Tone of voice demystified

Ever wondered what comms people mean when they talk about tone of voice? Well, read on to find out why we love it so much and how it can help you.

Finding your voice is an incredibly important part of any brand. But it’s not so much about what you say, rather how you say it that will make a long-term impression.

Used properly, your tone of voice will inform everything you write, from website copy, social media content, emails and even product packaging if that’s the kind of business you operate. Quite simply, you want people to recognise it.

That’s because it’s such an important part of identifying who you are and what you do as a business. 

It can tell your audience a lot about the values and the people that make up your organisation. Think of it as a distinguishing feature – one of the things that will make you stand out from your competitors.

What’s more, as humans, we are creatures of habit, so we respond well to the familiar, and become used to the ‘voice’ of the organisations or brands that we interact with regularly. In turn, this leads to the holy grail of marketing – trust.

So how do you begin? First of all, don’t panic!  Your tone of voice should reflect your business and its values – the things that matter to your organisation, as well as the key messages you want to share with your audience.

It’s great to show some personality, but your tone is there to resonate with your target audience, so you need to know your audience and keep them front of mind. (You might personally enjoy a good pun, but that might not be appropriate for the audience you are talking to).   

Why is it so crucial that you tone resonates with your target audience(s)? Because this is what you’ll use to persuade people to work with you or buy your products.  

But having a tone of voice doesn’t mean you have to be bland. You can (and indeed should) take a stance or have a point of view; some of the most interesting examples of successful tone of voice are from brands who are fighting a particular cause or standing up for something. Let’s be honest; as a customer, there is nothing worse than being contacted by a brand who have very little to say.

It’s also important to think carefully about the words you use. After all, the way we say something directly relates to the way people feel – we react to language at a subconscious as well as a conscious level, which can make an enormous difference to the impressions we take away from an interaction.

Consistency, of course, is absolutely vital. Once you’ve found your voice, you need to use it and keep using it over and over until it becomes second nature. You want it to seem effortless, as though it comes naturally and you haven’t just spent hours and hours figuring it out!  If this isn’t that case – you’re probably not quite there yet.  

In the same vein, while you want your writing to be ‘good’, it shouldn’t detract from your message or the business you are trying to promote.  Keep it simple is solid advice and if you are struggling with putting your voice down on paper (i.e. setting out some tone of voice guidelines), start with what you want to tell people, and reverse engineer from there.

So, to recap:  

  1. Start with your values – what matters to you as a business
  2. Work out who you want to talk to (your audience)
  3. Have an opinion
  4. Think about the words you use – how will they make people feel?
  5. Be consistent

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