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What is Tone of Voice?

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

You've taken the time to make your brand identity look tip-top, but what about the words you're using?

Tone of voice is the written personality of your brand. Just like a real personality, our mood and the context of what we're saying can change the words we choose to use, but you'll always know who you're talking to.

Consider these two greetings: 'Hey! How's it going?' compared to, 'Good afternoon. I hope you are well?.'.

These two phrases have almost the same meaning, but they sound like they're coming from totally different people.

Your choice of words can make people feel a certain way - angry, happy, sad - and the same is true for the words your business uses.

Why do I need a tone of voice?

Apart from helping you to stand out from your competitors, having a solid tone of voice will help you to keep your marketing consistent. I believe the most important thing when it comes to marketing is consistency - it drives awareness, loyalty, and long-lasting relationships.

If the way your website speaks is different to your emails and different to your brochure - people won't feel like they know you. Customers like to get to know brands.

When used effectively across your marketing, words can be really powerful. If you've got the most amazing product but you can't describe it in a way your customers resonate with, they're not going to be all that interested.

Where do I start with tone of voice?

Start by understanding what your brand/business stands for. What do you believe in? What change do you want to see in the world? What are your core values? You may come up with fairly generic words, and that's ok. It's all about how you translate those core values into words and phrases.

Finding the tone of voice sweet spot

Next, work towards finding the sweet spot between extremes such as:

- Formal vs relaxed

- Serious vs funny

- Friendly vs professional

- Bold vs soft

Decide where your brand sits on those scales and think about how that translates into the language you use.

Choose your words wisely

Think about the vocabulary your brand should use. Make a list of words your brand should, or shouldn't be using.

Styling and grammar

And finally, think about whether you should use things like contractions or not (you're vs you are, or it's vs it is), passive or active voice, long or short sentences and any other grammatical rules you want to adhere to.

When to change your tone

Just like people, brand tone can change depending on who you're talking to and when. You might want to consider when to dial up or dial down certain elements of your brand personality. For example, social media copy might vary between LinkedIn and Instagram because different audiences are likely to see it. Copy in an email might be more brief and to the point compared to web copy, where people can expect to find more information.

How do you make sure everyone sticks to the tone of voice?

Rather than waste time editing people's copy to make sure it all sounds the same, provide your team with a Tone of Voice Guideline document. Include practical examples, before and afters, and all the rules you decided on earlier. This will help them to stay on track and show them how they can follow the rules.

While a Tone of Voice Document won't make everyone a naturally brilliant writer, it's an excellent tool to help your team to stay consistent when it comes to writing marketing copy.

Want help creating a tone of voice for your brand/business? Get in touch!

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