Finding Your (Brand) Voice as a Smutlancer
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Every time you hit publish online, you use a voice. The language you use in the caption of your sexy lingerie picture is your voice, as is every piece of content on your blog. Much like in the vanilla world, you can choose from different voices to convey your ideas. Perhaps if you want to be seen as an academic authority, you might use an eloquent, measured tone. If you hope to invigorate others, you could use a motivational, exciting one. When you decide that smutlancing is a project of yours, whether as a hobby or a profession, there are extra considerations to take. Your voice is now a brand voice. Intentionally planning your brand voice can help you plan social media, describe your projects to potential partners, and work with other creators.
For this blog post, I’ll use a voice to describe the mood or attitude of a piece of content. Elements of voice include word choice, punctuation, the use of slang, and even the spacing of your paragraphs. Voice shows readers what to expect, and it connects with who you are as an authority and what emotion you hope to inspire in a piece.
For example, even with the same informational content, an article titled “Ten Ways I Spiced Up My Sex Life” conveys a different voice than “Studies Show Accepting Your Body Improves Sexual Pleasure.” Readers might expect personal anecdotal experiences from the first, while the second relies on scientific authority. By having a consistent voice, you can regularly deliver the content that your readers desire.
What a Brand Voice Can Look Like
You might be wondering at this point what voice looks like. I’ve found that it’s helpful to frame your voice as several statements of intent. I recommend five to seven statements with a small paragraph of clarification if necessary. Let’s look at two statements from two different projects of mine.
Formal Yet Lighthearted: The idea of formality can be intimidating to some people. While we can be formal when the situation is appropriate, we are always compassionate with others, and we never act conceited or self-centered.
Note here that I use a phrase to introduce the voice statement, then elaborate in the following sentences. I also use plural pronouns because this is an organization where other people are involved. Here’s a second example from my personal brand:
I share authentically. I speak openly and honestly about my successes and failures, especially as they relate to what I teach. I sincerely admit when I don’t live my values. I believe that I can better serve others when they know that I’ve struggled in similar ways, so I tell stories about my journey without embellishment or hyperbole.
In this statement, I use a short sentence to summarize the principle, then use first-person pronouns throughout. As this is my personal brand, I can speak for myself. I’ve also found that creating voice statements for a personal brand is a bit easier, as you know yourself and intentions best.
The Process of Finding Your Brand Voice
This might be a bit overwhelming at this point. Honestly, I looked at several voice statements in brand style guides all over the internet, and, while I felt I had a few ideas, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I’m going to take you through the process that I used to clarify my voice statements for my personal brand. You’ll need a pen or pencil and lots of sticky notes. You can do this on scraps of paper if necessary, but I think it’s more fun with sticky notes. Also, you’ll need a large table or desk and a trashcan nearby. I recommend reading all of the steps first.
First, take the sticky notes and braindump your initial ideas. On each sticky note, list how you want your brand to be perceived in just a word or phrase. Some examples might be raunchy, classy, informative, an authority, or personal. You can also include things you don’t want to be, such as not stuffy, not formal, not arousing, and so on. Do this step really quickly. The moment you think of it, write it down on the note and move the note onto a pile. Don’t worry about your handwriting as long as you can read it.
If you get stuck with this step, search online for “a list of attributes about ___” and in the blank, write the closest profession that aligns with what you want to do. So perhaps “list of attributes about teachers,” “…about journalists,” or “…about strippers.” Scan the lists you find and write down any words or phrases that resonate with you. Add them to your pile.
Next, take the pile of sticky notes and look through them one by one. You’re going to eventually sort them. You have a few options here. Either make five to seven smaller piles of related ideas or pick the main themes and use the remaining sticky notes to modify them.
You can see from this picture that my main themes to start with were as follows:
- Giving Tools
When I moved through my pile of remaining notes one by one, I found a connection between my main themes, wrote that word or phrase on the existing notes, and then tore up the sticky note so I knew that I had already used it.
Finally, take the sticky notes and create statements with accompanying short paragraphs. For now, just the statements are incredibly helpful. If you intend to share these on your website or with a team, a few sentences putting your voice statements into context can be incredibly helpful.
Use Your Writer Brain
This is where your writer’s brain comes into the project. Take one group of words or phrases at one time, setting the others aside. How would you describe a person who has all of those traits? If it helps, you can use second- or third-person pronouns at this point in the project so that you have a bit of distance. As an example, let’s say that you have sexy, attractive, seductive, intimate, and personal grouped together. An example paragraph might be:
She’s seductive in a deeply personal way. She sees right into others and shares intimate details in just the perfect moment to be irresistibly sexy.
Work your way through each group. For me, this was a supercharged afternoon because I felt that I was finally about to put words to things I already knew. For others, it might be exhausting and take place over several days. Listen for any vulnerability, emotion, or exhaustion that comes up for you. As this is for your personal brand, things can become a bit too personal at times, so take breaks if necessary.
Once you have your statements together, using them while creating content is relatively easy. When you have a blog post or a tweet planned, scan down your statements and see if they apply to what you’ve written. If you reach a block in content creation, maybe return to your voice statements and see what comes up for you. I’ve even used the technique of “What would a ___ person say about ___?” So, maybe “What would an authentic person say about consent in the kink community?” Or “What would a curious person say about Master/slave relationships?” The trick is I am that person!
Creating and using my brand voice statements has been helpful. I find that I have a more consistent voice in my content, and I even used it to help plan the graphic design of my website. You can read all of my voice statements on my website. If you used this method, please share your results with us in the comments below!