Sandstorm Blog

Will
Brand strategy - voice and tone

What sets authors apart? Subject matter? Historical context? It really boils down to their words. Read these three literary excerpts.

  1. The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper.
  2. When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits.
  3. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.

These are clearly from different authors. One is a British master (Charles Dickens), an American man’s man (Ernest Hemingway), and an Edinburgh single mother with a love of magic (J.K. Rowling). Without knowing who was who, you could tell simply from the test that every passage was at least from a different person (yet alone a different time period).

How does your business communication relate to this? Is your company’s voice recognizable?

Could you look at 4 different company whitepapers or pages of your website and feel like they are written by different people?

It’s often overlooked, but the voice and tone of a company is as important as color palette, iconography, and photographic style. Below are four reasons why you need to put more emphasis on your company’s voice and tone.

 1. Consistency

It adds to the consistency of your brand. What kinds of words you use, sentence length/complexity, use of descriptors are all things to consider. It’s just like visual brand consistency. Consistent voice and tone makes it easy for new team members to integrate and start communicating for the company. It creates a regular expected voice for your company that is almost as recognizable as your logo and tagline.

2. Identity and Culture

Who you are as a business and as a brand is important. You know how MailChimp, Chase, McDonald’s, UPS, and many well known brands sound. Hospitals speak differently than banks. Mountain Dew speaks differently than Diet Coke. Your brand has a personality and you should be reflecting that in your words on the web, in print and in all communications.

 3. Customer Relationship

Are you talking in their vernacular? Are you talking up to them? Down at them? Are you trying to educate them? Do you just want to sell to them? Your content and how you deliver it engages your customer is different ways.

  • Come to the zoo.
  • You really should go to the zoo.
  • Go to the zoo!
  • The zoo is great. It would be a shame if you missed out.
  • You’re fun (so is the zoo).

These all say the same thing, but all sound very different. Do you want to be more imperative? Do you want to have a sense of humor about your brand? Do you want to be seen as a trusted friend?

This post is full of questions that are meant to help you and your organization create a voice and tone that conveys your brand across every communication vehicle. Voice and tone are part of who you are as a company and who you are as a group of people working toward a goal.

The old aphorism remains true: “It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.”

How do YOU want to say it?

This blog was posted by Will on August 30, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

Amanda
Sandstorm Design Named Top Interactive Agency in B to B

Digital marketing and UX agency, Sandstorm Design is honored to be named one of the Top Interactive Agencies of 2013 by BtoB Magazine. Receiving this recognition for the third year in a row, Sandstorm is continuing to grow by nurturing talent and building creative solutions and intuitive user experiences for new and existing clients.

BtoB's Top Agencies List is a comprehensive compilation of the top 150 agencies in the United States. BtoB Magazine's Kate Maddox said, “Many of the top b-to-b agencies registered double-digit growth last year though new clients and organic growth.” Sandstorm is poised to continue the momentum built in 2012 by partnering with clients such as CIC Plus, MathWorks, and CareerBuilder for a successful 2013.

BtoB Magazine is a Crain's Communications Inc. publication and is a trusted source and platform for top marketing professionals to grow and learn in the b-to-b space.

This blog was posted by Amanda on May 7, 2013.
Amanda Elliott

About the Author

Amanda Elliott

Amanda Elliott is the Marketing Coordinator at Sandstorm Design. She absorbs the creative energy from our leadership team and facilitates the team so they can focus entirely on solving client challenges. She is passionate about anticipating needs, solving problems, and making projects fun.

Matt
Here are 3 ways to improve your corporate blog

Let's face it, some blogs are just boring. Blogs aren't white papers. They are stories written by people. Opinions, levity, original ideas, relevant humor, these are things that all humans have, and corporate blogs should be no different. That doesn't mean that it can't be “professional.” None of those attributes disqualify anyone from being seen as an expert; it just means that it should have some life! But how?

Tune Your Tone

Tone is tricky, and corporate blogs have a history of tonal shortcomings. Finding your tone will come from your culture:

  • the attitudes of your employees
  • the environment of your office
  • the creativity of your work

Don't stifle these things. Each of them goes into what makes your company unique and can drive your content strategy. One of the best ways to share that uniqueness is with a company blog.

