For many brands, an official and documented tone of voice is very much at the heart of their communications strategy, but many brands have either neglected to implement one, or do not have one that reflects modern communication strategies. Whilst your tone of voice guidelines may apply perfectly for your web copy, does it work equally as effectively for social media?
Having a documented tone of voice guide helps to maintain your brand’s message and reputation, whilst ensuring that your company’s personality comes across in any communications with your audience. This creates a sense of consistency across all of the mediums that you are using to engage audiences, and it minimises the risks to your brand’s reputation that may come from an errant post, a non-standard tweet or any other form of content that conflicts with your brand standards and values.
Having a tone of voice that the entire business is familiar with also helps your audience to feel at ease, and know what to expect from you. If you don’t have a tone of voice, you run the risk of discrepancies cropping up across channels and it may impact how consumers interact with you or interpret your business.
So what steps do you need to take to effectively create and introduce a tone of voice across your brand? And if you’ve got one, how do you ensure that it remains relevant as communication channels, and audiences, evolve?
Define what your brand stands for
What’s your brand DNA? What makes you who you are? Why do your customers choose you over any of your competitors?
Identify your company values and stick to them – they are the heart of your brand and should underpin the way you behave. You may also want to look at your company mission and vision to help build a picture of your positioning, where you want it to go and who your audience is. This should help you to clearly define who you are.
Define your personality
Different brands will adopt different personalities in order to cut through the noise and connect with their target audience.
This personality will often be determined by your target audience, although it will invariably be influenced by the views and needs of various stakeholders, depending on the size and scale of your brand, and potentially even industry regulators.
Consider a variety of characteristics to help you lock down where your business should be positioned. Are you fun yet authoritative? Helpful yet formal? This goes back to your brand values and who you are.
For example, if your business is a bank, you would most likely want to have a professional, yet approachable tone of voice consistently published across all marketing platforms. If you are a children’s clothing brand you may want to have a chatty, light and fun tone of voice to show your creativity and appeal to a younger audience.
Whatever your personality ultimately is, a tone of voice guide helps the people within your organisation to understand what it is. This ensures that everybody within the organisation is speaking the same language.
Decide on the language you want to use
Certain brands have very particular ways of saying certain things, so spell these out. If you would prefer your content to say ‘elegant’ rather than ‘classy’, then make this clear.
Create a list of dos and don’ts, as well as suggested alternatives. This can be particularly useful if your brand often comes across words that are frequently misspelled or misunderstood, or if technical terms (such as tech jargon or acronyms) are a common feature of your copy.
With everyone knowing what is required when it comes to content across various mediums, you can reinforce your brand and ensure the consistency of your message.
Make allowances for different mediums
It is important to tailor your brand messaging to the platform that you intend to use, but ensure that whatever you do publish, you follow the core principles that you set out in your tone of voice guidelines.
Social media snippets are quite different to a longer, more formal piece of editorial content, so consider whether you need to make allowances for this in your tone of voice guidelines. For example, if your brand favours longer, more technical terms, how will this work in an environment where messages are limited to 140 characters?
Keep it sharp and to the point
You don’t want to go over the top and write a 500-page tone of voice document. It will be too difficult for your colleagues to consume and it will become incredibly difficult to manage. Instead, focus on creating an easy-to-digest guide. Typically, try and keep it to just a couple of pages that focus on the main guidelines you want your team to follow. Whether you are using an internal content team, freelance writers or a digital agency, your tone of voice should enable their creativity to flow, while giving enough direction for your brand message to flourish.
You can create a tone of voice for your business easily. Just take the time to look at your brand and your audience and formulate who you are. With a solid tone of voice, you can ensure everyone in your business is on the same page and understands how you want your company to be perceived so that content across all platforms translates consistently and performs effectively.