As a content strategist, my role is to help brands find their voice and refine their messaging. In an agency setting, this can mean channeling the tone of an accounting firm, a cheeky brewery, and an elementary school, all in a day’s work.
It’s enough voices to keep a shrink busy. Like an actor getting into character, it’s important for me to convey my message in a way that matches any other piece of collateral, web copy, or social media posts. Keeping things consistent is key. Ideally, I’d be able to hard focus on one specific client and really embody their brand; but that’s not always possible. As client needs arise, sometimes I find myself shape-shifting, playing the roles of many characters, all before 5 p.m.
Before transitioning to work for another client, I find it pertinent to reorient myself. With any client, we have them fill out a brand landscape for us to truly get a sense of who they are, in their own words. Then, we lead an Understand Your Brand Workshop for us to get a clearer picture of styles, moods, and words they feel best fit their brand. These tools are invaluable to me when getting back into character. I typically work with these documents readily available, to reference and pull inspiration from.
In addition to these documents, I like to pull up the client’s website. Even if it’s a client I was working on earlier in the day, the visual components and stylistic cues a website offers can trigger character traits that I need to recall before creating content. I also really like to review whatever content I created for them, most recently. Again, this just puts me back in the mindset to think like them.
At the beginning of a content project, I find most of what I need to know from a client by asking one simple question: Why do you do this work? If I can truly understand their goals, their drive, the thing that keeps them going, I feel like I can then begin to see the brand as a living, breathing entity. This humanizing quality helps me to decipher tone and elevate the brand to the position of purpose. When I understand their purpose, I can begin creating dialogue in my head about how the brand sounds or what it has to say about pertinent topics.
Time and time again, I find people to be the best sources of inspiration. I am fortunate enough to meet with most of our clients face-to-face, so I can hear directly from them who their company is. And the more people, the better. It seems obvious, but they are the brand. They understand it from the inside out, and how they talk about their work begins to color a brand. Hearing from multiple people also helps me to find the overlap, and hone in on those buzz words.
As the voice of a brand, my best tip is a little ironic: be an excellent listener. I try really hard not to interject how I think a brand should be or hear a buzz word and jump to conclusions. I fall back on my journalism degree when meeting with clients, employing the oldest interview trick in the book: just shut up. People inherently fill silences and expand on thoughts, if you just let them. Those second-wind answers are what truly get to the heart of the brand. You just have to listen.
Being able to create content that combines both the soul of the project and the tools to make it successful is such a joy. It fuses my love of people and understanding what makes them light up. It’s a job that makes the daily identity crisis more than worth it.