Social impact leaders spend a lot of time thinking about how to nail their impact story. Their goal is to more effectively persuade their supporters to care about their missions, take action, and help make a meaningful difference. But beyond the tempting messaging frameworks, team-wide offsites, and flavor-of-the-month storytelling workshops, is an often overlooked and underserved element of any effective brand messaging strategy: developing a strong brand voice for your organization.
Your brand voice is, simply put, not just what you say, but how you say it. And it turns out how you say it can leave a lasting impression — for better or for worse — with the people you care about reaching most.
We’ve helped many social impact organizations level up their brand messaging, and it’s pretty common for organizations to come to us with an inconsistent, or even non-existent, brand voice. Even if you spend your day thinking about messaging, branding, and communications, it’s not easy to develop a strong voice for your brand.
Through our work, we’ve developed a simple but effective framework for imagining, defining, and implementing a brand voice for our clients. In this article, we’ll break down the key concepts and give you actionable advice for developing your social impact organization’s voice, tone, and personality. We’ve also included a template you can use for reference if you decide to get this work in motion on your own.
Tips on Finding your Brand Voice
The path to finding your brand voice is rarely linear or straightforward. You may need to experiment, iterate, and try a few different approaches before landing on a clear expression of your organization. And even then, it will likely take time for your entire organization to truly settle in and feel comfortable and confident in your brand voice, especially across multiple team members and channels.
Below, we offer some best practices and guidelines that can help to get you started and make the process more structured and effective.
Start with Inspiration
A great way to break through the initial challenge and get some momentum is to start collecting examples of brands with a strong voice or message that resonates with you. Of course, you should ultimately strive to find your own voice. But like all good musicians, artists, or creatives, finding your voice can initially be guided by having a diverse set of inspiration to draw from.
Save yourself time by avoiding the temptation to scour the internet for official voice guides. A brand with a strong voice is self-evident across their marketing and communication channels. Find snippets of website copy, social posts, articles, or talks from brands that inspire you and collect them. They don’t need to be the exact right direction for your organization (remember, you are trying to create something unique for your brand) as long as they are clear and effective references. Look outside the social impact sector for inspiration, too. Some of the strongest brands are likely in a different sector, and that’s ok!
This process will help you dial in initial paths to explore when working to develop your own brand voice and see where there is alignment and misalignment within your organization’s stakeholders.