If it’s been a few years since you last defined and implemented your brand voice across your organization’s content channels, it’s important every so often to conduct a brand voice audit so you can be sure that all of your content is communicating a clear, cohesive, and compelling message. In this article, we:
Define what a brand voice audit is
Explain when a company should undertake an audit
Offer steps you can follow to audit your content for brand voice
Many companies and organizations dedicate the time, effort, and resources to define a brand voice that should be leveraged in content creation, and then entrust their employees with the responsibility of following those brand guidelines.
It’s a smart thing to do, especially when you’ve got multiple people (or multiple teams) all working to create content that speaks to your buyers. You need to be confident that your target audience is receiving the same consistent messaging and tone—regardless of where they happen to be interacting with your brand—because that consistent messaging is what will help you to develop strong emotional connections with prospective buyers.
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But while defining your brand voice is a crucial part of growing your brand, it isn’t the only step. It’s also important that you ensure your brand voice guidelines are being followed. A brand voice audit is one way of doing just that.
What is a brand voice audit?
A brand voice audit is simply a process that an organization undertakes to evaluate its content against its existing brand voice guidelines. These audits are designed to ensure that all content being created and distributed through various channels relay a cohesive message.
Pending the results of the brand voice audit, the organization might decide that all existing content currently embodies the brand voice correctly. If not, however, that content which does not meet the guidelines will then be updated so that it does.
When should you conduct one?
There are many reasons that a business might decide to conduct a brand voice audit. Some examples include:
- When you’ve undergone a brand refresh
- When you’ve just defined your brand voice for the first time, or adjusted it recently
- After adding a number of new content creators to the team
- When migrating a website do to a domain change or redesign
- When you (or a key stakeholder) notices that a piece of content does not match brand voice expectations
That being said, you don’t need to have a reason to conduct an audit. In fact, it’s typically recommended that brands audit their content every 6-24 months as a regular course of action to ensure that everything abides by brand guidelines.
“It’s not enough to conduct an audit once,” says Reuben Yonatan, Founder and CEO of GetVoIP. “An organization changes with time, and you need to account for those changes. Otherwise, your data and brand voice will be inaccurate.”
How to Conduct a Brand Voice Audit
1. Review your existing brand voice guidelines.
Before you set about auditing your content against your brand voice, it’s important to first ensure that you are in fact happy with the brand voice guidelines that exist.
If it’s been a while since you’ve settled your brand voice, go back to your documentation and make sure that it still aligns with your target audience and business goals. If it doesn’t, take the time now to adjust your brand voice guidelines, and then use those updated guidelines to audit your content.
Download our brand voice worksheet to inform your internal discussions!
If you are still happy with your brand voice, ask yourself: Has it been effective? Is it resonating with your target audience? If not, even if you’re personally happy with it, it might be time to consider a change. Revisit your brand voice guidelines with your buyer persona in mind, and adjust it as necessary so that you are positive that the new voice resonates with the type of customer you are trying to attract. Surveys of your existing customer base and other forms of customer research can help.
“It’s important to know what your customers like, because they are the people who will make your business grow and be successful,” says Sandra Matthews, marketing specialist at The Product Analyst. “They are your main priority. So ask yourself: Who are the people who have helped you thrive? Who are your most loyal customers? How do they view your products and your brand?”
In updating your brand voice, make sure that you distribute these updated guidelines to anyone responsible for content creation on your team. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to create a brand voice chart, and to distribute that in your editorial guidelines.
2. Compile all of your content in a centralized place.
Your next step is to bring all of your content together in a single, centralized place so that you will be able to strategically and efficiently evaluate each and every piece. It’s important to remember that this shouldn’t just be your blog posts; it should be all of your content.
- Blog posts
- Images and graphics
- Landing pages
- Calls-to-action (CTAs)
- Website pages
- Social media posts
- Print assets
Naturally, this will result in a large list of content that you will need to review, so a spreadsheet is likely to be your best option for keeping everything organized.
If you already have an up-to-date editorial calendar that you use to keep track of your blog posts, that’s a great place to start. Simply add a tab for each subsequent type of content (landing pages, CTAs, video, etc.) and start compiling.
Don’t have an Editorial Calendar? Download our free template to get started!
As an added bonus, these tabs will make it much easier to audit and keep track of all of your content in the future.
3. Measure your content against your brand voice guidelines.
Now that you’ve got your list of content, you can begin your evaluation. In reviewing each piece of content, ask yourself if it complies with your brand voice guidelines.
If it does, great: No action needs to be taken. Make a note that the content passes review. But if you discover a piece of content that does not comply, you will need to make a note of that and allocate resources to rework the content and bring it up to par.
4. Begin updating your content.
The final step involved will be to actually update any of the content that you feel does not meet your brand voice guidelines.
Depending on how much content you’ve got and how much of it needs to be updated, this can of course feel like a massive undertaking. For this reason, we recommend that you start by prioritizing high-value assets first. Typically, this would be any content at the bottom of the funnel (sales emails, landing pages, important website pages, etc.) as well as any content that is currently performing well (for example, a blog post that ranks well in search and brings your site a lot of traffic).
Another tip is to compartmentalize the content and work through a single category at a time, which can help you stay on track even though you might feel overwhelmed.
“You can’t do everything at once, which is why it’s best to box your ideas and know when it’s appropriate and effective to tackle each box,” says Matthews.
5. Spot check regularly.
Even after you’ve completed your audit and updated all of the affected content, it’s important not to get complacent.
As mentioned above, regularly spot-checking your content by evaluating it against your brand guidelines will help you quickly identify areas of concern, which you can address in an ongoing manner in order to (hopefully) avoid having to repeat a comprehensive audit in the near future.
If at any point you see that you are regularly finding content that does not match your brand voice, or you decide to shift your brand voice in a significant way, that may indicate that it’s time for another full audit.
Remember: A Cohesive Brand Voice Takes a Team
While it’s important to have someone on your team responsible for policing brand voice (whether that person be you or an editorial manager) mitigation should only be a single tool in your belt. A better option is to ensure that everyone responsible for creating content has bought into the importance of maintaining a brand voice. By doing so, you’ll turn each content creator under your watch into a brand voice zealot who will help to remedy inconsistencies before they are even published.
“You should get everyone’s buy-in before you even get started,” says Elliot Brown, director of marketing at OnPay and former content manager for Walmart, SurveyMonkey, and Rocket Lawyer. “At the end of the day, we are all writers (though some of us are better than others), and you’re more likely to get everyone on board if you can explain what you’re doing and show the difference between what’s in the right voice and what’s not.”
Are you ready to define your brand voice, audit your content, and put it into action? Download our brand voice worksheet to get started today!