Craft Your Conversation

In The Corporate Blogging Book, Debbie Weil says there are three Cs of blogging, "be conversational, cogent, and compelling." Blogs should start dialogues with your audience, not force rhetoric down their throats. Caterpillar regularly uses their blog to engage in relevant discussions with their audience. Maintaining a conversational tone is key to avoiding a boring blog. Have some fun — you can have an expert voice and still have a heart. It can be a fancy three-piece suit with a silly tie. Also, don't forget to follow up with audience comments to keep the conversation going. Check out web app company 37 Signals blog.

Be, Befriend, or Buy a Blogger

You have established a tone and crafted the conversation you want to have with your audience, but there is still one more big hurdle. You may be the foremost thinker in the area of international toothpaste distribution, but that doesn't necessarily make you a blogger. If you look to your innerself and don't find a blogger, chances are there is someone capable within your office. It is easier, and smarter, to dictate your ideas to someone who already has a grasp on tone, than to try to "discover" it yourself. If all else fails, hire someone. Finding someone who can succinctly capture the voice of your company, while still being entertaining and conversational is essential to beating the boredom! Are you ready to breathe life into your corporate blog?

This blog was posted by Matt on January 15, 2013.
Matt Chiaromonte

About the Author

Matt Chiaromonte

Matt is a copywriter and social media guru in Sandstorm’s Internship Program. With a background in marketing, journalism, and improv comedy, Matt brings equal parts knowledge and entertainment to our little corner of the Internet. When he isn’t generating social media content, Matt can be found enjoying pizza, podcasts, and many other things that begin with the letter “p”.

Karen
Sandstorm Staff celebrating Top Inner City Company Award

Some of the staff at Sandstorm, literally showing upward growth!

2012 is proving to be yet another award-winning year for Sandstorm Design! In March we were named as a Top B2B Interactive Agency by Crain's BtoB Magazine. And this week, our Principal Sandy Marsico traveled to Boston to attend the awards ceremony for the Top 100 Fastest Growing Inner City Companies in America. We are so honored and humbled to have landed at the #43 spot, with a 33% 5-year annual growth.

With our Chicago marketing firm's move to a larger space last year and hiring a number of new employees, we've been steadily and strategically growing. We couldn't be more excited about this achievement, and we thank Fortune, Harvard, ICIC and all of our amazing partners who've worked with us to create impactful work!

This blog was posted by Karen on May 11, 2012.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

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Karen
Chicago marketing firm Sandstorm Design featured in 2011 Inc. 500|5000 Fastest Growing Companies

Hooray! We are in the top 350 for companies in marketing and interactive on the 2011 Inc. 500|5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the country! “It’s a really exciting time for Sandstorm,” said Sandy Marsico, our marketing firm's Principal, as I snapped a photo of her with the package Inc. Magazine sent us. “I am so proud of our team’s relentless dedication to our clients and the exceptional work they produce.” Inc. Magazine releases the 500|5000 list each year to celebrate the companies who are thriving in their industries. The Inc. 500|5000 site has the full list, along with features, graphics and multimedia.

Be sure to check out the Sandstorm Design Inc. 500|5000 profile. “We’re honored to be a part of such an inspiring and aspiring group of companies,” said Marsico. Everyone at Sandstorm is enthusiastically looking forward to continued growth. Learn more about Sandstorm Design and our unique blend of marketing strategy, web design and usability services.

This blog was posted by Karen on August 23, 2011.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

Karen
Aaron Equipment's creative marketing

Some people like to put their brand identity on business cards and letterhead, others prefer choppers. That’s right—choppers. One of our partners, Aaron Equipment, got a custom branded bike from Orange County Choppers and appeared on their TLC show American Choppers. The bike now sits proudly at their Bensenville headquarters. Of course, after visiting their office and seeing the bike, we had to take pictures. And who wouldn’t? This is really a great example of creative marketing—getting your brand out there by connecting with your audience on their interests. Now that summer is in full swing in Chicago and the festivals have taken over the weekends, it’s a perfect time to get creative with your marketing. And “creative” could be anything from a custom chopper to a clever sidewalk chalk stencil. If you need a little help brainstorming some creative marketing ideas, let Sandstorm Design give you hand!

