The strongest brand is not just about what is seen. It is just as much about what is said.

Successful branding for professional services firms requires an effective fusion of both visual and verbal identities. How you appear to your audience must closely align with how you address that audience.

A compelling verbal identity that is crafted to amplify the visual aspects of your brand will differentiate your firm from the competition. That verbal identity includes everything from your firm’s name, slogan and tagline to the word choice and tone found in any written or spoken content: blog posts, thought leadership, speeches, videos, advertisements, social media posts, biographies and web pages.

Establishing a clear verbal identity and brand voice is essential requires self reflection. Are you presenting your firm as a sage to your clients? Do you want to be seen as the firm with the most creative solutions? Or that you would heroically go to the ends of the earth for your customers?

Whatever your positioning, it demands a specific language. And when that language is repeated everywhere throughout the organization, it’s powerful.

Let’s explore how you can ensure that your firm is clearly communicating its verbal brand identity. Here are some practical steps you can take to make sure you are seamlessly aligning your verbal and visual identity and creating an overall personality the outside world will recognize.

1. Understand your firm’s essence.

Who are you, what do you do and who do you do it for? Those are essential first questions to ask. They are vital for clearly establishing your firm’s verbal identity.

What is the essence of your firm? It’s not necessarily your culture, which is more about your firm as a workplace. Your firm’s essence is about how you work. How do you collaborate with clients? How do you approach problems? How does your work differ from the competition?

Discovering your true essence requires specific exercises, but it will provide you with a clearer framework for deciding on a distinct brand voice and verbal identity.

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2. Gather input from stakeholders at all levels.

Determining your firm’s verbal brand should be an inclusive exercise, tapping into the collective of your organization rather than a select few.

Draw on perspectives from a variety of departments, backgrounds and tenure. What words do stakeholders use when talking about the work you do?

And make sure to solicit input from clients. How do they describe your firm? How does it differ from your peer firms? What in their language sets you apart?

3. Align your visuals with your voice—early.

Professional services firms undergoing a rebranding often become initially preoccupied with the visual elements, and they overlook the importance of establishing verbal identity before design.

They’re in a rush. They want to see designs around placeholder “lorem ipsum” copy—or just write something in haste in order to get to the visual reveal as quickly as possible. That approach leads to visuals that are disconnected from or at odds with your verbal identity, which creates an overall brand that misses the mark.

How would a flashy, cutting-edge design with moving graphics and bright colors work for a firm with a historically conservative approach and a reputation for careful, accurate and deliberate work?

Establishing a strong verbal brand ahead of the design phase creates a foundation upon which the visual elements can be constructed.

4. Get your brand voice guidelines in writing.

Most firms will have a core set of “brand guidelines,” which is the fonts, color palettes, iconography, guidelines for photography usage, logo usage—anything visual.

But verbal brand guidelines are frequently overlooked. There may be an agreement that your firm uses the Chicago Manual or AP Style when determining how text should appear. But rarely does anything go deeper than that.

Consider: How do you refer to customers? Are they guests? Partners? Patrons? Owners?

Do you use industry jargon or speak in plain terms?

What words or phrases do you frequently use when pitching clients? What are some things you would never say?

Your firm’s verbal brand identity should be codified in writing and shared widely throughout your firm. People come and go, so it’s especially important that there is documentation. Ideally, these verbal guidelines would live alongside your visual documentation and be easily accessible. One solution is to create a digital asset management system to hold both.

Done properly, verbal identity guidelines should evolve over time and become part of the legacy of your firm.

5. Be consistent across all channels.

Speaking with one distinct verbal identity to multiple audiences in a variety of formats can be tricky, especially when there are multiple speakers and innumerable outlets.

But it’s important to have a unified verbal identity so your clients and prospects will instantly recognize your firm no matter where they hear or read about it.

Whether you’re addressing them in a blog post, a video on YouTube or in a client mailing, if you’re operating within your guidelines, your message will be amplified.

6. Echo your verbal identity internally.

Nowhere should your firm’s verbal identity be stronger than in your internal communications.

Where better to reinforce how you talk about yourself? From PowerPoint presentations to newsletters to company-wide announcements, remaining on message and on point with your verbal identity creates powerful familiarity that will ripple outward into the marketplace.

7. Appoint a brand voice ambassador.

Finally, you need to identify someone who can act as your brand’s keeper of the flame. They should be ever vigilant, making sure standards are followed both inside and outside the firm.

Give them the authority to enforce the verbal brand standards, correct instances where content has gone astray and socialize the verbal identity throughout the firm.

Left to fend for itself, your verbal identity will become indistinct, relapse into old habits or simply fade away altogether.

The Right Agency Can Help You Find Your Verbal Identity

Developing a strong verbal identity is a little like building a muscle to its maximum strength vs. a muscle that’s only slightly toned. The more your verbal identity is flexed throughout your content, the stronger your brand will become.

As an agency that knows how to bring together visual and verbal brand identity, we help firms leverage their brand to maximum strength so that 1+1=10.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Decker Design can craft your firm’s identity, let’s talk.

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