How to Use Your Brand Voice to Create Content that Truly Resonates
A Conversation with Lauren Laverne
George Orwell’s 1945 essay “Poetry and the Microphone” says:
In broadcasting your audience is conjectural, but it is an audience of one. Millions may be listening, but each is listening alone, or as a member of a small group, and each has (or ought to have) the feeling that you are speaking to him individually. More than this, it is reasonable to assume that your audience is sympathetic, or at least interested, for anyone who is bored can promptly switch you off by turning a knob.
Arguably, this is truer today than it was 72 years ago.
Lauren Laverne, a radio presenter on BBC 6 Music, draws a daily audience of close to one million listeners each morning. However, she references Orwell’s essay early during her discussion with Jim Rudden, Chief Marketing Officer at Spredfast, at Smart Social London—demonstrating her professional focus on Orwell's "audience of one."
But having one million listeners provides a multitude of data and feedback to evolve your message. So how do you consider this information when you’re trying to resonate with that single individual?
“That’s the trap,” says Laverne. “The temptation is to try to speak to everyone. But that’s when you get it wrong.”
Laverne joined Spredfast to discuss her career—from the pop-punk band, Kenickie, to TV presenting and writing, and finally, to today: radio presenter and co-founder of the online publication, The Pool. During the 45 minute conversation, she talked about finding her voice and how to resonate with ever-changing audiences. She also struck a beautiful balance between social media and radio by giving the audience a unique insight into the role of the radio presenter.
Remember that social is not linear
Laverne talked about how she describes her style today as “nowcasting”. As opposed to traditional broadcasting, “nowcasting” is more akin to social media and is agile and less formulaic—it’s an accompaniment to people's lives.
TV, for example, aims to monopolise your attention—to blinker you away from your day-to-day and engross you in a message. How often have you sat with friends or family only to hear, “Sssh… Quiet! The show is about to start!” The conversation ends.
In a recent podcast by The Guardian, Tim Wu, author of The Attention Merchants, discussed how brands had used media like TV with the aim of monopolising audience's attention.
Wu talks about how the British had tremendous success during World War I of drawing on ‘the power of mass attention,’ and by the World War II, Germany had advanced the propaganda machine and, specifically, understood the power of radio and it’s ability to harness mass attention. Hitler introduced Radio Hours, whereby radio wardens would round up the population, they would sit together and they would listen to Hitler speak. The entire nation of Germany, listening to their leader, at the same time.
Wu continues, “It may seem like a goofy comparison, but at it’s height, let's say [with] American television, you’d have the whole nation... watching I Love Lucy [...] or the Ed Sullivan Show and experiencing that together—forging the nation...That, I think, is a very powerful technique.”
But today, radio—like social media—has broken the early rules devised by TV.
Listeners tune in at home, in the car, on the commute, or in the office. While radio still wants your attention, it is designed to accompany your activity and your routine.
Digital and social channels have now softened the more direct and linear approach of TV and broadcasting. We’ve seen the rise of storytelling, and these similarities of radio and social demonstrate the importance of treating brand audiences and fan bases as an audience of one.
Stay true to your brand values
Laverne describes radio, like social media, as a companion. She likens radio to social in terms of the “arm's length intimacy” the presenter can have with their audience. However, this creates a challenge for brands who perhaps have a commercial message to broadcast, but need to position this engagingly through social. Laverne recognises, as many brand communicators would appreciate, that “there’s always a tricky balance between carrying the message that you want to get across and putting it in your own words.”
It is clear for Laverne, and for brand communicators, that being authentic to your brand and being honest to your values is an important aspect to finding your voice and resonating with your audience.
Being authentic to your brand and being honest to your values is an important aspect to finding your voice.
Laverne's career has taken some interesting twists and turns. From hosting the Culture Show or the Turner Prize, opportunities have come her way which might not have been the most obvious choice for her more ‘counterculture’ voice.
Laverne says, “I’ve worked in music radio because music is my first love. Alternative culture is something that I’m really interested in. I’ve always tried to be talking about things that I really know about. A world that I operate in. And effectively speaking to an audience who are me. They’re the same as me.”
In 2015, Laverne was offered the position as host of Late Night Woman’s Hour. Woman's Hour was first broadcast on the BBC back in 1946 and the new, late-night spin off challenged the tradition of the iconic format. This was a huge break from the shows traditional voice and an example of how Laverne had to quickly and effectively stamp her own mark.
If finding your brand voice in the first place is a challenge, how do you stay true to this voice?
“Understand who you’re trying to reach,” Laverne says. “And part of that is acknowledging that what you're doing isn’t going to be right for everyone. But you have to understand who needs you and who, what you’re doing, is for.”