Posts Tagged "communication"


3 Ways Voice and Tone Influence Brand Perception

It's all in your voice and tone

“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

We’ve all heard this adage before. While it may serve a purpose in personal communication, it’s just not true for brands. As a brand what you say is just as important as how you say it. And since most brand communication is written, you’ve got to account for a lack of vocal and facial nuance with what you’re saying, too.

Every brand has a style guide, and just as important as having branded logos and colors is having a brand voice and tone document. This document will help you figure out how to express the brand’s values and thinking in written communication on websites, emails, social posts, and more. Voice and tone are two distinct aspects of verbal and written expression that impact how a brand’s audience perceives them.

A brand’s “voice” is much like a person’s “voice.” It’s how they speak, the words they use and the order of phrases that communicate a feeling or message.

A brand’s tone, just like a person’s, changes subtly depending on the topic. A brand may use more slang or be more energetic on social media, but more straightforward on an email or a landing page.

Let’s look at an example of how the voice stays consistent while the tone shifts with circumstance:

How a brand interacts with their audience on social media on 4th of July is going to look a lot different from how they do on Memorial Day. Why? Because 4th of July is a day of patriotic celebration, and Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died while serving our country. You wouldn’t want to share a post for Memorial Day with the cheerful exuberance you would expect in a 4th of July post. If you did that, you risk alienating the members of your audience who have ties to the military.

Clearly the tone is just as important as the voice in these kind of posts, and both are equally likely to influence the way an audience views a brand. Here are some things to keep in mind when thinking of how to use your brand’s voice and tone to positively influence your audience:

1. Pinpoint what you want to talk about as a brand.

Understanding what topics you want to talk about as a brand is a great first step. These topics should relate back to the brand’s values. You can incorporate the brand values into your writing on these topics. This is a great way to reinforce who your brand is and what the brand stands for.

2. Understand the words that evoke your brand values to your audience.

You know who your brand is, but are you showing your audience who you are as a brand? To find out what your audience thinks of you, you can use social listening to analyze what words or phrases your audience uses to describe you. Using emotionally evocative language is a simple way to impact how your audience sees you. If your audience sees you as glib when you’re going for lighthearted, take a moment to look at the language you’re using as a brand and find ways to keep it playful but sincere.

3. Treat your audience like a part of your team.

You want your audience to become fans and advocates of your brand. You don’t want your audience to feel like they’re being condescended. Share tips, but don’t write in a way that makes your brand sound superior. This can be the simple difference between saying “You may know _____ but did you know _____?” versus “here is every little thing about ______.”  Encourage your audience to create and share their own content with your social media accounts by writing posts that have a personal touch. If your audience feels like you’re creating a community, they are more likely to feel connected to your brand and be involved with your social accounts.

Ultimately as a brand what you say and how you say it impacts how your audience sees you and relates to you. By creating a clear voice and tone guide for your brand you can understand how your audience sees you. As well, you can have a positive influence on their future interactions with your brand on your website, via email and social networks.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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Tis the season of #PSL

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Tis the season of #PSL


Tis the season of #PSL.

For most people that means the season of orange packaging and pumpkin spice flavors infiltrating everything from coffee creamer to dog treats. But at IQ we take a different approach to that three letter acronym:

Perceive. Share. Learn.

These three principles are at the core of how we grow our knowledge and understanding of any topic, both personally and professionally. When an IQ-er finds an insightful or interesting article online we share it with colleagues via Slack post or an email, and odds are you do the same. This is a simple and effective way to encourage collaborative learning and growth between coworkers.

So put down your pumpkin spice latte and see what the real #PSL is all about.


Perception is at the center of almost everything we do in advertising and marketing Even before we begin a project, we think about different content that we find interesting and pinpoint why. Then, we consider how different audiences react to content as well as how our clients do. We conduct research to find out more about our clients’ audiences as well as those of their competitors. Even during the creative process, we go through rounds of feedback to see what different roles at our agency think about the work. This is all perception, and it’s one of the most important things we do.


It takes three clicks or less to go from reading an article to sharing it with your network on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. We all share an enormous amount of content with people every day via social and messaging apps.

