BlogathonATX — Exploring Online Voice
April 28, 2012
I’m at BlogathonATX today, learning a ton and getting inspired to post here more regularly (we’ll see how that works out in reality).
Right now, Crystal R. R. Edwards is discussing long-term blogging, including changing one’s voice, keeping an editorial calendar, and dealing with burnout. I’m particularly intrigued by the question of voice. In fact, I’m developing a workshop on developing a distinctive online voice for WordCamp Austin 2012 (May 19th).
Crystal emphasizes that there’s a difference between point of view and voice. Point of view is where you’re coming from, the sum of all you are and understand about the world. Voice, on the other hand, is the style and tone and attitude that you bring to a particular piece of writing. It’s what readers “hear” when they read your work. Voice is not set in stone–it evolves and shifts to suit different audiences or your changing point of view. But voice also has a core of “you-ness” to it that remains consistent. It is the thing that comes out of the natural rhythm of your personal style of thinking and communicating. It is distinctive and identifiable on a very subtle level. So, just like you might feel different and take on a different attitude when you’re wearing a sexy little black dress and stiletto heels than you do when you’re wearing your favorite comfy jeans and a faded t-shirt, you can slip on a different voice in your writing and still be very identifiably you.
It behooves us as writers to analyze our own writing often to discover what that core voice is in order to embrace it and build on it so that readers feel the authenticity of the writing and become loyal to our work. “Authenticity” is an overused buzz word right now, as is “personal branding.” But there’s a reason for that; social media is bringing us all closer together while in a way pushing us farther apart. There’s a difference between true connection that leads to action and relationships and a brush-by in a crowd. To a degree, our personal and professional lives cannot be separated in an online, highly social world. All some people will ever know of me will be my online presence–the words I type or the videos and photos I post. My online voice, therefore, is my most powerful tool for making connections and gaining new clients.
In other words, voice is an under-appreciated piece of personal and professional branding that needs attention and nurturing in the same way as every other aspect of one’s presentation to the world does. If you spend days or weeks carefully setting up a logo, a web page, headshots, graphics, business cards, marketing collateral, and more, why wouldn’t you spend a similar amount of time and attention on your voice? Don’t lose clicks and customers by putting sloppy copy out there in your name, on any channel.