This blog was posted by Karen on June 9, 2011.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

Karen

Your logo is not your brand. This is a common refrain from designers that combats the common misconception that all you need for a brand is a logo. Our Creative Director, Janna Fiester, shared an article with the rest of the team recently that talked about building an unforgettable brand outside of the logo. It makes a great point that we wholeheartedly agree with. Now this doesn’t mean the logo isn’t important (it is!), but there are definitely other factors to consider when it comes to your brand identity—copy being one of them.

A recognizable voice and tone is as important to the brand identity as the logo. Think about Allstate, for example. You always know an ad is theirs long before you see their logo. That’s the brand in the copy. On your web site, blog, brochure and other marketing materials, the copywriting should capture your differentiator in the marketplace. Your content should reflect any marketing objectives and initiatives currently in place. (Are you reaching out to new audiences or offering new services? Is your voice changing to speak more directly to these new objectives?) And, of course, the voice and tone should be consistent.

To insure we build a complete brand, our copywriters are vital members of the marketing and creative teams here at Sandstorm Design. They work directly with designers during the branding phases, giving each company’s unique identity a unified presence—in the visual elements, the marketing copywriting, and everything in between.

This blog was posted by Karen on May 20, 2011.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

Karen

MIT has challenged students all over the world to give their best elevator pitch with the YouPitch Contest. This is the first year they've taken the elevator pitch competition to YouTube, requiring students to upload 60-second elevator pitches to compete to win $2000 and international glory. The winner was announced on Facebook, and will receive their award at the grand finale show on May 11 at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium.

So, what makes an elevator pitch good enough to win a contest—or for many of us, good enough to win business? First off, it should be conversational. It should clearly point out the need you are filling, the competitive solution you are offering, and how the solution will be carried out. And it should be short, sweet, and to the point. The student competition at MIT called for 60-second pitches. At Sandstorm Design, we do ours in 30… but maybe our elevators are just faster here in Chicago!

You never know what opportunities could be opened with the right pitch. Whether the challenge is a competition or a new client, this part of marketing is always fun and exciting. Learn more about our take on marketing strategy.

Check out our favorite marketing elevator pitches from MIT’s YouPitch contest:

This blog was posted by Karen on May 10, 2011.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

Karen

2010 was a spectacular year for Sandstorm! At the beginning of the year our office space grew, and as the year went on, so did our staff. In 2011, we’re anticipating even more growth for this Chicago marketing firm.

And the Sandstorm staff is looking forward to another type of growth – we’re hoping to grow some healthier personal habits! I asked around the office for the Sandstormers’ New Year’s Resolutions, and from the results, it looks like we’re a pretty health conscious bunch. Here are the resolutions:

  • Surround myself with positive people
  • Drop 5% body fat
  • Stop eating high fructose corn syrup
  • Eat better and be nicer
  • Run on the treadmill every week
  • Cook more home cooked meals
  • Read new books, one classic novel, one work of fiction, and one fluff read
  • Eat more organic food and less pizza

So, with salad on our plates, gym shoes on our feet, books in our bags and smiles on our faces, we at Sandstorm Design wish you a very Happy New Year!

This blog was posted by Karen on January 4, 2011.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

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Karen

Sandstorm Design is excited to announce the launch of SRES.org! We’re so happy to provide this excellent resource to anyone age 50+ with real estate needs, helping them connect with SRES® designees all over the country. The SRES® designation, offered by the National Association of REALTORS®, indicates specialization in the real estate needs of those age 50+. Baby boomers can visit this web site to easily search for an SRES® designee near them, and prepare themselves for what types of considerations they’ll face with their real estate decisions.  We love working with the National Association of REALTORS® and marketing to seniors, and couldn’t be more excited to launch this web site!

This blog was posted by Karen on November 2, 2010.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

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