3 steps to creating a vocal brand guideline
As copywriters, we know that good copy comes from understanding brand voice and being able to use that voice to create content appealing and/or informative to our audience. Great copywriters are able to shift seamlessly between brands, adjusting sentence structures, grammar, punctuation, word choices, tone, and shared language at the drop of a hat.
However, what many copywriters are not aware of is that when writing for voiceover, the brand voice needs a few extra guidelines. This post will help you create a brand-specific framework to help your vocal copy be as on-brand as your textual and visual aspects.
How are brand vocals different to brand voice?
Brand voice can be described as the personality and emotion infused into a company's communications.
It includes visual, textual, and auditory forms of communication and can apply to both internal and external company communications.
Brand vocals, then, is a part of that brand voice. Everything used to define your brand voice in brand guidelines applies to the vocals, but now there are extra guidelines you need to create to instill brand unity.
Step 1: Review your brand
First thing to do when writing a voiceover, is make sure you know your brands voice. As a copywriter, you should be very familiar with the brand guidelines appropriate for the copy, but do not ignore the visuals of your brand!
It is easy as copywriters to get stuck in the realm of words, but brand voice is holistic. The guidelines are there to help us put words (and images) to ultimately what is an “impression” of a brand.
To fully embrace the impression your brand creates, spend some time with the visual aspects, and allow yourself to reflect on the feelings you get with those visuals. You may have several (occasionally opposing) reactions, but keep all those in mind as you continue.
Step 2: Create an auditory inspiration board
Now that you have spent some time with the visual aspects of your brand, combine your responses from the visual and textual components to define the audio.
Create a playlist of sounds that reflect your company’s brand. This can include music, sound effects, audio tones, and spoken voices – maybe there is an accent that matches your brand, so feel free to add some samples.
If your brand has previously used sound, whether that be music in videos or even a phone machine message, add those to the playlist.
Step 3: Devise a written guideline
Now that you have a collection of sounds that are similar your company’s brand, use those sounds to create a guideline. Yep, we are back to words (it’s what we do best, anyway).
What should vocal brand guidelines cover?
Not only should your vocal guide cover everything that your copy guide covers, but it should also reflect the uniquely verbal aspects of language. Unique verbal aspects look at the actual production of sound.
Try asking some of these questions:
Does your brand favor words with short vowel or long vowel sounds?
Where do the words tend to sit in the mouth?
Does your brand use more of a specific consonant than others?
Does your brand use long sentences, short sentences, or a mix?
Is there an emphasis pattern?
What are some abstract words you can associate with your brand? (open, airy, tight, dry, wide, broad, circular, etc.)?
Here’s an example of a vocal brand guide for my fictitious estate agency, House and Home:
Favors long, open vowel sounds
Even from the company name, you can see that the “ou” in house and “o” in home are both long vowel sounds.
Other words to keep in mind may be street (long “e”) and neighbor (long “a” sound)
Uses the full mouth, indicating a holistic company
"H” is produced at the back
“ou” moves back to front
“s” is in the front
“Home” follows the same pattern
Sentences are lyrical in flow, avoiding abrupt changes of thought
Ex: House and Home is here to keep the stresses of home buying to a minimum, ensuring confidence in the market when making big life decisions.
Pro Tip: Keep it Simple
Your guide needn’t be much longer than three points. We use our entire mouths in speech, so not all aspects of all your words will follow the guide, but keeping it in mind as you write for the voice will help shape and align the verbal aspects of your communications with the rest of the brand for a more holistic approach.
So there you have it - 3 easy steps to creating a brand guide for the spoken voice.
Leave a comment if you have any questions or feel free to reach out about specific brand questions.