Brand Voice: Does Yours Have One?
April 1, 2022
Your brand’s voice is the language you use to connect with key audiences and nurture relationships. Just as compelling imagery creates a brand look, your brand voice reveals its personality. A consistent voice will foster trust, build recognition and let your audience know what your brand stands for. In a cluttered world that competes for audience attention, your voice should stand out, resonate with your audience and keep them engaged with your platforms. Inconsistency leads to confusion and a lack of clarity about what your brand represents, who you are trying to reach and what your goals are.
Three things can help you build and maintain brand voice consistency:
- Build a persona for your brand’s voice: Describe the attitude, vocabulary and tone that should inform your messaging. Are you direct and authoritative to attract a corporate leadership audience, or warm and inviting to achieve a more approachable vibe? Consider what should be said as well as what should not. Consistency and authenticity are key.
- Create and publish a style guide: Based on your audience persona, prepare a guide that includes a well-defined and easily accessible set of verbiage guidelines. Publish and share the guide with your team to help maintain voice consistency throughout all communication.
- Audit your communications: The only way you will know if your brand’s voice is consistent is to audit your collateral materials and digital footprint, making necessary adjustments. Your style guide will keep you on track. Occasionally, your approach may require a gradual reset.
Is Your Website ADA Compliant?
January 10, 2022
ADA Standards for Accessible Design call for all electronic information and technology to be accessible to those with disabilities. While we embrace guidance that will enhance inclusivity, it’s important to note that recently there has been an increase in lawsuits for non-compliant websites.
ADA compliance standards for websites are continually developing, and there are many gray areas regarding what is considered compliant and the ramifications for not meeting requirements. We recommend that you:
- Ask your website developer to perform an ADA audit at least once a year to ensure the fundamentals for ADA compliance are part of your design. If not, it’s time to implement them.
- In addition, review ADA compliance standards and best practices within your sector/industry, and make sure you are aligned. These can vary widely.
- Make sure your website is operating on a platform that assists with ADA compliance. The majority of NouSoma’s website designs operate on WordPress, where many basic ADA compliance standards are built in, and all new or updated code is intended to conform with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Beware the Image Police
October 28, 2021
It’s easier than ever to access stunning stock photos for social media, e-blasts, websites and collateral materials. But it’s critical to recognize whether the image is royalty free or copyright protected. Even if images appear free, they may require a license fee. Using them without paying the fee can have big financial consequences later.
Software designed to detect unauthorized image usage is resulting in a spike in notices to collect fees plus penalties. While some are perfectly legitimate, others are not. We all know that it’s important to respect and protect an artist’s rights. Here’s how to make sure you comply, as well as protect yourself from scammers:
- Maintain a log of every image downloaded, date purchased or downloaded, and how and where it was used.
- Document what you paid for the image. If you paid nothing, document evidence that it was indeed free.
- Double check the usage guidelines. There are restrictions.
Another tip: Since the pandemic began, many event organizers have gotten out of the habit of posting an event on Facebook. Why not give them a heads up to resume the practice? Everyone wins.
Work That Sponsorship
August 5, 2021
Events are back. If you’re sponsoring them, why not let others know about your community support? Here’s a much-overlooked way to notify people:
- Go to the Facebook page of the organization that you’re supporting.
- Click on the “Events” tab and find the event you’re sponsoring.
- To show your individual support, click the “Interested” button.
- To show your company support, click the “Add to page” option.
Another tip: Since the pandemic began, many event organizers have gotten out of the habit of posting an event on Facebook. Why not give them a heads up to resume the practice? Everyone wins.
Meet People Where They Are
June 23, 2021
When it comes to showing your audience that you have credible, third-party validation, an appearance in the Philadelphia Inquirer is impressive… but it’s no longer enough.
You must meet your audience where they are. In addition to traditional media and advertising appearances, you might do a Facebook Live interview with a local influencer, connect with a community blogger or get a social media mention from a niche celebrity. In some cases, these platforms can reach more of your target audience.
- Perform a quick audit to make sure a new marketing platform is credible and aligned with your brand. Will it resonate with your audience or alienate it?
- Diversify your portfolio. While you’re booking your first podcast interview, make sure you’re appearing in local news outlets as well. Your audience is everywhere.