When you share something of interest, like updates to a popular social media platform, you’re not only giving others the opportunity to view it, you’re also opening a platform for discussion. This often leads to a wider perspective and understanding of the topic at hand. In the workplace, this also shows your colleagues what topics you are passionate about, and can position you as the go-to expert on content strategy, social listening or another subject.


You learn something new every day. It’s not always a radical epiphany, but striving to gain more knowledge and understanding of the topics you work with on a daily basis is important. Not only will you be better informed and ahead of the curve on trends, you will also be considered a thought leader in your office – if not on a larger scale. Learning is best when it’s collaborative, so take time to create a dialogue with coworkers on relevant professional topics that makes everyone more knowledgeable.

These three principles feed into each other and create a cycle that propels you forward in professional development, both personally and as a team. At IQ, we #PSL every day. How do you?

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The Next Big Fight Won’t Involve Boxers

Content Providers Fighting

Many people are saying the “fight of the century” between Mayweather and Pacquiao didn’t live up to the hype. But a new fight emerged in the aftermath, live video streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat versus content providers. And this fight should be highly entertaining.

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people watched this past weekend’s boxing match for free using these services. Sure the video quality was not HD and the audio was from whatever party was streaming it but the alternate broadcast was good enough for a lot of people. A lot of people who didn’t pay $100 a piece.

Let’s say that just three hundred thousand people worldwide watched via Periscope/Meercat. If those people had instead paid to see the fight that would have generated thirty million in revenue.  That’s ten percent of the overall fight’s purse. In a day when HBO and Showtime are still sending bounty hunters to bars to find illegal fight broadcasts, they aren’t going to leave thirty million just lying around. Even if the fight brought in revenues of at least four-hundred million.

But what happens when Periscope opens up an API? This situation is going to explode. Imagine a high quality GoPro camera live streaming a Taylor Swift concert via Periscope from the front row. Access and then monetization. A scalper gets their hands on a premium ticket and now it’s not about reselling it to the highest bidder, it’s about making money from live streaming from that ultra-exclusive location.

Twitter has a lot of friends in entertainment; friends that spend a lot of money within Twitter. And Hollywood uses/needs Twitter to make a lot of money for their TV shows, records, movies, and events. It’s going to be fun to watch both sides maneuver but the winners will be the artists and entertainers who figure out how to adapt and use the new technology to their advantage and elevate the user experience.

If you have questions about how to enhance your content using emerging technologies contact IQ.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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At IQ #weloveATL

The New Brass Ring: Trusted Knowledge Source


At IQ #weloveATL

IQ #weloveatl

Atlanta is moving on up! We’ve got television shows like The Walking Dead, movies like The Hunger Games and musical legends like Outkast. Aside from this, we’re also home to countless neighborhoods of unique cuisine and street art that paints the city. It’s no secret that Atlanta is becoming a major cultural hub, and not just in the south but across the nation.

So with all this thriving culture, it’s no wonder our city inspires us to make great work with a talented group driven by creative intelligence. That’s why this month, we’re focusing on the city IQ is proud to call home.

We’ll be sharing some of the things we love about Atlanta with the #weloveATL tag on the blog and in our social media channels, and we encourage you to share yours too.

Here’s to you, Atlanta. Let’s keep it awesome.

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Every Brand Needs a Playbook


Brands have been planning since the dawn of marketing, but with the advent of the digital consumer it has become a great deal more complex. This post lays out the steps that lead to a marketing execution plan that is based on data and insights.

An Evidence Based Approach

Marketing has become a very complicated game. On every play there are thousands of possible permutations and like chess you have to not only win the moment, but also make it part of the bigger strategy. It’s not easy because there are so many things to consider, from the sheer number of channels and influences, to the behavior of the independent minded, digitally savvy consumer. Trying to do it by gut, or even experience, alone is just not possible anymore. That’s why brands need an evidence-based approach to marketing planning.

