Struggling to put your brand into words? Kathy Young is the owner and founder of Rekindle Communications—a website copywriting + brand messaging studio that breathes life into your brand message one word at a time. We invited storytellers and brand owners in the Visualist community to a brand makeover masterclass with Kathy. In case you missed it, here are the highlights...
How do I translate my vision into the right words?
First things first, be clear on your vision: What do you hope to accomplish in your career/business? Who would you be working with? What kind of work would you be doing? How would it make you feel by doing it? Now write that down! If you're more of a talker than a writer, try talking your ideas out loud to a voice recording app and re-listen to them. I do this all the time, it helps us to talk freely so we can then reorganise our thoughts into written form.
Is there a difference between how I should write for my website home page vs. my blog?
Your website should be an insight into your perspective and your brand worldview. You're naturally going to make more confident, self-assured statements there because you're essentially creating an argument for why your approach to your work is exactly what your clients need. Focus on headlines that are heavily branded and pack as much value as you can into the shortest amount of words. Blogs, you have a little more breathing room. Not everything has to be branded, your ultimate priority there is to educate and build SEO. So whereas I would recommend a clever, witty headline for your Home Page headline, I would recommend a clearer, more direct headline for a blog post.
I'm planning on launching my new website—what is your no.1 piece of advice?
My philosophy is that no one cares about your website launch unless you give them a reason to. Make your website launch feel like an event! Give yourself a 14-30 day window of content (at least) that shares the behind-the-scenes of why you're rebranding and the story behind your business—build the anticipation and crucially, get people excited. When you launch, think about how you can incorporate a giveaway of some variety. This helps people feel excited to be a part of the journey and gives them a reason to care!
My corporate voice vs. me—how can I avoid sounding too formal?
1. Focus on storytelling. Take note of super relatable things in your own life that you can share. When did you last have an "oh sh*t" moment? What's a personality trait you share with your best-fit client? What are every day funny/weird happenings that you can share? What's a secret confession that your audience would love to know? Don't be afraid to get personal, because that's when you start to shed off the corporate speak.
2. Use the senses. Think of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Try to be vivid and stay away from cliches or generalities because they're easy to lean on. How can you say the same thing but with your own spin?
3. Write all your ideas down first. Next, read it out loud. And finally, edit for personality. When we write copy there are two sides to us, the writer and the editor. Don't feel like you have to get it right with your first shot. Get your ideas out of your head and onto the paper. Reading your copy out loud, you'll naturally see where it sounds like a robot and you can fix it from there.
4. Check your DMs. A lot of your personality comes out in the DMs and texts that you send to friends! Take note of how you talk to your closest friends or biz buddies! It gives insight into your personality and you can translate that into your copy.
How can I identify the words that encapsulate my brand, my "brand dictionary" per se?
I would start by writing out a list of brand "Don'ts". What do you not say as a brand? What buzzwords in your industry make you shudder? Now you'll know what to steer clear of when writing copy and it is easier to identify what should be in your Brand Dictionary. So that your keywords don't become repetitive, I would focus on creating "action statements" rather than standalone adjectives. For example, here are some "words" I created for an executive coach:
- Create a new normal
- Artificial harmony isn't good for teams
- Your employees are humans
- There are no shortage of bad managers
To find your action statements, dive into your core values—what are 'non-negotiables' either in your work or your approach? How can you rephrase them into action statements that demonstrate how you do your work? Finally, reference where you find inspiration outside of your work. What are some themes you can pull from that to bring a fresh spin to what you do?
So many brands are using the same positioning these days: sustainable, ethical, modern etc. How can I stand out?
Remember: what you say doesn't have to be revolutionary, it just has to resonate. Here are a few prompts that I share with my clients when they feel stuck with displaying their USP:
- What makes you angry in your industry? Like what can you absolutely not stand and it makes you sick in the pit of your stomach? Why do you feel this way?
- What is your client trying to accomplish through your brand? Instead of leaning into your style, lean into the lifestyle your client is trying to create. How do their values align with your own?
- What's a common perspective in your industry that you disagree with? How would you want to shift those beliefs?
- If you could get on a soap box and preach about anything related to your work, what would it be?
When is it time for a rebrand?
You need a rebrand if:
- You're trying to break into a new market.
- You want to elevate the clients you're working with to be more aligned with your brand values.
- You're trying to position yourself around a certain aspect of your work that lights you up more. Example: even though I'm a copywriter, I choose to position myself around brand messaging because that's the part that I feel most passionate about.
But before you rebrand, make sure you're clear on your offers—and make sure they're bringing in $$$! It's easy to focus on the sexy stuff like brand positioning but you need to make sure that you've validated your offers and consistently delivered results through them. That's what matters most. Fun fact: I've got a rebrand brewing in the next year! In the meantime, I'm establishing my authority around brand messaging and really solidifying my process. I have recently written a blog all about this topic, check it out!
I have a limited budget, where should I spend my money for maximum impact?
You want to focus on minimum viable because as a start-up, your #1 priority is bringing in revenue in the short-term. I wouldn't go all out on a custom website or brand design that's thousands of dollars because it's likely that your brand will evolve over time. And unless you are 100% confident that your business won't change, I wouldn't invest in full-service copywriting either. If anything, I would invest in branding experts in a consulting capacity to help you hone in on what makes you different. Invest in minim. Work with branding experts, but try to get away with minimum viable. What is the most simple website with the most simple messaging you can get away with as you figure out your brand?
Remember, you won't really understand your brand until you start working directly with your people. Focus on getting clients in the door, and doing market research to understand what drives them. I would focus efforts specifically on doing market research of past clients and not just broad market research. Tip: past clients' descriptions of your work could contribute to your Brand Dictionary!
How do I choose brand partners that align with my brand messaging?
Building a brand is the ultimate test of integrity. Before pursuing every collaboration, you should ask yourself "Does this align with my vision and how I best deliver my work?" I think it is okay to work with people who have different stylistic preferences than you. In fact, I think it shows that you're versatile. But if they have underlying values that differ from yours, that's where there can be a conflict of interest in the long run. For example, I do collaborations with a speaker coach who teaches people how to grow their visibility by speaking on stage. I'm more of an introvert myself and would never speak at a TedTalk, but we align because we both focus on storytelling and connecting with people. Different personalities, same values.
What are the advantages of outsourcing my copywriting?
If you feel pretty set with your brand/your offering, then it should be easy to bring on a copywriter for a larger project, like your website or a sales page. It's so much easier for a copywriter to pick up your voice if you already feel confident in your approach, your personal brand, what makes you different, etc. If you're looking for more ongoing support with your copy (newsletter, blogs, etc.), then I still recommend working on a big project with a copywriter first and then continuing that relationship. A big project helps a writer to really understand your voice and how to weave that through the rest of your marketing. Either way, when working with a copywriter I always recommend creating a brand messaging guide. This way, you at least walk away with a literal guide that you can hand over to an intern, a social media manager, or anyone else in your company to maintain your brand voice.
I know some clients who love writing their own content because it's their form of self-expression but it is probably worth working with a professional copywriter if you feel like writing content really drains you—if you feel more lit up focusing on other areas of your business. I believe people should feel empowered to outsource their voice if it'll serve their goals long-term.
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