One of the best compliments, and most common questions I get is, “I love your website copy! How do you write with so much personality?” I often hesitate to respond because more often than not, people confuse “flair” for personality. I write with flair, but my brand personality is the result of many different ingredients, cleverly mixed together.
Flair often appears in eyebrow headers (your H3), CTA buttons, confirmation pages, and 404 pages in the form of quippy little statements. (Smang that button now! Let’s do this! Ruh-roh, page not found!)
The goal of having a distinct brand personality is CONNECTION and DIFFERENTIATION. But this isn’t created through words alone. There are other factors at play such as design, video, photography, and marketing.
Writing copy that compels people to take an action is a layer cake and personality is just one of those layers. Personality can also be expressed in many different ways. Your visual brand (colors, fonts, imagery) can help you express a particular vibe or energy you want to be associated with your brand.
The truth is, you’re probably putting too much emphasis on your brand voice or personality to carry your message. Sure, you don’t want to sound like Siri and bore your reader before they get to the second paragraph, but trying to entertain your readers should never come at the expense of CLARITY.
If your page amuses the heck out of me, but I can’t tell what you do, how you do it, and why you’re the one for me, I’m going to think, “that was cute,” and move on.
A holistic approach to building a memorable brand personality is to take into consideration your tone, your words, and your story. Then, take a step back and pair it with your design, video, photography, and marketing to finish the picture.
Here are four ways to start weaving personality into your website copy.
(Without requiring you to be funny, quippy, or obtain an MFA in Creative Writing.)
1) Write like you speak
Trust me, I know this is easier said than done. Have you ever watched a video of yourself and thought, “that’s how I sound?!?” Our perception of ourselves is *highly* skewed. To make matters more complicated, we have a nonstop internal dialogue running through our heads that we’ve learned to tune out so we don’t go batty.
One of the best ways to learn how you sound is to…write. Challenge yourself to journal for one week, and then look over what you’ve written. Does anything stand out?
Phone a friend and ask them to describe a conversation with you and do an impression of you. (This is cringy and hilarious, so be sure to return the favor. 😉
Pay particular attention to:
Mood (also known as tone)
Use of metaphors
Writing for an online audience (and especially for personal online brands) is nothing like your 11th-grade English teacher taught you. You are allowed to break grammar rules to make something read easier and sound more like the way your audience expects to be spoken to. (And you can end sentences with prepositions. It’s totally fine.)
As long as you are clear in your communications and aligned with your audience, the grammar police can go back to their classist caves. (I said what I said.)
2) Find your trademarks
Do you have any catchphrases, expressions or trademark quirks someone could hear in a crowded room and instantly know where you are? My mom loves to say, “Let me just…” before starting a new task, and my brother loves a good “Welp…” when he’s commenting on an observation. When I write, I tend to speak with asides or small comments that break down that fourth wall between me and the reader, giving them a glimpse into my brain’s inner monologue. (And shoot, is it scary in there!)
I have friends with trademark cadences. One talks a mile a minute and instantly hypes me up, and another who is so intentional with every word they say I immediately relax and slow down in their presence.
Trademarks tend to show up as our pieces of “flair” and are a simple way of adding points for your readers to recognize your voice, which is connected to a real person, and not just a faceless narrator.
3) Declare your Dos and Don’ts
So you’ve got a handy little worksheet full of brand adjectives…now what? Fill out a Brand Voice Chart to outline how your captions, blog posts, stories, sales scripts, and even your out-of-office message should and should not sound, IRL.
4) Tell a story
Storytelling is scientifically proven to result in higher brand recall and anthropological studies show that we tend to offer more resources to good storytellers. (In the case of businesses, this translates to more sales or larger budgets.)
Human beings have literally built societies around the stories we tell ourselves. The capability to process and derive meaning from a story is hardwired into our DNA and pays valuable dividends to the storytellers themselves.
Use your story (how you got here, why you hold a certain perspective, why you feel compelled to serve others or use your skills in a certain way) to help your audience find that connection with you and evaluate whether they see themselves in your story too.
Often, when we sit down to write our story, we let our guard down and allow ourselves to write from a place of truth and authenticity. Don’t attempt a polished, first draft. Just be real. Your readers don’t want poetry, they want connection.