First Things First

There a number of steps to developing a plan, each building on the other, but to begin you need to gather all the intelligence you can find. This includes data and insights on barriers and opportunities inside your company, the category, the competition and the target consumer. It also includes doing a health check on the brand position, reviewing the lead process, if any, the conversion process and the role of technology; internal and external. Then with, hopefully, target audience segmentation and personas in hand, you should conduct a competitive analysis, use social listening to see what your targets are talking about, and analyze search patterns to glimpse what they are actually doing.

Mind the Gaps

Normally companies already have lots of this information, as well as Attitude & Usage research, sales and geographical data and so on. The idea is to synthesize all this data into insights and direction. But first you should determine the gaps in your knowledge, where you need additional understanding, and decide how critical it is to fill those gaps. Often stakeholder interviews, across the organization, from sales to the executive suite, are a fast way to fill in knowledge gaps, identify what is important internally and as an important bonus, get buy-in for the planning process.

Journey Mapping

All this data and knowledge becomes inputs for the next phase; Journey Mapping. This critically important step is based on the Mckinsey Consumer Decision Journey model introduced in 2009. Its job is to map consumer behavior at the key steps of awareness, evaluation, conversion, post purchase and loyalty. It tells us what each segment of consumers is thinking, doing and feeling at each juncture; it also identifies barriers, distribution requirements, brand role and more. Usually conducted as a collaborative workshop, Journey Mapping brings marketers together with key stakeholders and subject matter experts, to answer the key questions of “When” and “Where” to connect with consumers, and the role and purpose of channels at the different stages of the journey. Of course it is invaluable to talk to consumers too if time and budget allow.

Mighty Messaging

Building on Journey Mapping is Content Strategy, which is focused on answering the other two key questions “What to say” and “How to say it” at each touch point. The objective is to determine the most relevant and impactful messaging that can be presented to each consumer at each interaction.  That messaging needs to be relevant to the persona and their stage of the journey, while also being designed to contribute to a cumulative brand impression. At the same time messaging must be delivered in a way that is right for the context of the interaction; a video on a phone, for example, might be perfect or completely wrong depending on where someone is likely to view it and what he or she might be doing at the time.

Making the Cut

By this stage of the process you will have identified many potential tactics that address “where, when, what and how”.  But since budgets and time are always limited, you need to make choices based on each tactic’s ability to achieve business goals. Tactics are therefore reviewed for how they are projected to deliver on business objectives within time, resource, difficulty and ROI requirements and those that make the cut go into The Playbook. This is a prioritized action plan, typically covering 12-18 months, made up of the most effective and efficient tactics that you have determined will together achieve your business goals for the period. With it you know what marketing tactics need to be executed when, what performance they are projected to deliver, over what period of time, at what cost and at what difficulty level.

Less Guesswork

The Playbook is the culmination of a comprehensive evidence-based strategic process that takes the guesswork out of this complex process and gives senior management and the marketing team the confidence they need that their marketing plans will accomplish their business goals. While experience alone might have worked in simpler times, it’s just too risky today, which is why the Playbook will give a brand a much higher chance of success vs. reacting, improvising or just going on gut.

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  • 12.09.14

Snapchat is the New Facebook.

A quick explanation of why brands should love Snaps.

Snapchat article by Eric

As our social media channels become overrun with stagnant ads, eager parents (and grandparents), over filtered photos of food, and articles that begin with “Top ten things,” the next generation of users have found a new way of sharing their lives: Snapchat. Brands are looking, too. Snapchat is a mobile only platform that allows real time sharing of someone’s life. No filters, no editing, no “10 reasons why_____.” Just you telling a story with your phone. Casey Neistat does an amazing job explaining the rise of Snapchat in his recent video with Jerome Jarre:

Yet as this new space is emerging, few brands are taking advantage of the 30 million monthly active users, mainly because no one has really figured out the best way how.

Right now there are three ways brands are using it:

Sponsored Snapchat:

These are posts that go out to every user, from Snapchat. They are usually pretty short and generally video. Recently there was a trailer for the Dumb and Dumber movie that went out.

