Day 8: Develop Your Unique Voice

Today's SYS Challenge: Develop Your Voice #socialtranslator
Today’s SYS Challenge: Develop Your Voice #socialtranslator

As translators, we’re also writers. This gives us a huge advantage when it comes to communicating our message online.

It doesn’t matter if we work with patents, advertising copy, or subtitles in our day-to-day: there’s so much we already understand about communication that – combined with just a little forethought, direction and imagination – we can apply this to our online interactions with great success.

One such aspect is voice.

The Value Of Voice

Translators do more than merely understand the value of voice: we also know how to detect, decipher, and replicate it in an entirely different language, and sometimes for an entirely different audience too.

We also understand that so many of the decisions we make in creating a voice come down to understanding what needs to be achieved when our text reaches its intended audience.

Well, the same applies to voice in our online marketing – except it’s even easier, because it’s our voice, and it’s just ONE language 🙂

This is great! What an ace to have up our collective sleeve!! Translators should be totally dominating the online world right now!!! Amiright??

Except, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re not. Now, why is that?

You Need To Develop Your Voice

It seems that when it comes to establishing a voice of our own, genii that we are, us translators are not so quick to apply our superpowers for our own good.

Let’s change that, shall we?

Because if you communicate across social channels with peers, colleagues or clients, you can benefit from the increased engagement that a clear voice can bring.

Let me be clear here: you don’t need a blog to develop a voice.

But if you do have a blog, it can help to think of it this way:

As many men and no doubt unrecorded women far wiser than I have said, there’s nothing new in the world.

No topic you can cover, no point you can make, no conclusion you can draw that hasn’t already been aired.

What sets you and what you have to say apart from everyone else, is not what you say, but the way in which you say it.

This is your voice, and it’s what makes you unique.

Your worldview, your experiences, and yes, even your personality (albeit, perhaps, a more watered-down version of some of your less-than-desirable traits…? Just a thought ;)).

It’s your voice that enables your audience to know, like and trust you, and it’s what keeps people reading, clicking, and acting on what you have to say.

Which is kind of the point of what we’re all doing here, no?

Two Final Points To Consider

If you’re finding it hard to develop your voice, or if you have your voice down but don’t seem to be gaining traction online, Michael Hyatt has an excellent tip on positioning: clarify your role in relation to your clients.

Know where you stand in your field: recognised expert, trusted guide, or fellow traveller? – via @MichaelHyatt

Sometimes it can feel like we have to take the “expert” route, even when it may not ring true to ourselves or our audience.

But not every client wants or needs a well-seasoned expert – there are plenty of clients keen to find partners who are willing to grow and learn alongside or just a couple of steps ahead of them.

And finally, regardless of how technical your field is, remember that when it comes to writing for the web, the (very) general rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t say it, don’t write it.

Writing for the web is not like writing for other media. If you want your readers to stick around, it requires a light hand and deft touch. Think of it as plain English, plus.

Note that this isn’t the same as dumbed down, fluffy or inconsequential, though, just as being personable isn’t the same as being personal.

If you’re still in any doubt, check out the website for this law firm for an interesting example of how you can convey a professional tone in a serious field with an informal voice.

Now, if these guys can do it, why can’t we? Enjoy! 🙂

Further Reading

  • 10 Steps To Finding Your Writing Voice, by Jeff Goins (you’ll need to scroll down for the article). A nice overview of why your blog needs a voice, with some excellent exercises to help you determine it.
  • Find Your Voice: Blog Like You’re In A Closet, by Brian Lund at Problogger. All the personality tests in the world are no good if you can’t sit down and pull something together. This post closely reflects the mindset that I need to take to (re-)connect with my voice.
  • How To Talk Happy (SlideShare), by Emma Snider on Hubspot Blogs. Practical examples of how to write in a way that doesn’t make you sound like you’re glaring down your nose at your customers. (Hint: If the title of this resource makes you roll your eyes, tut disapprovingly, or gnash your teeth, you need to learn this. Don’t argue. JUST. READ. IT. You’re welcome.)
  • Everybody Writes, by Ann Handley. The single best resource I’ve ever found on writing for the web – scratch that, on writing in general. Compulsory reading for any and all translators of English.


A Social Media Challenge!

Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to do one thing each day in October that will have an impact on your social presence in the longer term.

Each weekday in October, I’m going to suggest a task to work on for whatever pocket of time you can carve out that day. You can choose to follow my suggestion, adjust it to suit your circumstances, or come up with an alternative – whatever makes most sense for you. Or just dip in and out as it suits.

Follow along on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the blog. Let me know how you’re getting on by using the hashtag #socialtranslator (so I can find you!). If you find it helpful, please give me a thumbs up, a like or a share – that’s how I’ll know you’re finding it useful, and it’ll help other translators join in too.