I’ve been taking creative writing classes and one of the topics we discussed in class recently has stuck in my mind.
The topic is characterisation and the different ways to create and portray a character in a story. Our tutor mentioned that we should always be aware of the language we use when speaking in a character’s voice. For example, imagine a character in a story; let’s call him Jim. Jim runs a bakery in a village. It’s a small business and it was handed down to him by his father who had set it up. Jim has always lived in that village, and has lived in the same house for 30 years. He doesn’t travel or follow the news and his formal education ended at 14 when he started helping his dad out in the bakery.
Don’t be jarring
Picture a scene where Jim, over a pint in the pub across the road, is talking with a group of friends who, like Jim, were born in the same village and have lived there all their lives. He’s telling them how quiet business has become since the arrival in the village of a major supermarket with its large on-site bakery. Is it likely that he’ll launch into a long and in-depth tirade about macroeconomics, using jargon that only those who have studied macroeconomics would use? Would that way of speaking ring true for his character, given what we know about Jim? Would it jar with readers or come across as the author spouting his or her own views and using Jim as a mouthpiece?
Let’s apply this to your small business blog. When talking to your audience through your blog posts are you being yourself? Are you being authentic? How can you tell?
What is your voice?
Your voice or the way you speak (and write) is unique to you. It’s part of your identity and can give your audience vital information about who you are and what you stand for. Yes, your message is important, of course it is, but how you convey your message is one of the ways your audience decides whether or not to stick around, come back for more or go elsewhere.
Going back to the example of Jim the baker, imagine him delivering his long monologue on macroeconomics. How would it be received by his friends? Any number of negative scenarios could play out. His friends might start to wonder what is wrong with him; this isn’t the Jim they know and understand. They might become bored and change the topic. Or they might vote with their feet and leave because there are other things they’d rather spend their time doing.
The same can apply to you and your business blog. Be who you are and speak in a way that is natural to you, and of course, get help if your content needs to be edited, but make sure that whoever edits it doesn’t change your voice and the tone of what you’re trying to convey.
One way to check for your voice is to read your blog posts out loud, or ask someone else to. You will immediately see any problems and stumble over anything that isn’t natural.
Use your experience
Part of who you are as a small business owner comes from your experience – and that experience could be professional or personal. All your experiences count in some way, whether positively or otherwise, for example a bad experience provides a useful learning curve and can show you not to do something a certain way, if at all, or how to do it in a way that gets better results.
Allow yourself to explore those experiences and use them to inspire you with your blog posts. Those experiences may not necessarily be ones from the dim and distant past, they could be recent and if so, even better. Using them makes you more human and more relateable.
Have a viewpoint
Another element that shapes your voice is your opinion. What are your views about the topics/services/products your small business covers? How are your views relevant to your target audience?
In other words, what do you stand for?
Although no-one will be beating down your door (or anyone else’s!) to read bland content that they can find anywhere, this isn’t an open invitation to simply vent or rant about anything and everything that takes your fancy ‘just because’. But it is a good opportunity to show what you care about and are passionate about and how you’re going to use the impetus of that passion to help solve a problem for your audience.
Your experience and knowledge will also shape your views, so even if you do decide, from time to time, to create content that allows you to rant (sparingly), you’ll be doing so from an informed position – with a carefully crafted slant that will drive your audience sit up, take notice, take action and understand what you do and why.
Finally, remember that not everyone will like or relate to your voice. That’s fine, because it means that they aren’t on the same wavelength as you. Plenty of other people are though.
>>> What steps are you taking to use your authentic voice in your business blog?