- Embrace change. If there’s a marketing platform your audience trusts, it’s worth your time to see if it’s a good fit, or if there’s a better alternative.
What Makes a Story?
May 19, 2021
What makes a story worth telling on your website, social media, e-newsletters, presentations and more? Here’s what’s resonating right now:
- Original thought leadership
- Identifying a trend
- Original research, statistics, survey results
- How to solve a problem, or do something more efficiently
- How is your company returning to normal, or better than normal? How are you helping others to do so?
- Compelling graphics, photos and video
- Social impact: How are you driving progress in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion in your company or community?
- Does your news affect your reader or their community?
Local News or Disinformation?
April 16, 2021
Recently, the media has been reporting on a surge in disinformation websites that appear to be legitimate local news sites.
NouSoma is all too familiar with them. Over the past year or two, we have been vetting more interview requests from so-called news organizations for our clients. Often the names of the websites sound “newsy,” and the “reporters” sound like journalists. But a closer look can reveal they have no credible experience, and the companies backing their websites have a hidden agenda.
For all clients, this can pose a public relations risk. For clients who participate in activities where nonpartisanship is valued, the stakes are even higher.
Should you be approached by anyone claiming to write for any content platform, we advise:
- No immediate conversation or e-mailed responses to questions, no matter how innocuous
- Take a pause and ask for more info on the story they’re covering & who they’re covering it for
- Look up the LinkedIn profiles of the reporter and their editors to see if they have credible journalistic experience
- Take a deeper dive into their websites
- Determine whether to grant the interview or politely decline
- Inform all staffers about the risks of such inquiries, including anyone who answers phone calls
If You Can’t See It, Can You Be It?
March 11, 2021
If the images in your company’s creative materials don’t include people or lifestyle settings that reflect your audience’s own situations, then they won’t ring true.
It takes time and thought to consider what is meaningful to your specific audience. That means carefully considering diversity and inclusiveness when selecting images. There are many variables to consider, and you may never get it 100% right. But we should certainly aim for it.
- Are elders portrayed stereotypically? Reflect them excelling at their full potentials.
- Are physically or mentally challenged individuals included? If so, focus on what they can achieve rather than what they can’t.
- Are you reflecting diversity, which could include age, race, religion and sexual orientation?
- Are leadership roles distributed equitably?
- Are body types believable? Strive to include a realistic reflection of heights and weights.
Social Media Refresh
January 14, 2021
With the exception of companies that are typically entrenched in social media (entertainment, retail and restaurants), for most small- to mid-sized companies, here’s a good social media rule of thumb:
Don’t underestimate, but don’t overcomplicate.
If you’re spending too much time on social media, with disappointing outcomes, you’re likely to neglect it or give up altogether. If you’re not spending enough time on social media, you’re missing out on an effective (and free) marketing tool.
We suggest you revisit your goals. For instance, keeping associates or clients engaged; showcasing your culture and community outreach; creating an outlet to provide thought leadership. Then, depending on your resources, set realistic expectations for the number of posts per week and plan a content calendar accordingly.
- Quality photos with effective cropping are not optional. They’re essential.
- Tag people and organizations. This is crucial to expanding your audience.
- Update your banners and artwork quarterly.
- The most popular posts are related to community outreach and people.
- In general, only about 1 in 5 posts should directly promote a product or service.
State Your Business
November 4, 2020
Question: Does your company’s website clearly state what your company actually does?
The knee-jerk answer is, “Of course!” But take a moment to check your home page and see if that’s really true.
We find that as businesses redesign their websites, marketing brochures or refresh their brands, it is all too easy to get caught up in the cleverness or creativity of the process. What you do – and the services you offer – should always be front and center. Clearly and immediately.
Once you’ve captured what you do in a concise tag line or sentence for your home page, why not expand on it? Prepare a paragraph on what your company does, when you were founded and who you serve. Called “boilerplate,” this paragraph can be utilized in the “About” section of your website and social media pages, placed at the end of press releases and included in proposals. You can also use it to help you concisely describe your business when networking.
July 27, 2020
When a situation escalates to emergency status, you have a crisis on your hands. That can encompass anything from an employee testing positive for COVID-19, to a disparaging social media post or a damaging allegation. Having a crisis plan ensures you respond in an effective manner, and reduce repercussions to your brand and bottom line.
