Advice for small businesses: how (and why) you should write in an authentic voice

I do a lot of business networking. Today, one of the groups I belong to (Athena Reading) asked me to talk to the group about making an impact through writing.

I don’t talk a lot about my job on the blog, but I’ve been a freelance writer since 2004 – I write features for magazines (mainly sport and fitness titles) and I also write content for businesses. It’s with my copywriter’s hat on that I attend local networking meetings.

Various people have asked for notes from my talk so I thought I’d pop them up here. If you work for yourself, are thinking of starting up in business or are part of a small team with no external marketing assistance, I hope you find them useful. πŸ™‚

How to write in an authentic voice which engages readers and builds trust, encourages recommendations and ultimately leads to more business.

Writing is a crucial part of your marketing strategy – even if you don’t think you have a one! If you’ve got anything “out there” in writing which is promoting your company, then you have got a marketing strategy!

As a copywriter, every word I write needs to make an impact and, more than that, it must make the correct impact.

First impressions count. If the first contact your customer has with you is your website, your Linkedin profile, or even a message on social media, those words need to convey your message, your brand and your character.

Those of us who run our own business – sole traders, one-(wo)man bands, franchisees, entrepreneurs and start-ups – are in a unique position. We are our business. That presents us with a great opportunity. If you always write with authenticity and honesty, you can’t go far wrong. Your character and your values will always come through your writing, and this will only serve to strengthen your brand or product offering.

Wording can – and should – convey your brand’s “voice”. So why is it important to be authentic with your writing?

People like to work with and buy from people and brands they trust. It will soon become clear whether or not you are being authentic with your writing, and this is important whether you’re writing a more informal piece of copy (like this blog post) or more technical or sales-driven content. Everything you write builds up to become part of your business and it needs to support and strengthen your brand, not contradict or confuse it.

How can you find your voice?

You’ll know when you haven’t! And you’ll know when you’re attempting to write in a voice which doesn’t serve you or your business. Obviously a chatty, informal tone won’t be suitable for every type of content. A technical document, or a press release will need a different tone of voice than your Tweets, blog posts and customer newsletter articles. But there should be something running through the centre of all of them which is authentic to you, your brand and your business’s identity.

If you don’t yet know what that is, then you need to take a step back and do some groundwork on branding and corporate identity. This is a really important exercise which will feed in to your marketing and networking (on- and off-line).

Think about what impact you want to make. What is the purpose behind the piece of writing you are about to to? Do you want it to drive sales, create more business, to encourage business partners to work with you? How do you want to be seen: as an expert, the go-to person in your field, an educator, an information hub/curator? Or as a place to get great service, fantastic products, or a unique business offering?

How to use your voice to connect with readers and make an impact

It’s never been more important to think about the quality of your content and the voice behind your words. Not so long ago, you might have needed content for a brochure, maybe flyers for special events, and probably a website. These days, most companies will have content on:

– websites
– brochures or other paper/leave behinds
– press releases
– editorial and articles
– adverts
– email marketing and customer newsletters
– blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Linkedin
– etc!

What’s great about all these newer platforms for content is that they give you the opportunity to create a community and a following for your brand, products or business. But you have you get it right. When writing for social media or any new and regularly updated content (website news pages, customer newsletters and emails), consistency is key.

Think consistency rather than frequency.

Stop worrying about how much, how often and even how good! Sometimes perfectionism can overwhelm the writing process and stop us from doing anything at all. Write consistently, get your message out there regularly, create a following of readers who look forward to what you’ve got to say. Don’t think that everything you write has to be ground-breaking, or very long, or painstakingly researched. If you are writing for a news section of your own website, your own blog/Facebook/Twitter, or your own business newsletter, then it’s far more important to write regularly and consistently.

How authenticity breeds trust and recommendations

The bottom line is that being authentic builds trust. This is true for the written word as much as it is true for what you say, your body language and how you treat people. In business, the words we write do a job for us, so make sure your words are working for you and not against you.

Make it easy for people to use your words to help you in business. You will spend precious time writing, so make your words easy to forward on, share, retweet or pass from hand to hand. Make your content something which people want to pass on, whether that’s to their friends and family (if you’re B2C) or to business contacts, clients or partners (if your business is B2B). So think about your content being useful and interesting, something people want to read and then want their most valuable contacts to read, too. Get the most out of everything you write.

Practical tips for producing quality content on a regular basis

– brainstorm – don’t wait to get started
– create an editorial schedule
– treat writing as a job
– remember, it’s part of your marketing, not a fluffy extra
– set aside and schedule regular time, then commit to it
– get it done. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.
– don’t be a perfectionist
– remember, something is better than nothing to get started

Ideas and resources which might help (they help me!)

WordPress for blogging
Hootsuite for social media management
Teuxdeux for to-do lists
Google tasks for keeping notes
– Draft an email, save it and add to it over time (useful if you work with a copywriter or marketeer)
– Good old fashioned pen and notebook! Carry pen and paper with you at all times and jot down any ideas for writing, no matter how small or random. Chances are they’ll turn into one of your most popular and successful pieces of content.

If you’ve found this post useful, you might also like:
How to engage with fitness journalists and bloggers
The importance of quality content for fitness professionals
How I became a freelance writer (and other FAQs)
A few fitness copywriting examples
– And a few more here.

Advice for small businesses: how (and why) you should write in an authentic voice is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

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5 Responses to Advice for small businesses: how (and why) you should write in an authentic voice

  1. Guy Mathiot says:

    Very sound and quality advice, thank you.

    Like

  2. Sable@SquatLikeALady says:

    Great post! You should charge for this info!!

    Like

  3. […] I’ll aim this at fitpros and brands/businesses within the fitness and wellness worlds, cos that’s who I work with. But, really, this advice could apply to anyone in any sector. I’ve actually written something similar – based on a presentation I delivered to a local business networking group (none of whom were fitpros) – you might like to read my advice for small businesses – why write in your authentic voice […]

    Like

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