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How to Effortlessly Find The Voice That Engages Your Audience

Find Your Voice - Firepole Marketing“I’ve only know you for a few hours and already I’m hooked.”

 “I stumbled across your site, 4 hours have passed by, and I’m STILL reading! I can’t get enough!”

 “Where have you beeeennnn my whole life?”

 Let me guess – 3 things nobody has ever said to you?

You know you’ve got to find your niche. You know your copy has to resonate with your audience to get any attention. You also know that to stand out in the over-populated, highly saturated world of online biz, you have to have a unique voice.

How do I make my voice sound like me? And appeal to my ideal client? And make it interesting? And engaging? 

That’s a lot of pressure for one person to write in a unique way. But thankfully, given the hundreds of examples of businesses that do just this, it is achievable.

Let’s get started.

‘Write How You Speak’ Is Really Bad Advice

How many times have you read ‘Just write how you speak! Simple!‘ and thought to yourself ‘Ugh. If I wrote exactly how I spoke, nobody would want to read it.’ And translating this into the copy on your website and marketing material? It’s all the more confusing.

The secret is not to simply write how you speak, but to notice the words you use (your uniqueness), understand the words your audience uses and find an intersection between the two to weave into your copy and branding.

Notice the words you use by keeping a notebook with you for a week. When you’re having conversations or even thinking to yourself, make a note of the words and expressions you use often.  What words sound delicious when you say them? Write them down.

These words are the words that will bring out your personality in your brand.

Take it further and try this exercise:

Imagine you’re writing to a customer about the service they’ll receive. Go into detail. Make it impressive. Then a couple of days later, imagine you were explaining the same thing to the same customer, but you’re having a conversation with them instead. Record yourself doing this.

Now compare the two. What are the differences? How does the recorded version compare to your marketing copy right now?

If you read what you write and can’t imagine saying it out loud during a casual conversation, you’re speaking at people, or over their heads. You’ll sound like an authority and not like a human being.

People like doing business with people – not intimidating acronyms and technical jargon machines.

Strive to be the former.

The Easiest Way To Find Your Voice

 If branding is all about personality, what’s yours?

Answer these questions:

  •  What do you stand for or believe in?
  •  What life experiences have you had that are special or unique for you?
  •  What are your influences culturally? Movies? Music? TV?

Weaving aspects of this into your marketing messages will connect you to your audience – they will see the human side of you, and they will connect it with the life they want to have.

Consider these examples:

Marie Forleo mentions her fiancée, her dog, and being from New Jersey repeatedly. She markets to women who want to have the ‘business and life they love’. She gives them something to aspire to and makes it personal to her.

Jon Morrow. Many people may not relate to his disability, but when he talks about his struggles to get to today’s success, they share his dream of escaping. They share his feelings of courage.

Danny wrote about his setbacks in business that resonated with the audience on more than just a ‘business’ level. He often writes about his wife being the love of his life. How many women will clasp their hands together, tilt their head to the side and go ‘aawwwwwhhhhhh!’?

Find your key stories. Your key interests. And weave them into your copy repeatedly. Over time, your brand will evolve and be noticed for stories that have been told.

Why Mastery Isn’t An Accident

When a part of your marketing effort involves a lot of writing (marketing emails, guest posts, articles), investing in developing your writing is paramount.

The gods of writing like Jeff Goins and Copyblogger advise you write every day. Why? Because it makes the skill of writing come more naturally over time.

Practice this. Write 500 words a day, every day, for a month.

How can this help in finding your voice? By make it free writing. Don’t over think it – write whatever comes into your head. This will speak volumes about the things you think about, which in turn adds to your bounty of brand-personality-stories.

As an added bonus, you might find yourself working through the troubles in your head. Savings on those shrink bills, anyone?

Take it further by writing a piece of copy (be it a blog post, an email, or an article) and edit personality into it. This means:

  •  Use metaphors
  •  Cut sentences out and make others shorter
  •  Change the format of text by making it bold, italic, or adding colour
  •  Use emoticons

Strive to make it a pleasure to read. Make every piece a masterpiece. Your audience must feel like they’re witness to a work of art without having to go to the effort of finding the nearest museum and staring at a canvass on a wall. Because, y’know – time is always a factor.