Sponsored Snapchatters:

This is where a company approaches a popular Snapchatter and then asks them to do a story sponsored by them. For instance Casey Neistat spent a day with Karlie Kloss for fashion week, sponsoring and advertising

Point all other channels to Snapchat:

This allows companies to use their existing audience on their other social channels to follow their Snapchat. This requires them to constantly produce content to keep people involved and interested, which is time consuming and expensive.

Speaking of content, this is the second problem companies are having: quickly producing cheap, quality content. No company (that I know of) is doing that right now. But individuals are, which is exciting because there is a totally new space that is untouched by brand use.

The fact is Snapchat is here to stay. It has been quickly adopted by the next generation of social users, and the current generation is adopting it, too. Snapchat is the perfect space for a new brand to be born on, and an even better space for a current brand to own. The opportunity is ripe. You just have to reach out and take it.

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Before we knock “native advertising,” let’s talk about doing it right.

Before you knock it


I love John Oliver’s new show. It’s witty, funny, well-written and always on relevant topics. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see him taking a punch at native advertising.

If you don’t have time to watch his 11-minute segment, his argument is this: native advertising is ultimately deceptive and undermines the journalistic values that are essential to a free press. Why? As Oliver cites in the video, consumers rarely recognize when content on a publication’s website is “native ad” or not.

That’s very fair. Especially if you’re familiar with the The Atlantic’s Scientology fiasco, which Oliver mentions. But before we tie the phrase “native advertising” to a stake and burn it, I implore you to take a moment (as a brand, agency, journalist or consumer) to realize that native ads don’t have to be horrible farces to the public. They can be helpful, if they’re done right.

By done right, I mean this:

1. If you publish content for a brand, create something that actually matters and is relevant to that brand.

Truth is, behind every company is a group of real, often smart, people who care deeply about their products. Even though advertisers and their agencies (I’ll raise my hand here) have a goal to sell products or services, many work to sell things that they believe in. Companies spend millions of dollars testing their products and researching their industry. If brands are going to act as publishers, they should stick to topics relating to their area of expertise. Like Dell talking about work habits or a clothing company rounding up the latest fashion trends. Even though Swiffer’s Buzzfeed list offers more laughs than value, it talks about a relevant topic: cleaning. (And fits nicely on Buzzfeed, which offers more laughs than value too.)

2. Publish first in a designated space for branded content, such as a branded blog. 

Many very successful brands are finding success publishing on their own website — often via a branded blog. Two of my favorites, West Elm’s Front + Main and Tory Burch, not only publish relevant content often, they offer sage advice from industry experts that’s actually helpful. If Tory Burch wants to share dinner party appropriate attire or West Elm offers essential tips for an attic renovation — by all means. They also do a great job of distributing that content with fans via social media and email. Do this regularly and consumers will come back to engage.

3. Give a branded representative the byline. 

If your brand is writing a piece, give that article or piece of content an actual byline. Meaning an article about “10 ways to accessorize your spring wardrobe” from a clothing company could (and really should) features a small byline, like “Written by Jane Smith, Clothing Co. Brand Manager.” This gives brands a face, which builds credibility and trust with customers. If real company employees can’t create content, at least cite their input with a byline like, “Written by Joshua Meade with contributor Jane Smith.”

Example below from New York Times: 


4. Think of native ads like food. Always, always check the label. 

If your brand chooses to publish a piece in a traditionally non-branded space (such as in a magazine or newspaper), make sure the publication clearly labels it as “sponsored content.” Label it in an extremely bold way, with a readable label and visual indicator like a color change. If that branded article is interesting and valuable enough, consumers will read it anyway. Being honest and transparent about branded content ensures credibility and trust, not just for the publication but also for the brand itself.



Dear Brands, You’ll Never Be Potato Salad

advice on viral for brands


The Internet is a strange thing; so strange, in fact, that a man asking for $10 to help him make potato salad for the first time has resulted in over $50,000 in a Kickstarter campaign that has gone viral. And why? His appeal wasn’t one based on need (he wasn’t starving). He didn’t promise to feed the hungry. He literally just wanted to try to make potato salad. And the Internet thought he should be able to make a lot of it.

