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Struggling to find your writing voice? Borrow ideas from big brands

By April 13, 2015Values

How do I find my writing voice?
What can I do to sound unique?
How can I make my words stand out?

Just some of the questions I receive on email from you guys requesting a little help with all of the above.

Full disclosure: One guy did ask me if I’d join him in Geneva for a glass of Chardonnay. I politely declined. Firstly: Ugh, Chardonnay. And secondly? If there isn’t a convention happening in Geneva, what’s the point, right?

Moving on.

Here are some things I want you to know about sounding unique in your writing:

Thing 1: It isn’t just about one piece of writing. It’s about being consistent with your voice in everything you write so that over time, your voice is unquestionably yours.

This 2: Which means writing periodically– whether a new article every week (comme moi), daily Facebook updates, or private emails to your list twice a week.

This 3: Your writing represents your brand, which means when you pick out the 5 key things your brand represents, you weave these into your writing consistently.

Today I won’t be hitting you with a ton of theory, but taking some writing examples and asking you why you think they’re unique.

This isn’t for the faint hearted. The answers won’t be obvious. Which basically means anyone who comments on this post with some analysis is a genius.

So here’s how it’s gonna work:

I’ll take a key message and rewrite it using the voice of 3 brands you recognise.

What I then want you to do is tell me why each is different, and one thing you’ll apply to your own writing to make it sound like you.

Goddit?

Ok, here goes:

The message: It’s nearing the end of the sales period, and each brand wants their audience to take action now to buy their programme.

Brand 1: I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

This brand appeals to men in their 20’s and 30’s who aspire to be the best in their field, but don’t know where to start. At the same time, they fear leaving it too long to make a decision about business and life (starting a side gig, starting saving, etc).

The audience is drawn to the brand for its practical application and step-by-step approach. The tone is aspiration-focused, with a touch of arrogance.

Copy: Remember, [course name on starting a business] closes at midnight PST. We convince ourselves we’ll start a business “when I have more time”, but ask yourself this: where do you want to be a year from now? It’s time to make a decision.

Brand 2: The Middle Finger Project by Ashley Ambirge

TMF has an audience of mainly small business owners with creative/service based businesses (think artists, photographers, coaches). Being creative and standing out in an over-populated market is key to them. They value freedom above all.

They audience is drawn to the brand because it’s sassy, smart and makes them feel invincible. The tone is fun and uses imagery.

Copy: Real talk: [course name] is almost at capacity and we’ll be closing the doors in 5 hours. So if you’ve been telling yourself you must learn to market to your audience and don’t register for this course? You’ll be forced to wear crocks for the rest of your living days (and may take them to your grave – the rules on this aren’t totally clear). That’s how karma works, right?

Brand 3: FirepoleMarketing by Danny Iny

This brand has an audience of entrepreneurs, small business owners and freelancers. They value community, trust and a methodical approach to learning.

The audience is drawn to this brand because of its friendly and approachable voice – even a hard sell feels like a gentle nudge.

Copy: The doors to [programme name] closes at 11.59PM PST. Some advice from me to you – it’s crucial to move fast. Not just because the program is almost full, but because the sooner you start, the sooner you see results. I’m looking forward to helping you start seeing them!

Your turn

All 3 had the same message to deliver – what do you notice about the tone of the text? How would you describe the voice (friendly, tough, philosophical …)? What words have they used to appeal to their specific audience?

Answers in the comments below – show me your genius.

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17 Comments

  • Keith Clarke says:

    Hi Raz,

    Right. I’m no copy writing expert, but here’s my tuppenceworth.

    Firstly, the tone of the text matches the nature of the audience in all cases.

    Brand 1 – Decision is the key word. It has a feeling of time closing in. It is a challenge to the reader to take action because time is running out.
    Brand 2 – Much more easy going. Fun is the key feeling here. Laid back. It invites joining in but doesn’t threaten. No hard-sell (which would probably but that particular audience off)
    Brand 3 – It’s all about the urgency and the community moving together. It works hard on making you feel a part of something and that help is always there. ‘We’ is the key word.

    So, how’d I do? 😉

  • Vishnu says:

    Excellent examples, Razwana. I’m still developing my writing voice – it’s so much harder to notice your own voice and writing than it is with seeing other people’s writing voices. I never realized how consistent some of these bigger brands are. I read all 3 blogs you mention and if they had switched their writing voice or tried to speak differently for a post or two, we would notice! Looking forward to more of your thoughts on writing voice and how to develop it (or take note of it) to stay consistent in our writing.

