5 Tips for Finding your Authentic Voice
This past Black History Month, we facilitated a discussion on authentic storytelling for the Sage Circle Series presented by the Southern Black Women and Girls Consortium. The Sage Circle Series is focused on equipping Black women leaders with tangible tools, resources, and learning lessons. Our session was entitled ‘Finding Your Authentic Voice: A Storytelling Masterclass with the Spoons Consultancy Cooperative.’
As an organization or brand, telling your story is critical to recruiting clients, partners, funders, and participants toward the goals of your work. However, developing an adequate narrative framework and storytelling praxis often feels daunting, and many leaders are unsure where to start. Therefore, we spoke with the Sage Circle members to share best practices related to storytelling and narrative development by using our brand as a case study along with insights from our client work. Below you will find a high-level overview of our conversation that includes tangible tips for Black women-led organizations and small businesses to consider.
1. Don’t Try to Be for Everyone
We are not for everyone. And we know that. In fact, our specificity is our unique vantage point within an, otherwise, crowded industry. Our focus on Black women and femmes shapes every aspect of our work. Although we do not solely work with Black women-led organizations, our cooperative and the Spoons network of consultants is composed of Black women, femmes, and nonbinary folks. The clients and partners that we choose to work with are focused on positively supporting Black communities and value our unique voice as Black women and femmes. This may look like supporting the work of Chicago African Americans in Philanthropy (CAAIP) with their rebranding, narrative development, and website redevelopment. Our work with CAAIP emphasized their specificity of audience and the unique role Black philanthropists play within the funding space and the City of Chicago. By staying specific, you help people know who you are and how they can engage with you. If you haven’t already, take time to look at your mission and vision statement to ensure you are clear as to who you are and who you serve.
2. Be Emphatic in your Language
As Black women leaders, we carry unique perspectives and strengths that allow us to do our jobs with nuance, boldness, and intention. The language we use should reflect that boldness and convey our honesty, confidence, steadfastness, and decisiveness to those we work with and on behalf of. Without that boldness, your audience will not fully be able to determine your viewpoint on the very cause that brought them to you. In your work, it’s critical to not be on the fence on matters that mean something to your organization or business. For example, our work with the Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative (IBAI) revolves around supporting an asset-based narrative framework for the organization and the Black people who comprise its membership. We do not use language that centers on pain or trauma but rather language that positions Black community members as experts in the policy space and architects of their future.
3. Go Beyond your Words
While your audience will connect with a beautifully written story about why you are called to do the work you’re doing, they will also want to know the “how”. This means detailing your experiences in your field of work that demonstrates your skills and abilities. You can do this practically and succinctly by writing case studies that summarize what your client needs, your solution to that need, and the approach you took to generate that solution. Good case studies also include images, when possible, and a testimonial from your client expressing their satisfaction with your work.
4. Be Consistent
We are all familiar with those brands that change what they’re doing so often that it’s hard to keep up. Like that time IHOP randomly dropped pancakes and started pedaling burgers. It was weird. To stay on track and avoid adapting to every new commercial or aesthetic trend, develop key assets early in your brand development process. These assets should include a visual brand guide that outlines your colors, logos, and iconography, and a narrative brand guide that specifies your voice, tone, and copyediting practices (think: the words you use and don’t use to describe your work). Creating these resources up front will keep you focused on your brand’s core identity, even when you may feel tempted to bandwagon and adopt new trends misaligned with what your audience expects. This doesn’t mean that your business or project won’t mature over time, but any changes should be intentional, not spontaneous.
5. Keep Up with your Audience
Let Blockbuster be a lesson to us all… If you want to remain successful, you’ve got to make sure your brand stays relevant. This doesn’t mean, as mentioned before, that you are always following the newest trend, but it does mean regularly assessing if your audience is still interested in your offerings. You can do this by sending out short surveys, monitoring engagement if you advertise on socials, or having check-ins with trusted clients. It is also helpful to connect with your peers in the space. Having a community that you can bounce ideas off of and ask for advice is an invaluable resource that can help you innovate effectively.
We understand that these tips are easier said than done. If you find yourself needing more support, there are a few ways The Spoons Consultancy Cooperative can help! Here’s how:
Dig into The Inside Scoop: Working differently as a Black Millennial Woman, a detailed guide for entrepreneurs.
Subscribe to our masterclass series on topics including storytelling, marketing, and creative direction.
Schedule a consultation with us for in-depth strategy sessions or long-term project execution.