Voice. It’s more than just using periods. After. Every. Word. For. Dramatic. Effect. It’s more than writing in a mad chill way ‘cause you’re trying to kick it with millennials. Inspired, personal, and effective, it goes beyond a few adjectives in a brand guideline PDF.

One of the greatest compliments a cultural critic can give to an artist is to call her voice “inimitable.” The same is true for brands, too. One brand excelling at this is Denny’s Diner. Their voice is distinctive, to say the least. If you aren’t familiar, I strongly recommend you take a look. No other brand is going to tell you that, “love isn’t dead. it’s very much alive, it’s eggs.”

But ultimately, voice is more than what you say. Voice is about making your brand’s unique perspective heard. Everything your brand does is your brand’s voice, and it should be heard clearly through every action. When brands speak to the public, it’s critical to consider not just the content of the message, but how it’s delivered, and why. Often times, it’s the latter two that matter most.

First, the ‘how’ part of the equation. For a powerful example of this, let’s look back in time at the first Gore-Bush debate. Gore’s communication missteps cost him the debate, and, some argue, the election. The New York Times recently excavated and analyzed the debate, finding that while Gore’s canned responses didn’t do him any favors (he used the term lockbox seven times), it was his body language that dominated the headlines the next day. As his opponent spoke, Gore rolled his eyes, huffed and puffed, and blew his own house down.

There’s a lesson for brands here. If your delivery is too repetitive, heavy-handed, or negative, you risk losing your audience. Even worse, you risk making your competitors look better just by comparison. Ouch.

Now to move on to the ‘why.’ Before launching something, whether it’s a single tweet or a new campaign, you have to know why you’re doing it. Why this particular message, why this audience, why this platform, and, finally, why is it right for this moment?

Actions speak louder than words, and to succeed, you have to put your marketing where your mouth is. One of the most salient examples of this is REI’s #OptOutside campaign. REI’s decision to close its stores and web properties on Black Friday was the perfect pairing of a brand’s voice with its actions. It not only resonated with REI’s audience of nature lovers, but it sparked a movement, leading over 150 other businesses to follow their lead.

Voice is about putting yourself out into the world. And if you do it well, you’ll hear the echo back loud and clear, as REI did when others joined in to #OptOutside.

Remember--to make your brand’s voice heard, don’t just say it. Slay it.

By Gillian Melrose, Chief Marketing Officer at  Group SJR