  • Love this! This is what I see:

    1) direct, to the point. No bs.

    2) cracking a joke to illustrate what might happen if they don’t sign up. Entertaining yet informative.

    3) friendly tone, kind of like your best friend giving you much needed advice.

  • Awesome examples of using your own voice to market a product. Love!

    Ok, here goes…
    1- Convincing in a helpful but tough love kinda way. Basically makes me feel like I’d be doing myself a disservice by missing out.
    2 – Snarky with a side of humor, but makes a great point of displaying a sense of urgency. Essentially lets me know I’d be a moron to miss out.
    3- Very helpful and nice. Seems to genuinely care that I make the cut for this course because it will be beneficial to me (not him), and that’s the most important thing.

    • I love how you pointed out how the text made you feel, Kirsten – it’s a key point. Evoking feelings of missing out or something similar is one of the not-so-secrets of sales copy that most people miss.

  • Julie says:

    “It isn’t just about one piece of writing.” This is SO spot on! I feel that people are so often searching for their “brand voice” like it’s something that will just appear or get summed up into one mission or vision statement, but it’s so so much more. Consistency comes from consistently using your voice, anywhere and everywhere.

    “Your writing represents your brand” and I 100% believe that YOU are your brand so our brand’s voice needs to be authentically ours, in everything we do.

    Your third brand example spoke most to me personally because of its personal, yet professional tone. You used the perfect word, “approachable”. I felt like I could best relate to their sense of urgency as not only a monetary value to them but a personal investment in myself. By committing to invest in the course, I am committing to an investment in myself and my professional future and that’s something they equally care about as the provider of the course. It felt like I was one on one with the brand. They clearly were invested in my success too. (I hope that made sense)

    The first brand approach really focuses on the inner struggle that people (not just men, although that’s their target audience) have to take control of their future. Wanting something but always finding excuses to put it off till later. Similar to the third brand, they address the investment as a statement about the buyer. They see it as they are providing a service and it’s up to us (the buyer) to take advantage of it. But there’s a stronger sense of accountability and urgency. As in, I’m at a cross roads and I don’t know when I’ll be at again.

    The third is fun and perfectly target toward their audience but looses me with it’s pop references. Yet, it’s equally effective trying to get the buyer out of their head and into a place of decision making.

    What a seriously great post, Raz! So much to really consider when crafting my own brand’s voice.

    • Julie says:

      and when I say the “third” in my last paragraph, I really mean Brand #2 😉

    • Wow, Julie. Such insight – I love it!

      It’s interesting you say the second one loses you with pop references since for the brand itself, that’s what connects its customers to it. They’ve shown a different way of being a niche brand – not only appealing to a particular segment of the market, but also using a very distinct voice.

      Thank you so much for your insights – massively valuable.

  • Steve says:

    This is an interesting experiment. I’ve always been fascinated with finding your voice since so many people talk about it and discuss what it is and how to find it. For me, it’s just about writing constantly and exploring your own thoughts and bringing them out into the words you use.

    • Exploration and writing consistently are two really important points, Steve. There’s definitely a ton of discussion around finding your writing voice and what the secrets to it are.

      But exploration and consistent writing is key – the solution is the process itself, and it isn’t overnight.

  • Sabita says:

    Finding my voice at this stage is an ongoing process because I don’t have my website or blog yet. Whatever I write is for my clients except for a few guest posts where I always try to bring out the practical aspect.

    I love Ramit and his way of hitting in your face right away with the harsh truth is commendable. And I believe that’s needed because many times the audience can’t figure out their own problems. The scripts help them relate to the situation at a large scale. The psychological aspect is the loveliest part. 😀

    Recently, I started noticing Danny’s writing. According to me, he’s really good and perhaps the kind of voice I see myself bringing to the surface. ( but my heart’s always in favor of Ramit).

    Thanks for the great post.

    • Hi Sabita – remember that your voice will evolve over time, so no pressure to ‘find it’ straight away.

      Isn’t it interesting that when Ramit tries a softer approach in his writing, you know that it’s leading into a joke?

      • Sabita says:

        I agree. Regular practice is the key to find one’s voice.

        With Ramit, that’s exactly the case. But whatever he says totally resonates with most people. It’s almost always – “you can read my mind”, which is awesome.

  • Belen says:

    Very good blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring
    writers? I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go
    for a paid option? There are so many options out there that
    I’m totally confused .. Any recommendations?
    Many thanks!

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