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Don’t Talk Like a Cop: 4 Reasons Your Brand Needs a Unique Voice

Flying Hippo

By Flying Hippo

Police officers have a fascinating way of talking to the public. You might notice this on TV news.

For instance: Let’s say two people were fighting on a street corner one night and peeled off in their cars when the cops came. If the story ends up on the news the next day, and the officer gets interviewed, he’d say something to the effect of:

The people of interest had an altercation and fled the scene at a high rate of speed.

But what does that statement even mean? Can someone flee at a low rate of speed? Is an altercation a fistfight, a shouting match or a pillow fight? More importantly, has anyone ever spoken like that in real life?


American law enforcement has a very rigid tone of voice that frequently eschews clarity for formality. This tone of voice puts up a wall between the public and officers, and really breaks down trust — what sounds professional to cops sounds plastic and inauthentic to everyone else.

In 2013, the UK government released a guide to help government officials (police included) combat this breakdown in communication. It’s a simple framework to help police and government employees talk to the public in a more understandable way. It encourages officials to be brisk, informative and concise without becoming “a faceless machine.”

Having a voice guide like this can help your brand become more relatable, ensure consistency among multiple content creators and stand out among your competitors.

Not yet convinced? Here are four more reasons why your brand needs a concise voice.

You’re Consistent

There are umpteen places where your company voice could be used. Marketing brochures, blogs, Facebook posts, signs outside of your business — pretty much anywhere where you talk about yourself.

And if you talk like Andy Sipowicz in one place and Eddie Murphy in another, your customers will be a little suspicious. If you can’t figure out who your company is, how can you expect your customers to feel the same?

More than that, your marketing assets are not likely to be written by one person exclusively. By having clear guidelines on your company voice, a team of writers can create content based around an identical voice without ambiguity.

There’s a Clear Tone and Voice

MailChimp is an awesome email marketing service that we use frequently. It’s easy to use and intuitive, but, like most everything, you’re bound to run into problems if you don’t know what you’re doing. For people who send a lot of emails, breaking an email compliance rule or getting a hundred bounced emails can be a huge time and money sponge.

While MailChimp has a jocular, fun voice (it has a chimp named Freddie cracking jokes on the front page), it can delve into some not-so-fun topics. Its voice stays pretty much the same, but its tone pivots based on what the user is feeling at any given time. To help writers understand the tenuousness between tone and voice, MailChimp created a page to show how the two are correlated.

The gap between the two can get a bit blurry, but MailChimp’s chief content strategist Kate Kiefer Lee explains it this way:

When I’m explaining (tone and voice) to people, I think it helps to put it in a conversational context. For example, I might use one tone of voice when I’m talking to the president, and I might use a much more casual tone when I’m talking to my husband or a child. I use maybe a really playful tone if I’m joking around with somebody or delivering good news, and a more serious and calm tone to talk to someone who is upset or angry or I’m delivering bad news. That same theory goes for our content.

Buyer Personas

If you’re marketing to customers, it’s important to market to them consistently. And if you’re marketing to them at all, you should know who your customers are. That’s where buyer personas fit in.

Buyer personas are stereotypes of your customer base designed around interviews that you’ve conducted with them. What are their pain points? What do they need that you can fulfill for them? How did they find you? By specializing your content to each of these personas, you’re further pinpointing your audience and tailoring yourself to how they communicate and like to be communicated to.

It’s Relatable

Your business is a living, breathing entity that changes on a day-to-day basis. While your product offerings — and maybe even the way you do business — may change, even the toughest times can’t strip away your sense of style. Your customers can relate to that.

Instead of setting your business up as a “faceless machine,” a clear brand voice makes your company easily relatable. Having a brand voice opens up a world of opportunity for companies looking to set themselves apart.

Photos courtesy autohistorian and istolethetv via Flickr Creative Commons



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