First, assemble a crisis management team that includes your leadership, legal counsel – and don’t forget! – your marketing/social media team. Why? Even if a potentially damaging event appears to have nothing to do with marketing, the fallout may already be happening in the news and on social media. Your marketing team has a direct line to public response, and they need to be in step with the overall response plan.
• Designate a person who takes the lead on managing any crisis communications (preparing copy with consistent messaging, or managing the person who will).
• Set up an e-mail list with all participants who must know about the crisis immediately, including your marketing/social media team. Provide an overview, outline possible consequences, and hold a meeting to discuss. Even if this group ultimately decides not to communicate on a crisis with your clients, customers or the wider public, your marketing/social media team should be aware.
• Set up a process of approval for crisis communications, including legal review by your attorney.
Taking a Stance on Social Issues
July 14, 2020
It is more important than ever for businesses and organizations to demonstrate an action-driven responsibility to their communities.
Not taking a stance on social issues can suggest that you are comfortable with the status quo or even indifferent. However, taking a public position on an issue without evidence of past or current commitment can be viewed as a marketing gimmick and may result in intense negative feedback.
We ask clients to consider the following guidelines.
- Is the issue specifically connected to your mission? If yes, then participation is most likely warranted. If not, participation should be more thoroughly vetted.
- Has your company historically shared public perspective on social issues? Should you?
- Are your employees supportive of and in alignment with the perspective you will bring to the conversation?
- What expectations do your clients/consumers have of your company to take a lead in social issues? (previously and currently)
- If you decide to take a public stance on this issue, will you be prepared to tackle other social issues that arise?
- Will your comments alienate any of your clients/consumers or personnel?
- Can your company demonstrate your own past actions or connection with this issue?
- Does your company have the ability to support its statements with current or future actions on this issue?
- Do you have the ability to create a communication for website, social media and eblast that is:
- Clear in its intent
- Thoughtful in its research and actions leading up to the communication
- Supported by a legitimate plan of action
- Are you sharing a perspective that is for the common good of your community, your people and your constituents?
Timing of your message should be carefully considered. If your organization is a thought leader on a particular subject, you may want to take a public lead in adding to the conversation. Otherwise, input should be provided in a timely manner, only after vetting the situation to determine if it fits your criteria. Real and meaningful is more important than “fast.”
Going Green with Video
June 24, 2020
Every time you take a photo, ask yourself this: Could it be a short video instead?
When it comes to social media, we know that video outperforms photo posts in many cases. But now video is even more essential to connection, and it’s one of the best ways to welcome back your customers during the green phase of reopening.
Each social media video should show how you’ve refreshed and prepared for reopening. Ideas:
- Take a 5-second video panning your lobby with chairs spaced apart for social distancing.
- Capture a couple of staffers waving and smiling for 3 seconds, 6 feet apart.
- Walk up to the front door of your business, open it and walk in.
- Zoom in and hover above any of your products for 3-4 seconds.
Each video can be captured with your cell phone, shooting horizontally for the best display. And make sure there aren’t any conversations going on in the background (unless you want to share them!)
Once you’ve settled back into the green phase, don’t forget to call your favorite videographer to assist you with a more professional video for your website. NouSoma also supports production of these projects.
Restore Chester County Webinar
June 11, 2020
NouSoma Communications was pleased to be a panelist during a free webinar for Chester County businesses and organizations looking to reopen, revise or even expand operations due to the impact of the coronavirus. NouSoma’s President, Ellen Langas, presented on marketing strategies that establish relevancy as well as building consumer confidence. Here is the PowerPoint from her presentation, and here is the webinar video ICYMI.
May 28, 2020
As we reopen or revise business operations in time for Pennsylvania’s yellow phase on June 5th, consider the chief concern for your clients and customers:
What can I expect when I visit your business?
Be sure to have a prominent message on your website’s home page that provides visitors with guidance and assurance of the precautions you have in place. Make timely updates, and do the same with professional window or in-house signage.
We recommend you brief your staff to provide those who call with yellow phase information. Or, record a friendly outgoing message that provides that information, before calls are transferred to a receptionist. Modify your on-hold, after hours and busy messages similarly.