When Your ‘Voice’ Isn’t Found Through Writing

What if you didn’t have to write anything at all? Or what if writing just isn’t your thing?

Find what medium is right for you – videos, podcasting, infographics, photos. Your writing voice doesn’t have to be written in the traditional sense.

Finding what medium suits your voice is done in two ways. The first is fairly obvious: does it it reflect the service you provide. Photographers, graphic designers – display your talents apologetically on your website and marketing material.

For the rest? Experiment. Try out a video (like Derek Halpern) or a podcast (like Pat Flynn and Mirasee) and notice the response from your audience. Do they engage more or less with the new medium? And then, do more of what works.

When Your Voice Isn’t Your Voice

All the above is focused on you, the business owner. The brand of your personality has to reflect you, but also reflect what your audience would want to read.

Remember the exercise where you noted the words you use in conversations? Do the same thing, but with your customers. What issues do they raise in emails? In blog comments? During conversations?

Read the comments and make a note of the kinds of words used or emotions conveyed repeatedly. Then make it your goal to add these into your writing (or medium of choice).

For example, if you’re a photographer and your audience asks a lot of questions about the best lighting to use when taking photographs, then:

  • Add it to every update you post by describing the lighting in each image.
  •  Write a ‘Use lighting techniques like a professional’ guide for your subscribers to download.
  •  Review the most popular kits for lighting.

Knowing what your customer wants to achieve and using this as the cornerstone of your messaging is a basic in writing copy. Remember this when you go through the brand personality exercises.

Over to You

How about you? When have you used personality in your copy that’s worked well? What advice do you have for entrepreneurs that are finding it a challenge?

About Razwana Wahid

Razwana Wahid is the founder of Relentless Movement, a copywriting and online business strategy service dedicated to small business owners to help them engage and sell. Follower her on Twitter.

35 thoughts on “How to Effortlessly Find The Voice That Engages Your Audience

  1. “‘Write like you speak.’ Is really bad advice” – Couldn’t agree more.

    I’ve always advocated writing the way your characters speak instead. Especially your main character. This works for fiction writers of course.

    For non-fiction writers I advocate writing the way your reader speaks (or thinks about your topic).

    Better still, find out what he or she thinks about what’s wrong with [insert topic/problem here] then reflect those back to him or her in your heading, sub-heads and body as you lead them into the solution you have to help them get rid of the problem in your conclusion.

    Also, it’s good to write every day. It hones your skill. Just keep it in mind that, as you keep writing, you’ll keep improving. Which means when you read back on some of your old stuff, you’ll cringe. It’s only natural. But it’s a good feeling to have because you’ll see just how much writing every day has made you a better writer.

    • Hi Tom – writing every day CAN be painful at first (it was for me) but once you get going, it absolutely gets easier. There’s only one way to find out if this works to improve your writing, right?

      • I wasn’t suggesting that writing is painful (at any stage). Only that as you improve if you read back over your learning, you can easily see just how much writing every day can increase your skill.

  2. Great article with really useful tips!

    I have only recently started writing more and I was really struggling with how to find my authentic voice. (Literally had this exact conversation about my blog with my husband 2 days ago! Perfectly timed post! 😉 )

    I have definitely found increasing the frequency of my writing has been helping it to flow more naturally. I’ll definitely be trying out some of the other exercises you mentioned to bring more clarity and consistency to my writing.

    Thank you!

    • It takes practice, and also trust in the process. You’re already seeing progress with the work you’re doing – in 6 months’ time, you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come, I promise !

      Thank you for commenting, Jennifer.

  3. Razwana, terrific post. I’m going to write down that key sentence (Find your key stories…) and keep it posted next to my computer. Unfortunately, my personality is as dry as Death Valley and my life experiences are real downers. Guess I’ll have to search the memory banks for happy stuff. I am a teacher at heart, though not by trade, so tend to write my posts from a teaching perspective. Since that is the purpose of my blog I’m not really sure how I can not come across as “talking at” my readers. Any suggestions?

    • Teaching without talking at your readers is definitely possible. FPM is an awesome example of this. Knowledge being shared/taught with people in a friendly, easily accessible way.

