I got 99 voices and mine ain’t one!

After 25 years of writing press releases, pitching stories, imagining marketing ideas and crafting scripts, I am not sure I even remember what my own inner-voice sounds like anymore. If you are anything like me, you must have three things when determining the perfect voice for your clients. First, you must have the ability to imagine scenarios, places and opportunities from the perspective of your client. Second, you must be able to continuously keep the voice going for infinitum. Finally, you must be able to switch effortlessly between those client voices without skipping a step.

In my opinion, the most important skill for any communications professional is to understand a client’s goal, define the message and choose the best way to tell that story. Our agency made a conscious decision not to be in front of the camera or act as a spokesperson for a client. Rather, we prefer to be behind the scenes, coaching, teaching and crafting messages the client is comfortable delivering. With that philosophy, each of our account leads must literally place themselves in those individual’s shoes and write how they would speak, what they would say and what their answer may potentially be.

People have told me for years they thought I had more than one person living inside my skull, but it has become an asset. If you are having trouble differentiating between your client’s voice and your own, try these techniques:

  1. Literally imagine yourself at their desk. Think about the way they speak and the tone in their voice. Often, it is the pitch or tone that allows me to find that place where I can use words to mimic or react similarly to how their business should position itself.
  1. Alternate clients to break-up the cadence. Sometimes, your own voice will become pervasive when you get fatigued or are concentrating too much on the actual work and less on the creative side.
  1. Communicate with your client. It is difficult to hear their voice in your head when all you have is e-mail. Remember, you are still cleaning up style, grammar, etc., but it is the way they deliver thoughts, the reflection of their business (family-owned, corporate, faith, public-policy), that will connect them to their customer.
  1. Don’t be afraid to imagine. The business owner may have their own way of understanding the importance of their message and how it is delivered, but don’t be shy about offering a different perspective as to the product, service or situation.

Most importantly, understand developing a strong voice reflecting a client’s needs makes it easier to understand the direction for the long-term in developing a communications strategy.


About Tony Vann: Tony Vann is a proven public relations and communications professional with more than 20 years of experience in media relations, state and federal government relations, marketing communications, and non-profit administration. Prior to founding Vann & Associates, he served as President of Christian Companion Senior Care, a national franchise corporation offering services for seniors in their own homes. A position he gained by growing the company from a start up to more than 32 locations within seven states.

His career also includes service as communications director for Oklahoma’s Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin, development director for the Oklahoma City National Memorial as well as the public relations director at Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma City as well as the legislative assistant to the House Republican Leader in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.


Julie Dennehy

Wonderful post, Tony! In particular, a great set of reminders – including the importance of talking by phone to your client to properly glean their voice (vs email communication only). Great insights here.


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