how the voice you use for your copy isn’t necessarily compatible with content writing.
If you’re worried about your experts producing uneven voices and levels of quality, don’t be – this is where your editor comes in. During the editing phase, they’ll even out the voices of the writers so they’re not jarringly dissimilar and elevate the work to a comparable level of quality.
Example: Hubspot’s Blog Voice versus Hubspot’s Brand Voice
Let’s look at an example.
Hubspot (software for marketing/sales) runs an excellent blog. In fact, their blog is one of the top marketing blogs around, and frequently claims first place on SERP positions.
You can see the below screenshot, which highlights the language used in their blog.
Now check out this screenshot, which showcases their actual brand voice.
Straight away, you can see an obvious difference: in the blog, they refer to themselves with first-person pronouns, whereas the brand voice refers to ‘Hubspot’ in the third-person. There’s also complex and compound sentences present in the blog that wouldn’t be helpful for copy. You can also see pop culture references that probably wouldn’t be the best approach for Hubspot’s brand voice.
The thing is, all of these work excellently for Hubspot’s blog – a piece composed mostly of simple sentences would be tiring to read and incredibly boring, and little touches of relatability help connect readers to the writing. You can see in the other two screenshots more examples of Hubspot’s blog articles, all written by different authors.
Importantly – as we talked about before – there’s no real inconsistency between the pieces. I assume – because I’ve never worked at Hubspot myself – that this is down to a stringent editing process and a detailed blog style guide.
It’s also good to note that Hubspot’s blog and their brand voice run fairly close together. They share the same register and ideals and a similar tone, and this is partially to do with the type of content on their blog (informative, actionable information designed for consumption by fellow marketers).
They’re not trying to be clever or stand out in a crowded marketplace (at least, not with their writing) – the advice they’re offering, their excellent SEO and the ability to research and produce value-adding content is enough to make their blog great.
This might sound slightly technical, but the distinctions are important when you start creating style guides and standardising your brand and blog voices.
What Not To Do With Your Blog Voice
Hopefully, you’re now sold on not using your brand voice in your blogs.
But it’s also important to ensure, like Hubspot, that your voices aren’t radically different. Don’t promote different agendas/worldviews/ideals and keep your target audience in mind.
If you’re a high-end legal firm who uses a formal register in their copy, don’t start writing your blog posts in a casual register splashed with emojis – yes, arguably it’s more ‘fun’ than your brand voice, but it also undercuts your brand image. A neutral register would be a better choice.
If you’re an international brand with an international audience, don’t stuff your blogs with high-context colloquialisms or references only understood by one culture.
Ultimately, as important as having standardised and appealing voices is, they’re trumped by good content and great writing. Put time and effort into your blogs, hire a good editor, and ensure they’re marketed and optimised properly, and you’ll start seeing results.
– Brand voice was designed for copy, not content
– Requires a different voice for blogs
– Brand voice often isn’t well-suited to content
– Use industry experts/niche copywriters to create blogs, and then standardise them with an editor
– Don’t create radically-different blog and brand voice
– Good writing and good research are the keys to a successful blog
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