      My suggestion for you is to write as if yo were talking to a friend. Note *talking*, not *writing* to a friend. Recording a conversation you have with a friend would be great here. Conversational teaching always comes across well.

      And lastly, how can you make what you teach more fun?

    • Hi Debra, I just thought I’d chime in here wearing my voice coach, writer and songwriter hats. Of course I don’t know what your life experiences have been, but in general, when I am working with voice clients, we often start from life’s most unhappy or difficult experiences, and from there it becomes song, a piece of art that exists in the moment or over time. So when I read your query, the thought occurred that perhaps some of your “downer” life experiences are actually pieces that– if shared appropriately with your audience– would help them to relate more to you, even magnetize them to you because they could say, “ah, she’s been through a lot and she gets it, I can trust her.” Or something like that.

      • Thanks, Pamela. I know you’re right about that. I need to spend time distilling those experiences and finding the appropriate way to communicate them. I also need to heal the distrust that lives deep within me because of it all, and hinders me from being totally authentic.

  4. Is ‘Write like you speak.’ really bad advice? Not always. For most Americans I would say it is. Not many are all that articulate at all, especially those from certain regions.
    I keep thinking of Dr. Depak Chopra who uses the word ‘stuff’ in both his spoken and written word. Would we consider him a poor communicator?

    • Writing how you speak would involve using fillers like ‘um’, ‘like’ and ‘ya know?’ a lot.

      It’s bad advice because most people don’t communicate clearly, concisely, or effectively when they speak. The last thing to do is to reflect this in writing.

      Writing for your client and eloquently communicating your message is about choosing your words wisely.

      Every word earns its place on the page.

      Therefore, if we write how we speak, we end up with a lot of redundant words on the page.

  5. Hello Razwana,

    Nice post shared, Since I’m not a native english speaker it would take some more time to write article and you’ve shared really informative tips.

    Thanks

  6. Thanks Razwana for the tips. I find that my biggest issue with writing is it takes me way too long to edit and make it sound just right. I’m a perfectionist and often that prevents me from sending things out because I feel they are not good enough, or I’ll read and re-read things over & over again to make sure they sound good. I definitely have OCD. Any tips on how to overcome that when writing?

    • I understand your perfectionism plight, Nina! And I bet when you complete your writing, you reread it later and think you could have improved more?

      There’s always room for improvement.

      Your work not being good enough isn’t the problem – it’s the paralysis causing inaction that is. And perfectionism is a habit – one that you can change.

      Start with small goals. Write the key messages you want to communicate in your writing. Once the writing and editing is done (set a time frame for this), check that your messages have been captured. As long as this is the case, press send/post !

      And finally? Be kind to yourself. You’re making the effort to write and put something out there. You’re sharing your skills and wisdom – people are waiting to receive !

  7. Great post, Razwana. I’ve found that sticking to a daily writing schedule makes it much easier to get into the state of flow where the words come easily. If I skip a couple of writing days, it is always harder to get the words down on the page.

    Another suggestion I have for people struggling to find their voice: record yourself talking about whatever it is you want to write about. It could be ideas for a blog post, reasons why a customer should buy your product, or something else entirely. Play back the transcription , making sure to edit out all the filler words and tangents, and you end up with something professional and authentic to your voice.

    • Corey, that’s an awesome suggestion. Recording yourself definitely captures your ‘true’ voice (as long as you don’t write things out word for word later !)

  8. Excellent tips, Razwana- thanks for sharing. I especially needed to hear this now because I’ve been trying to write more like what I sound. I’ve been trying to write like I speak and thought that was the way to go to sound more authentic. I definitely get the distinctions you make.

    Your advice about using your own words and keeping track of them and using my personality more sounds about right. I guess writing about spiritual discovery in the Himalayas, tofu and getting out of soul-sucking jobs will have to continue to be in my writing as they are all part of my personality.

    Is the only worst crime than ‘writing how you speak’, writing how you don’t speak? I’ve found to be annoying too. Sites filled with jargon, expert-speak and that speak over my head get very little of my time and attention.

    • Whenever you read ‘expert speak’, it’s someone trying to sound like an expert/authority. Breathe in and out, and write as though you’re speaking to a human being, I say !

      You’ve already brought your personality into this comment by mentioning about spiritual discovery, tofu and getting out of tough jobs – you’re onto a winner there, Vishnu !