Finally, add yellow phase info to the “About” section of your company’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages, along with timely postings.
Top tip: For industry-specific guidelines on how to reopen or revise your business, visit RestoreChesterCounty.org.
Suddenly on Camera
May 14, 2020
Have you noticed that some folks look like pros during virtual meetings and webinars? NouSoma has always provided training for on-camera media appearances and speeches. Now we support Zoom and other communications with these tips for becoming an on-camera rock star:
Eye contact – It’s natural to focus on your computer screen, but when you’re speaking, look directly into your camera, just as you would make eye contact in person.
Notes – If you’re using them, make sure they’re propped next to your screen or camera, as close as possible. Now your eyes won’t stray.
Center yourself – Center yourself and adjust the distance so that only your head and shoulders are visible. It’s okay to be slightly off center if you have a logo behind you and want to make sure it’s not popping out of your head.
Camera angle – To avoid unflattering angles, situate your screen so your eyes are at the same level as the camera.
Lighting – Ideally, natural or lamp lighting should come from behind your screen. Adjusting your screen brightness can also provide additional light. Avoid back lighting, which will darken your image.
Background – Uploading a virtual background is so 4 weeks ago :-). For more formal presentations, sit in front of a wall or shelves displaying your branding. For casual meetings, people know you’re at home but they don’t want to see a headboard or playroom behind you. The easiest option is to pick a wall in a solid color that complements your hair and skin.
Let’s Talk About Your Voice
May 6, 2020
Business is not operating as usual, so your voice mail message shouldn’t be “the usual” either.
If your personal cell phone is currently serving as your office phone, make sure you update it with a less casual voice that clearly states who you are, who you work for, and that you will respond ASAP.
For your main office’s company-wide voice mail, consider the following template for the first week back in your office space:
Thank you for calling XYZ Company. Our offices are now open for business Monday through Friday between the hours of 9am and 5pm, with elevated precautions to provide a healthy environment. We’re sorry we missed your call while we are assisting other clients. Please hold and we will be with you as soon as possible. [Please leave a message along with your name and number, and we will return your call as soon as possible.]
Make sure the voice on your message provides a positive reflection of your brand. It should be friendly and credible, yet soothing in these times. For an example, check out NouSoma’s founder, Ellen Langas, as “the voice of QVC” when you call their order line. We routinely refresh phone system messages for clients.
Get Growing: Overcoming the Stages of COVID-19 Grief
April 30, 2020
As an entrepreneur or a leader of a small business, it’s understandable to have the urge to hunker down and weather the storm. But first, let’s address the elephant in the room: We are grieving. Our companies are our babies, and some of us spend more time with them than we do with our kids!
We’ve nurtured them, dropped enough cash to put them through college, and hope to pass the baton to the next generation. Covid-19 was a sucker punch that pulled the rug out from under our feet when we were at a full run.
While I’m an optimist at heart, I’ve always been a proponent of acknowledging grief and even wallowing in it — for a short while. It helps, especially when you’ve worked hard and done nothing wrong. Over the past weeks, I’ve become acquainted with every stage of grief, and not in any particular order.
For most of us, it started with shock and an abrupt decline in business. Denial allowed us that sliver of hope to think that the setback would be short-lived, until we learned that was not the case. Then we landed squarely into the bargaining phase. For business, that means perhaps trying to lower rent rates and negotiating with vendors. As leaders, some of us felt guilt, especially if forced to furlough valued employees. And the anger phase was not hard to miss. Will we ever see payroll protection dollars come our way? But after acknowledging these forms of grief, we must emerge ready to embrace the stages of acceptance and hope. After all, that’s what small business is all about. We will never forget, but we can come to grips with the situation, make a plan and move forward.
My company’s plan started by convening my anxious team via Zoom (our new best friend) to focus on the months ahead. After addressing our internal needs by reinforcing the team’s job security and creating a routine of internal communications that would keep us motivated and connected, we determined that the key to surviving the crisis came down to two key concepts: The ability to pivot and focusing outward.
