Using congruence and consistency to be the same ‘shape’ everywhere
DNA is our blueprint for life. It’s in all our cells and defines how our bodies are made.
It’s the same story with our content – the material we publish online and offline.
Think of Content DNA as the building blocks of your brand identity.
Using your building blocks consistently means producing memorable content that helps you become a trusted voice in your industry.
- What is Content DNA?
- Be the same shape everywhere
- The ingredients alone are not enough
- Content DNA changes slowly
- You can still be adaptable
- The unified voice
- Let’s wrap up
What’s the best long-term way to promote your business without paying for ads?
Is it by attending awkward business breakfasts?
Or by making cringey cold calls?
Perhaps it’s by arranging endless ‘quick’ coffee meetings?
Those tactics might work to some extent, but there is a better way to develop long-term authority in your industry.
You can reach people at scale and show that you know what you’re talking by having a culture of content creation.
Publishing and promoting helpful written, video or audio content is your route to becoming a trusted voice.
Unlike endless door-knocking or traditional networking, relevant and helpful online content keeps working 24/7, allowing you to be found online, to build your authority and to attract new leads to your business.
And content beats ads, too.
The problem is that you’re not the only business owner who wants to use content to demonstrate your expertise.
How many blog posts are published each day?
- Worldometers: more than 4.6 million
- HostingFacts: more than 3 million (July 2018)
- WordPress: 2.49 million (based on 74.7 million blog posts published via WordPress.com in October 2018)
And that’s just the written material.
Add all the YouTube videos, audio podcasts and other content into the mix and you’ll get a sense of what you’re up against.
Being better than everyone else is hard. Some businesses have big budgets and have been creating content for years.
But there’s still a way to stand out.
Content becomes more memorable when it has the same ‘shape’ everywhere.
What is Content DNA?
Your Content DNA is your personality expressed in writing.
Just as your real DNA defines you, Content DNA defines the shape of your content.
And it’s essential to how effective and memorable your content is.
Without distinctive Content DNA, you risk being just another forgettable clone among the millions of pieces of writing that are published each day.
For your content to stand out, you need to discover and consistently apply your own genetic content code.
Real DNA is made of 4 molecules called nucleotides. Your Content DNA can also be made up of a small number of building blocks.
In 5-minute branding, I talk about finding the handful of values that represent you and your business.
Be the same shape everywhere
Wherever and whenever you show up – online or in the real world – you should have the same ‘shape’ everywhere.
That shape should be distinctly you. It’s easy to overlook the importance of this, but if you embrace the idea then it should be an asset – a differentiator for your business.
Imagine some written materials for your business. It doesn’t matter what it is: a web page, a brochure, a sales proposal, whatever.
If your Content DNA is clear enough, you should be able to remove all the visuals and have readers still say ‘I know who wrote this.’
People will remember your tone of voice if you can be consistent.
You have to speak with one voice. You can’t do this:
Marketing copy: ‘Hey kids! Check out our #awesomesauce new line-up …’Privacy update: ‘Dear sir, In pursuance with part 4, subsection 2 …’
But that’s a load of businesses did in May 2018 when they were all scrambling to tick the GDPR compliance box.
There was no clear Content DNA. No consistency. No congruence.
I’m not saying you can’t be serious sometimes – but your writing should always leave behind the same footprint.
You need your Content DNA to come through in all of these areas:
- social media
- blog posts and articles
- website content
- error messages
- voice mail
- in-person networking & conferences
- speeches & TV appearances
- PR & publicity
- business cards
- invoices and receipts
Here’s an example for my error 404 page – the thing that’s displayed when you try to visit a non-existent page on my site.
You need to get clear on your Content DNA so you can speak with a clear and consistent tone of voice.
Remember: this is your personality in written form. If it differs from place to place, your audience will wonder who’s really speaking to them.
The ingredients alone are not enough
You can’t take a sample of someone’s DNA and clone the whole person. At least not yet.
It’s the same with the Content DNA of your business. Someone else could understand the building blocks you use in your tone of voice – but it doesn’t mean they can be you.
Your work ethic, beliefs, interpersonal skills, creative thinking and reactions to situations all play a part in making you ‘you’.
Some of my clients worry that they can’t or shouldn’t say things for fear that others will copy them. I think this is a baseless fear.
Anyone trying to steal or mimic your tone of voice has a long way to go if they think they can copy your whole business.
Give me the same ingredients and recipes used by a Michelin-star chef and I still won’t be able to cook as well as they can.
So, stop worrying about being copied. When people buy your product or service, part of the purchase is them buying you.
(If you’re in an identikit commodity business where price is the only determining factor, putting some personality into your business could be the only thing that saves you from the race to the bottom.)
Content DNA changes slowly
Real DNA isn’t fixed or static. It changes over time. This is evolution rather than revolution.
Your Content DNA can change. That means you can slowly shift your tone of voice.
For example, you might want to reposition your business and start appealing to a different group of customers.
This is more believable if you can make a gradual change rather than a night-and-day 180º turn. Anyone who knows your company will be confused by sharp changes in your brand.
Even big brands can get this wrong. Like the time when Weight Watchers changed to WW and then put their old name back into the visuals. (Apparently, WW stands for ‘Wellness that Works’. So, that sudden rebranding went really well …)
If you change your brand identity too quickly or try to sound cool when it’s not authentic, you’ll risk losing trust with the people who pay your bills.
You can still be adaptable
Your Content DNA allows for some adaptability, but you can only be you in a range of climates.
Be careful of how much you change yourself when you speak to your customers.
Staying true to your Content DNA could lose you a deal, but biting your lip and changing your way of being isn’t the long-term way to build a tribe of followers who love what you do.
If you’re a chameleon for every client, no one gets to see the real you – and it’s exhausting to keep up the act.
The unified voice
You need to find the right balance between these things in your content:
- Speaking your language: promoting your own cause, using your natural language.
- Speaking their language: helping to educate and inform your ideal audience, using the terms they want to hear.
In an ideal world, your natural language will be a perfect fit for what your audience wants to hear.
The bigger the intersection between these two, the stronger your unified voice will be – and the more your ideal audience will listen to you.
Let’s wrap up
Your content will be much more effective if you can be clear about the elements that make up your tone of voice and then apply them consistently.
Being the same shape everywhere means that your audience knows what to expect when they deal with you.
Demonstrating that congruence and consistency in all your content will help you become a trusted and memorable voice of authority in your industry. And that’s a great asset that no business owner should overlook.
PS. I’m planning to write a book on Content DNA. It’s still at the outline stage at the moment. I hope to have something ready in 2020.
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Who wrote this?
John Espirian – the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter
I write B2B web content, blogs, user guides and case studies – all aimed at explaining how your products, services and processes work. I also offer LinkedIn profile critiquing and rewriting.
I work from home in Newport, South Wales and support the (formerly) mighty Liverpool FC 🔴⚽️