  9. I may be wrong on this one but I do not think that this advice”Write as you speak” is meant the way most responses reflect here.
    Do not devour me now.(-: To me it means to write as the person you are with your personality reflecting through your written word. The way you would impress people speaking with you face to face. The way they would recognize you as the one who wrote the piece. That is the way I write. Nobody can be mistaken about it. Yep. That is him. (-: Now I need that 500 words per day task accomplished. It strikes me as such powerful idea.. Thank you

    • Nailed it Charles! In the beginning its difficult to get your thoughts across in any but the most staid fashion…its like you can’t step away from the straight and narrow…a beginners mental model…tell it like it is. To show your personality – which is what your writing needs to achieve – will require that 500 words a day grind!!

    • No devouring happening, Charles !

      your definition of ‘writing how you speak’ is clear. For some people, this takes a lot of practice – the 500 words a day challenge definitely addresses this.

      Come back and let us know how you get on with it, ok?

  10. Thanks Razwana for this blog filled with great ideas. I particularly like the idea of writing about a service you are providing and then later doing the same but speaking. I think this would be a great idea to use to explain a concept or idea that you want to get across. I will definitely give this a try.

    About a month ago I starting writing (hand writing) first thing in the morning before I do anything else. I write one full page of what ever comes up. To begin with it was difficult but now in about 10 minutes I have a page full. I have found many great ideas coming to the surface this way.

    Again, really enjoyed your article.

    • Carolynne – hand writing things seems like a lost art form – you’re starting its comeback !

      Awesome how you improved over time. Do you focus on a particular topic when you’re writing like this, or let your thoughts flow?

      • There is something about the flow of words from pen to paper. I started by journaling and kept it up over the years. I find it less distracting than my laptop. I just let things flow. sometimes it is a page gibberish or a whole bunch of unrelated ideas but, most days it turns into a flow of wisdom. I try not to think too much and let whatever comes come.

  11. I have taught screenwriting for many years, and voice is an important concept for my students – they have to write dialogue in their characters’ voices.
    I believe that voice must be, above all, honest. It must reflect your thoughts, dreams, beliefs, feelings, loves, fears, attitudes, desires… and those should ooze through everything you write.
    An exercise I give my students for finding their character’s voice can work really well in finding your own voice in blogging.
    1. Make a list of the things you love and are passionate about.
    2. Make a list of the things you despise or fear.
    3. Make a list of your dreams and hopes, both big and small.
    4. Choose 3 traits that describe you (not similar ones such as loving, kind and generous, but different ones, such as loving, intelligent and sophisticated.)
    When you write, make sure that the essence of your personality that is encapsulated in your lists pours out onto the page.
    Finding your own voice is NOT easy. That’s why it isn’t just a case of, “write the way you speak!”

  12. Cracker of a post Razwana! Thanx.

    If you can get readers to cosy up to you as the person who seriously understands their pain – like you too are in the same predicament – and have found and are sharing the magic with them…they are hooked!

  13. Wow! Great post Razwanza. It’s full of really great tips and hits the essence of being able to connect with your audience.

    And I really like the comments both Cory and Dr. Rie added to the conversation. There is a lot of helpful tips here to get anyone who seriously applies this information writing more and connecting better — myself included : )

    Thanks

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment, Pam. And I’m so jazzed you found the post useful.

      What was the most useful part you’re going to take away and apply?

  14. Hi Razwana,

    The parts that were most useful to me were the ideas on how to infuse my personality into my writing so that it reflects more of who I am and still connects to my audience. It’s a critical skill for attracting the right people to become clients and future clients.

    I also liked the idea of just writing everyday so that you not only get better but the writing gets easier and faster to do.

    So I will be implementing those specific strategies right away.

  15. Thomas Hardy, who wrote in Victorian times, said he was essentially silenced as a novelist after he had to read some harsh reviews of his novel that alluded to some kind of extramarital relationship (a no-no in the Victorian era). That inner voice for many has been silenced by the paramount power of grade-awarding school teachers who tried to make us write as they thought one should write and in turn, THEIR voice had been mutilated by their teachers and later university lecturers. And so on it goes. It takes effort to break these shackles.

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