Q&A with Berrak Sarikaya: Helping Brands Find a Unique Voice
Berrak Sarikaya is a content strategist and digital marketer who has crafted a unique voice that integrates the personal and professional. Follow her on LinkedIn and find out more about her at berrak.biz.
Talk about your evolution from content provider to content strategist and digital marketer.
I started out freelance writing when I had a full-time job in communications and government affairs about 11 years ago. When I left that job, I took the opportunity to go deeper into freelancing, focusing a lot on social media content creation, management and blogging.
That work evolved into community management and community building. That and many other smaller projects helped me figure out what I loved doing in that arena.
About two years ago in an effort to be more well-rounded and integrated, I joined an agency and started working with B2B and enterprise-level companies on content strategy and digital marketing. I still do some social media and content creation along with the agency work.
How important is it to have a distinct or unique voice for your brand?
It’s not so much to have a unique voice for the sake of it but to show the values of the brand and what makes it stand out.
An emotional connection makes people want to find out who you are. When you translate that into today’s 24/7 communication overload, even the most amazing flash campaign can die out and fade away without a unique differentiator that makes people want to become loyal customers.
Your online persona is very authentic. How has that helped you as a B2B digital marketer?
I think it helped me a lot more when I was on my own for 10 years as a consultant than now with my agency work. I actually started out under a pen name blogging, not thinking that communication and marketing would be a career for me. Later on, I realized that it was time to merge my blog life with my professional life, and I started using my real name. I found a lot of work on social media through personal content and through my connections, especially Twitter.
A few years ago I thought about separating the two again, but I realized that my values in and out of the office are the same. I wanted clients and coworkers to know who I was, and I was in a position to choose clients that aligned with my values. There was really no need (and it might actually have been counterproductive) for me to separate the two.
Has your openness about your personal life ever caused reputation problems for you? If so, how did you deal with that?
If anything, my openness has helped my reputation. In a few cases, it has helped people to self-select themselves out of my life so that I get to interact with the people with whom I want to interact. Because I am Turkish-American, I have talked about politics from that viewpoint, and it has occasionally been off-putting for some people and has caused ebbs and flows in the people that want to interact with me.
Personally, I am okay with that, and I don’t expect to be at 100% with everyone all the time. I have taken breaks from social media for a number of reasons, both because of these ebbs and flows and because of other personal issues, or work-related reasons, so that’s been part of things for me as well. When the break is over, I just reintroduce myself and pick up from there.
What is one thing a brand can do to amplify its voice?
It’s important for brands to encourage their employees to believe in the brand and the brand’s unique voice, and then share about life at that company and what their own unique experiences are. Most companies don’t restrict employees from sharing about the brand on their own social media pages, but they don’t actively encourage them to share enough, either.
When employees do share, it’s valuable that they do so in their own voices and to own those voices, so it doesn’t just sound like they are mouthpieces for the brand. One of the things that companies really need to do a better job with is taking pride in their employees and encouraging their employees to take pride in them.
How can brands balance being the most effective for their audience and being themselves?
Brands need to remember that it’s not about what they think their audience wants to hear, but about listening better to their audience and discovering what they actually want. If you are listening to your audience and aligning your marketing strategy with what you hear, that balance will happen naturally. That audience is going to keep coming back to you, because you are authentically engaging with them and communicating in a way that matches your brand voice but also meets their needs.
It’s extremely important to document your strategy as you navigate this balance. Many marketers still don’t do this, but it is your road map and is more necessary than anything else when it comes to marketing. The documentation is necessary so that all parts of the brand are aligned and can work together the way they need to.
How can a brand that doesn’t have much of a unique voice add personality to how it portrays itself?
I would ask why they don’t have a unique voice. It’s not just about personality. When that unique voice is hard to identify, it’s important to go back to the substance of the brand and its values to discover why the voice may be lacking and what the missing pieces are.
It’s not about just injecting personality; that’s not going to fix problems that exist with the overall messaging of the brand or the way it is positioned in the marketplace. Injecting personality won’t fix what’s wrong with the brand’s foundation.
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