Why your office toilet could derail your whole brand voice.

Re-writing the whole of your website was a bitch of a project, right? Thank god it’s finally signed off. Your social media team are actually pretty much on track now, with only the occasional off-tone GIF disaster. And these days you’re battling with your finance guy about his wording a mere few times a week, instead of a few times a day. Progress, sweet progress. You’re feeling confident. Good work.

But how can you know for sure that your brand’s voice is solid, set to make the real difference you promised the higher-ups it would?

Here’s your short-cut: take a look at the wording on the hastily-scrawled sign that gets blu-tacked to the toilet door when it’s out of order. Because that’s where this shit (literally) gets serious.

Making sure your brand’s voice shows up on the company website is a no-brainer. That’s top of the list. Social media, tick. Email campaigns, tick. Sales brochures, tick.

But it’s the less obvious, yet still very visible, bits of communication – the small print in the email footers, the T&Cs in a client contract, the role descriptions in job ads, the things that tend to come from other areas of the business outside of the marketing team - that are actually the perfect barometer for how well your brand voice is really understood and used by the wider organisation.

And they’re also the bits most likely to let your brand voice down.

Because when those seemingly small bits don’t fit with the obviously big bits – when you sound one way on your homepage but another way on your error messages, when you speak one way in an email but another way in your product descriptions – it makes everything feel like bullshit. It makes everything seem inauthentic.

Like your brand has put on a show in public, wearing a personality like a costume, and then you go behind the curtain and it all gets a bit Wizard of Oz. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the film, but Judy Garland is not impressed. If the big wiz had been trying to make a sale, there’s no way Dorothy would have handed over her credit card.

So what can you do?

Well, you’ve really only got two options.

Number one, the dictatorship route; where you simply decree that every single piece of writing ever has to go through your team. Great if you’re a huge fan of micromanaging people and holding up deadlines and stifling creativity with bureaucracy and alienating 98% of the company’s employees.

Or number two, the democratic route; where the marketing team manage and champion the brand voice but its outworking is a part of every team’s strategy, procedures, and goals.

There’s no question that’s a bugger of a route. I won’t lie. Helping every single person in your organisation care (at least a bit) about the language you corporately use and giving them the skills and the confidence they need to speak it in their day today work will almost certainly be a hard, time-consuming, and frustrating task. (And while we’re robbing ourselves of the will to live you might as well have a read of the other two things that make brand voice work a giant pain in the arse so that at least you’re forewarned as well as dejected.)

But unfortunately, there’s no way around it. Unless you get proactive, your office toilet (well, ok, the people who might write a sign for it) really could derail your whole brand voice. Because the voice of your company is relevant to everyone who ever does or says anything on behalf of it and if they aren’t prepared to use that voice it will seriously undermine – and possibly even make redundant – all the time and money and effort you’ve spent on it to date.

So don’t be put off by the scale of the task, or let people make you feel like you’re wasting their time because they're not part of the marketing team and "all this writing stuff isn't really part of my job".

When it comes to your voice, there’s nowhere it shouldn’t show up – which means there’s no one who doesn’t need to get it.

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