One of the toughest things for a writer to do is “find their voice.”
The reason it’s tough is because writers are readers. Their minds are filled with hundreds of other voices who have inspired and challenged them throughout their life.
It’s hard to identify your unique voice. But this is important to do. Especially if you hope to stand out from those who surround you.
In order to find your voice, you need to find yourself
At the risk of going all “woo-woo” on you, I will say that finding your voice requires a great amount of self-awareness. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses, your gifts and skills, and your preferences.
It has taken me decades to find my voice. Blame it on my “people-pleasing” tendencies. I developed a knack early in life for anticipating what people wanted and then I’d deliver it.
This comes in handy when tuning in to what a boss wants. But it wasn’t so great for my personal relationships. I finally learned that pleasing others while sacrificing my own values was a recipe for disaster.
Over the years, I applied myself to personal development by taking classes and questionnaires that would assess my strengths. I have paid more attention to my strengths than weaknesses, working to further develop them like an athlete exercises the muscles of her body.
I became comfortable with failure because I reasoned it would ultimately make me stronger by showing me the areas that needed improvement. I realized that advancement in any endeavor only happened with a persistent effort, many times filled with wrong turns and false starts.
It is from the fire of failure that your own voice starts to take shape.
My love affair with heat
The Cowboy and I watched an excellent documentary on the legendary Viking sword, the Ulfberht. In the documentary, a modern swordsmith tried to recreate this amazing sword that appeared centuries before its time.
The process is fascinating. Bits of steel, carbon, and glass are placed in a container and then heated to 3000 degrees for hours before it all melts into the perfect metal base for a sword’s blade.
Heat blends together the elements.
Heat separates the unusable (the “slag”) from the usable.
And this heat needs to happen for a consistent, lengthy amount of time.
In other words, a quality sword made in this fashion doesn’t happen overnight. The crucible phase is only one part. The next is hammering out the metal into the shape of a blade, constantly keeping it hot so the metal remains malleable.
It is the necessary journey one must take to reach the perfection of a polished blade.
So what does this have to do with content marketing?
If you’ve read this far, thank you for indulging me.
Content marketing is a journey. It isn’t an overnight process.
You first need to find your own voice or the voice of your company to tell your stories.
There will be failures.
But do it anyway.
In the course of telling your story, you’ll find that beautiful sweet spot where your authentic voice will resonate with the audience you’re trying to reach.
The important thing to remember is that the world is hungering for authenticity. Whatever it is you offer, your competitors offer the same thing. What makes you different? Although it may sound simplistic, I’d say the difference is you.
No one else is like you. That means you have a particular way of doing things, a blend of strengths, talents and skills that are unlike anyone else.
Although a company is comprised of a group of employees, there is what I call the company’s “DNA.” How did this company start out? Whose idea was it? Is the founder still involved? (You’re lucky if that’s true.)
Start working on the story of why the business was born. The days, weeks, months, and years of sacrifice that went into building it.
Perhaps there is a bit of the founder’s personality quirk you can include. Or a tradition for every new employee.
David Ogilvy had such a tradition. He gave each head of office a Russian doll. Inside the very last, tiny doll was a piece of paper that said this:
If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs, but if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, Ogilvy & Mather will become a company of giants.
That right there, shares a little of the Ogilvy & Mather story.
Do the research
Apply yourself to learning as much about your own strengths as possible. Record your own story. Take note of how your childhood may have given clues to who you are today.
Ed Gandia, one of my copywriting mentors, tells the story about how his entrepreneurial spirit showed up early when he was nine years old. Little Ed had a friend who had a “candy store” that he ran out of his garage.
One day, Ed’s friend was tired of his business so he sold Ed his entire inventory. Ed borrowed some money from his parents to buy it all and then because he couldn’t wait until Monday to start his own candy store, he went door-to-door over the weekend and sold his entire inventory.
The story makes us chuckle as we envision a nine-year old knocking on doors and asking them to buy his candy, but it’s part of Ed’s story. He admits that from an early age, he loved commerce. Today he’s a very successful copywriter and coach.
You have your own story. Your company has its own story. Dig around and you’ll find it. And in the midst of that process, you will find your voice.