Brands spend millions of dollars every year paying agencies for content aimed at going “viral” in a similar way, and it almost never does. The ask from these brands has become so normalized that social content is often just called “viral content.” The ask sounds something like this: “We want to create a viral video.” What they mean is that they want to create a video intended specifically for the Internet, usually YouTube. But when it gets uploaded, it gets a few hundred views and the agency that made it cashes a nice check. The brand gets very little in return.

I have a word of advice for you: stop. You aren’t a potato salad Kickstarter. Your brand is not a random phenomenon; it is carefully crafted. Your brand is also not human. Consumers know both of these things and so the content you publish, the campaigns you launch, are expected to be of the highest quality. The chances that you’ll create something that is so different from what is expected that gets shared millions of times is really really small. It happens, but rarely.

Instead of spending millions of dollars constantly creating content in hopes of something resonating, create content with utility. Unless you are a brand in an entertainment category, understanding the questions consumers have and providing solutions will do much more for your business.

Lowe’s does this really well. Its Vine account is a case study in strategic early adoption of an emerging channel, and its use of YouTube is really effective.

Alternatively, if you are set on reaching a million+ people with a single piece of content, partner with an influencer who already has a large audience to create content on your behalf. Ford has done this really well on YouTube.

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  • 07.16.14

“Don’t interrupt me when I’m interrupting you”

IQ - Facebooks "new" old model


This is one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill, and what Facebook might be thinking as it tries to ram a new ad model down the throats of brands and consumers alike. Having already vented in my last post about this, I thought the greater implications of their actions on social media worthy of further comment.

A Giant Step Back

When Facebook decided to make brands pay to post content to their own fans, they took a giant step back into the old ad world.  Faced with ROI pressure brands can’t afford the luxury of content oriented posting, instead they have to turn to fast pay-off tactics like promotions, coupons etc.  This puts us back in the old world of interruptive advertising, where you’d be watching TV or reading a magazine and an ad would interrupt you. Consumers put up with this model in the pre-digital years because it seemed like a reasonable exchange; get the content in exchange for watching the ads. That was before we retrained them.

We Are Not a Captive Audience

Fast forward to today and digital consumers.  We don’t like interruptions, we don’t like delays and we don’t like ads. We have been schooled to find and use the most efficient ways to answer questions, solve problems, research solutions and evaluate options. Digital consumers are not a captive audience, so if ads interrupt our flow and slow our productivity we won’t put up with it. That’s why it’s more likely you will survive a plane crash or win the lottery than click a banner ad.

The Post-Advertising Age

Facebook just wants to make money, which is fair enough. But just because advertising is about the only business model that might work for them, doesn’t mean it will. The problem is that we live in the post-advertising age. We still need to tell brand stories; we just can’t do it effectively with conventional ads anymore; at least in digital channels. Even armed with all the creativity in the world the only way to consistently get the attention of the digitally empowered consumer is with relevance and timing.

Changing Hearts & Minds

So if marketers can’t use ads to get their message across, what’s a brand to do? The way to the digital consumer’s heart and mind is by serving up the right content at exactly the right time. The right kind of content is that which is appropriate for the context. So if someone has clicked to watch a video about planting a lawn, don’t have a pre-roll ad for Home Depot, have lawn care tips courtesy of Home Depot. The big difference is that one supports the consumer’s journey, while the other interrupts it. Seems simple enough, but the complexity comes in planning where and when to connect with each consumer segment, and developing just the right content for each situation.

The Magic Algorithm

The temptation today is to think that marketing has become a predictable machine. All you have to do is crunch some media numbers, apply an algorithm and magically consumers will come flocking to your brand. Of course this is what the purveyors of all manner of media ad wizardry would have you believe.  This ignores, however, the need to connect the dots; all the touch points that have to become one consistent story, personalized as narrowly as possible. Everything a brand does, therefore needs to be built on a foundation of consumer insights. This includes the critical exercises of mapping the Consumer Decision Journey* and developing a Content Strategy. Together they tell a brand when and where to connect with each target segment, plus what to say and how to say it at that critical moment. At the same time this work lets brands see, understand and design the cumulative effect of all the interaction points together. Inevitably this leads brands to shift their thinking from a product oriented, advertising approach to a content oriented, consumer approach.