We discussed the situation of each of our clients, considered their specific pain points and generated ideas about how we could best support them. Then we reached out to them to discuss those same questions and provide a pro bono brainstorming session specific to their current needs. During those conversations, we uncovered five key opportunities to embrace during challenging times. These industry-spanning ideas are ones you might utilize to interact with your own clients or incorporate into your company. They aren’t product or service specific; they are people specific. And while you tend to your business at hand, these are simple steps to help keep your company top of mind with clients, boost morale and stay connected.
- Pick up the phone (yes, the phone), call clients and ask how they are doing personally and professionally. Determine if you can provide support.
- Send an email or handwritten note to stay in touch. Real mail makes a big impact in a virtual society.
- Send periodic (and short!) industry updates via personal e-mail or formatted e-blast including relevant tips, news and info about products and services.
- Schedule a webinar regarding your latest technology, product or service.
- This is a pivotal period in your company’s lifespan, and it’s critical to set the tone inside and out.
- Support those in need either as a group, or by highlighting individual employee efforts. For example, designate a day for team members and/or neighbors to leave non-perishable goods outside, and have one person pick them up and deliver them to a local food bank or pantry.
- Take photos to share on social media and in your e-blasts.
- So much has changed in just a few weeks and your social media profile should reflect those changes. Now is the ideal time for team members to refresh their LinkedIn profiles with the updated services they are providing to adapt to the times.
- Prepare a byline article on your expertise. Submit it for publication, post it to the company blog and share via social platforms.
Internal Connection and Morale Boosters
- Host a weekly online lunch ‘n learn via Zoom with your staff. Everyone shares what they’re eating at their kitchen tables, then get down to work.
- Boost proficiency in technology or industry knowledge by encouraging continuing ed if team members have down time. (Employees can share what they learn at the lunch ‘n learn sessions.)
- Show appreciation. Send greeting cards or small care packages to employees, and highlight accomplishments with some fanfare.
- Review marketing materials and the company website to confirm they reflect branding that is accurate, consistent and up to date. (A lot has changed in just a few weeks!)
- Update e-blast and snail mail contact lists.
- Purge outdated physical and electronic files.
These ideas can help you maintain momentum and help your team relieve the angst that comes with navigating uncharted territory—all while staying connected with clients and community. Just like grieving, business recovery is a process that takes time. Wishing you health, perseverance, and hope as we strive to get back to business.
Ramping Up to Reopen
April 23, 2020
Now is the time to consider communications for reopening your physical office space. Start by identifying your preferred platforms (e-blast, website, social media, snail mail). Then write a rough draft for each, focusing on the messages that will reconnect you with your audience, as well as the basic info you want to convey. You can fill in the details closer to game time.
While you’re at it, plan to have staff on deck in case you receive extra phone calls your first week back, and record a customized “on hold” message, just in case, that announces your staff is in the office and outlines the safety precautions you’re taking. (We’ll have more tips on this next week!)
Finally, why not prepare an upbeat “welcome back” video for social media? Have employees record brief messages on their cell phones, then string them together.
Hiding from Zoom?
April 15, 2020
When we could interact in person, it was okay to occasionally turn off your webcam & stick to audio during a Zoom meeting.
Now that we rely on virtual meetings, the ability to skillfully use Zoom shows you’ve been able to adapt during a crisis.
If you’re not feeling comfortable and want to practice, try setting up a 20-minute lunch & learn Zoom session with your team. Everyone can receive at-home feedback on their webcam positioning, lighting, mic check, screen sharing, use of slides, muting, gallery view and chat. You can even put everyone in gallery view (grid of faces) to encourage feedback without the pressure of being “close up.” It’s an unexpectedly fun way to overcome any fears, in just a few minutes of time spent together.
Quick tip: Position webcams at eye level or slightly raised, with natural light hitting the front of your face.
Effective Communication During COVID-19
March 31, 2020
As we’ve all learned (sometimes painfully) over the last week or two, communications must be nimble during a crisis. The team at NouSoma has been supporting clients with website news feeds that can be easily updated, day-to-day or hour-by-hour. This creates a valuable resource for your audience, as well as a way to continually drive followers from your social media posts to your website. Be sure to brand it!
NouSoma has been a great fit and find for us. Under the team’s strategic guidance, we have increased brand awareness for our organization and for a number of our initiatives, including gender diversity in the executive suite. We value their team’s attention to detail, follow-up and positive energy.