Your brand voice isn’t always what you say to the reader, it’s shaped through your tone. Expressed through tone of voice, it creates the character of your business and communicates your values. Your content has the power to send a message to your reader and strike up a dialogue with them – so it’s important your brand shines through.
What is a tone voice, and we do we need one?
Whether it’s a blog, external emails or your social channels, your tone of voice communicates your company’s personality through language, sentence structure and the sound and rhythm of your words. With the right style, you can convey a lot about your business’ character, values and overall messaging without really saying too much.
Tone of voice guidelines are important because the way we say them can often imply very different meanings.
For example, consider the following three sentences:
- Do you have a book I can borrow, please?
- Can I borrow your book?
- Give me your book
The outcome and sentiment of these three sentences is essentially the same. However, the way they’re phrased and the note they strike gives each one an entirely different feel. Tone has the power to build trust, show authority, reassure the reader and comfort them.
What can a tone of voice do for your business?
On a larger scale, your tone can further set the agenda for your businesses and it can distinguish your company from competitors. Is your tone bold, playful or reassuring and does it make sense for you?
A neutral approach indicates a company that plays it safe, which might be ideal for financial or B2B communications. Edgier businesses might set themselves up with fun, playful or even daring tone to put themselves out there and create an individual persona.
Both options are completely viable, but at the end of the day, creating a successful tone comes down to who you are as a business and who’s going to be reading your content. The wrong tone of voice and the wrong perception of who you are can alienate your reader when you need to connect. Similarly, the wrong tone can also attract the wrong type of customer, so you’d be wasting your time and theirs.
For example, a high-end recruitment firm with a fun, playful tone will struggle to establish trust in both their business clients and the people they recruit. In this instance, their tone would be extremely ineffective. Instead, they should establish themselves as an expert in their field with a more authoritative and reassuring tone.
An example of someone who’ve hit the right note are innocent the smoothie makers. Their branding, products and values all stand out from the crowd and their tone does too. They’re warm, honest and innocent and you can pick up on all of that from the way they write and communicate. As an example of a company who’ve really nailed their tone, you can get an idea of how they’ve portrayed their vision, without sounding like everybody else.
Overall, remember, you’re writing to a person. By aligning your tone with your specific target audience, you can nurture trust and create familiarity, making your reader feel at ease with you and your company.
So where do you begin?
To strike the right note with your audience, you need to align your values with theirs. That means defining your customer as accurately as possible and gathering information to understand their needs. You need to put yourself in their shoes.
To create your customer personas, start with the simple stuff. Take a look at your demographic and ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the age of your customer?
- What is the prevalent gender of your customer?
- What is their socio-economic standing?
- Do they have a family?
- What type of job do they have?
When you gather the answers, you’ll start to get a general picture of your customers and you may already start to see a clear direction for your tone of voice. For example, an 18-25 year old female student who works part-time will connect with a very different tone of voice to a male business manager of 50+.
However, this image is still too broad. Once you have an idea of who they are, you can start to shape your tone, but you still need about how they want to connect with you. Examine your business’ audience further and answer these questions:
- What do they like/dislike from a business? Do they like to get straight to the point or do they like inspirational language that tells a story? Are they to be informed, inspired or entertained? Once you know what they want, you can adjust your tone and copy to suit.
- Where do they consume their content? Do they like online content, do they read on their phone, appreciate email outreach or do they prefer print? Once you understand this, you can alter your formats and methods to reach your customer.
- What are their ambitions and challenges? Understanding what your audience aspires to and the challenges they face will help you to define exactly what you offer a customer. It can help you inspire and motivate them to achieve their goals or even offer them a solution with your products.
- What do they value? Ensuring you align your values with those of your customers can help you connect with them on a closer level. Do they value friends and family? Fashion and image? Or, are they looking for a great deal?
- What do they want from you? When you have a detailed picture of this typical persona, ask yourself why they would come to your company over competitors and what unique element of your business your persona values most.
Once you have the answers to these questions you can start to define your tone of voice. Take elements of what your brand stands for and combine that with the needs of your customer. From there, you can translate this information into an effective style guide by outlining your values to guide your tone of voice.
- We are: Empathetic, sensitive, understanding and reassuring.
- We are not: Patronising, contrived or affected.
How to create a consistent tone
From grammar to the words you use, consistency across all comms is essential building trust with your reader. Your Twitter, Instagram, online content and even your influencers need to be on the same page.
When you’ve created a standardised tone of voice, your next step is to distribute it to your key stakeholders – both within your company, and to any external agencies who work on your behalf. Distribute a brand message document with a definitive guide to your audience and tone of voice. Everyone can refer to this document to ensure a strong, consistent message is deployed across all of your content and communications.
Once a consistent tone of voice is put into affect across all of your wider communications, you’ll soon start to feel the effects. Your readers will engage more with your content and spend more time on your website or reading your emails. They’ll create an image of your company in their mind, whether that’s edgy and forward-thinking or trusted and authoritative, your identity will be cemented.
With the right people reading the right content, you can rest assured you’re reaching your perfect audience for your business and your click-through’s, time on site and conversion rates should all start to rise.
Resonate with your audience, define your brand message and make an impression that counts – all when you find your tone of voice.