The Training Wheels Come off

Facebook is trying lots of things (a few pretty out there), looking for ways to cash-in on their huge audience.  Some may work, but this shift to making brands pay to reach their own communities isn’t probably one of them, because consumers, let alone brands, won’t stand for having the content they came for taken away.

The good news is that social media marketing is not over; it’s actually shifting to a more mature model where brands have much more control and influence. What we are seeing with social media is the same kind of shift that we saw when users graduated from AOL’s training wheels to managing their own online experience. That’s happening now as consumers are becoming more experienced, and Facebook’s move is only going to accelerate it.

So it’s time for brands to strike out on their own and connect directly with their consumers without going through the gatekeepers anymore. That means starting with the foundational work to discover the when, where, what and how, which will drive their new social media, marketing plan.

* Mckinsey & Co

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Tips for Writing in Agile

Tips for Writing in Agile

Agile process was made for developers. Born out of software engineering and responsive to client needs throughout a site build — it makes total sense to everyone. Except for right-brained, creative, easily distracted people like me.

At first, anyway.

I’m a copywriter. While I am all for agile process, it’s taken time, trial, more trial and error for me to understand how to work in this process. And while I’m still perfecting how I write within an agile process, I’m on the same page as this guy — the process itself really is more efficient.

And while it’s definitely a smart process for ad groups to adopt right now, I still think seeing an agency team flawlessly execute this process is about as rare as winning the lottery. It happens to some very lucky people, but you still have a greater chance of being killed by a vending machine.

Bottom line, agile process is challenging for content creators like myself. Breaking things out in small iterations might work for developers or strategists, but I breathe page chronology. People still read English from left to right.

Working in an agile project, here is the biggest challenge: You can’t write copy for different parts of a project and still convey a consistent brand voice through the entire space. Whether it’s a webpage or a print ad, voice and messaging must stay consistent from top to bottom.

But that’s what agile asks us to do — to write copy for story points instead of pages. And when you write copy in small story-point-sized chunks, you risk creating subtle breaks in readability that can distract site visitors, causing them to disengage.

And that’s been our challenge with my most recent agile projects. How can copy creation work in parallel to development, UX and design? It’s been a continual process that we’re not finished with yet, but here’s what I’ve learned:


1. Give content its own epic. Agile process is broken down into subtasks based on what different people want to do. Okay, okay, I mean “stories” that fit into a big-picture “epic.”  A story is like, “As a shopper, I want to be able to find specs for product X on the specific product page.” This fits into a greater overarching epic. Instead of writing small amounts of copy for a specific story, like writing a single paragraph on specs, I can write copy for an entire product page and still stay aligned with the process.

2. Write to the wireframes. There’s always the ‘chicken or the egg’ debate with which comes first, writing or design. And while the lazy part of me loves to be given a comp or ad to write for — it’s like being given a coloring book page and told to color in the lines — that’s not always the best way to create truly innovative pages that serve customer needs. So if design isn’t ready, write to wires. Work closely with your UX-er or designer to figure out field length, work with a content strategist if needed to discuss content prioritization, then take a stab at writing for the page in conjunction with the design process.

3. Collaborate closely. I love the daily stand-ups on agile projects. Even though sometimes the only thing I have to contribute to these meetings is a bad joke, it’s wonderful to be in touch with what’s going on with my teammates. This is a great chance to discover issues or sit down with team members after the stand-up to hash things out when needed. Get together, work together, get things done.

4. Keep your documents filed for each page.  For any size project, identify a shared file-space for your team. It can be in a project folder on a server, shared through a file sharing service or through a solid organization tool like Gather Content. (*I’m just starting to use Gather and am still learning, but it’s pretty spectacular.) Wherever you share your work, keep your copy decks updated and organized every day. With agile team members working simultaneously, rigid organization of content is the easiest way to make sure copy is accessible to the whole team, whenever people need it.


Have your own thoughts about how to work as a copywriter on an agile process project? Wonderful. Comment here or tweet at me. Always excited to learn more helpful hints.

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