In content marketing, it’s an important but little-discussed topic: When collaborating on an article with a client, how do we capture their voice?
After all, when we work with a client, we usually work on more than just articles with them. We represent them across all public appearances, including interviews, podcasts, webinars and speaking engagements. We want to ensure that anything we write remains consistent with that person’s voice and their preferred presentation manner.
Let’s look more closely at that process.
The Little Things Matter
A client once reviewed one of our collaborative content efforts and remarked, “There are a lot of contractions in there. I do not use contractions when presenting to my audience.”
At first, I wondered how I was going to check for this. Some of the articles, after all, would stretch to 1,500 words or more. It turned out to be a simple fix: Before submitting, I always do a “command F” search for apostrophes, since every contraction will contain one. During the search, I’ll find each contraction and turn it into a two-word phrasing. The client has never had to bring up the issue since.
With this in mind, here are four best practices I use to help capture an SME’s voice and/or preferred writing style:
Listen. It may sound obvious. In many cases, content professionals are too focused on reading from a “script” of questions instead of listening closely to the SME.
This frequently results in a lack of strong follow-up questions that can bring greater substance and depth to an article. With respect to capturing the SME’s voice, it hurts as well because you’re “checking the boxes” with your list of questions rather than trying to get a sense of how your SME speaks.
I find it helps to record client conversations to go back and listen later. Not only can you ensure the accuracy of information, but it provides an extra opportunity to pick up on personality traits and speaking tendencies that can be used in the article.
Read their prior articles. There’s no better way to develop an understanding of how an SME likes to convey his or her voice than read their prior writing, right? I’ll call up prior blogs and trade press bylines. This helps assess whether they prefer short sentences and paragraphs or long ones, conversational and/or even humorous asides or a very serious tone, colorful analogies or straightforward presentation.
Review their edits closely. Whenever I get an edited draft from a client, I examine each change carefully. Did the SME make a conversational sentence more formal? Did he or she insert certain keywords repeatedly? Did he or she add “sizzle,” such as taking a more fiery, controversial stand in the interest of stirring up debate? This helps show more how the client wants to be presented, providing guidance for not only that article but future ones as well.
Understand their audience. “Know your audience” is the first rule of content marketing strategy. Connecting to the target audience is essential. With tech articles, the SME’s voice shouldn’t “sound” the same for an audience of C-suite executives as it would for programmers. We work with SMEs to identify the people they’re trying to reach and develop a written voice that will best appeal to these readers.
We’re Here to Help
At W2 Communications, our Content Development division produces hundreds of published blogs, white papers, bylined articles, etc. every year. These efforts have resulted in our winning literally a dozen MarCom Awards in the last three years – including six “platinum” or “gold” awards. Our attention to detail in capturing our client’s voice in a compelling and creative manner has contributed to our success. If this sounds like something you’d like to see more of in the content you position to target audiences, then please contact us.