My 3-step process to emulate your brand's voice as a copywriter
Recently, I was chatting with a web designer about the branding process. A favorite topic for us both!
Since her focus is visuals and mine is messaging, our combined website efforts can probably take over the world.
She asked me about my writing process, and how I’m able to recreate my clients’s voice and tone, especially with new clients who I’ve just met.
Actually, I’ve had several clients tell me how creepy it is that I can emulate their voice when writing on their behalf. I take it as a compliment.
Generally, after I complete an initial draft, I get one of three responses:
OMG this sounds just like me! I didn’t even tell you about half of that! How did you know?!
This is exactly how I had it in my head, but couldn’t get it into words!
Wow, this is really good.
I’m pretty sure #3 is actually code for ‘This is better than I expected’.
I take it as a compliment, especially considering how many become repeat clients and transition onto retainer.
Of course, I always ask for feedback when sharing my work, so I can improve my approach, but 9 times out of 10, I do hit the nail on the head from the get-go.
Yay me! 🎉
I like to think of copywriting as the subtle science and exact art¹ of balancing someone’s unique way of expression with their clearly-defined business goals.
¹ Kudos to Severus Snape and J.K. Rowling for that delightful turn of phrase
That’s not always easy, especially when I’m just getting to know a client’s personality, and we’re still exploring what a working relationship looks like.
But, I’ve found that a few things – specifically 3 things – can help me bridge that gap and identify what makes my client’s language unique, so I can incorporate it into their copy.
1. Have a super casual, totally fun conversation together
Before I do any work, I like to have a chat over the phone or in a video call.
Even if we are talking about how our days are going or what we did over the weekend, it gives me a sense of the client’s speaking rhythm and their diction.
Then, I take ‘mental snapshots’ of the experience of talking with them.
How does their voice and intonation change as she gets excited? What is her body language telling me? How much does she fidget or gesture or gesticulate? Does she say ‘perhaps’ or ‘maybe’?
These are the kinds of distinctions I carry into my writing, to ensure it sounds just like them.
Every time I sit down to write for a client, I conjure up those mental snapshots for inspiration, guidance, and fun.
2. Stalk them on the internet
This isn’t always possible if the client doesn’t already have a website, blog, or email newsletter.
So, I also ask for background materials like onboarding materials, templates, scripts, and anything else used in the day-to-day running of their business.
Even social media can give me insight into their writing style.
Having a body of work to read through gives me a foundation on which to identify their brand messaging — or develop it.
Then, I can create a plan for which subjects and themes to explore, as well as what facets of their personality should shine through most.
In the rare cases where the world wide web hasn’t been graced by their presence, I take step #3 to a whole new level!
3. Question the business, but not the content or client
The last (and arguably most important) step I take is to ask questions.
OMG, so many questions!
My clients will tell you that I’m questionnaire-happy like none else. 😂
Generally, I don’t need to know more information about their content, though.
Instead, I’m digging into how they run their business.
What kind of business model are you using? What does your sales cycle look like? Who is your target audience? Who is your ideal client?
Ideal client is crucial for my client to have nailed down, if I’m going to understand the avatar as well.
I ask my clients to describe their ideal client avatar in detail, beyond demographics, to psychographics and behavior triggers, down to intimate quirks and qualities.
Lastly, I need to know my client’s why.
Why did you start this business? Why are you so passionate about it? Which parts do you love? Which parts do you loathe?