Establishing a Tone of Voice for your Brand
April 17th 2013 | By Sarah McInerney
The tone of the copy used for your website and other marketing collateral can have a powerful effect on how you are perceived by clients, investors and peers. Brand identity is not limited to slogans, imagery and design. The tone in which you communicate your values and marketing messages is a crucial element.
Your copy should reflect your brand values across all mediums and touch points such as social media, sales literature, written communications both internal and external, proposals, presentations, press releases and marketing vehicles such as newsletters and company magazines.
Before any copy is written, it is vital to establish a tone of voice so that you can truly engage with your audience. To do this, there are a number of steps to work through.
Expressing Brand Values & Personality
What are the brand values and core messages? For example innovative, genuine, approachable, accurate, down to earth, professional, fresh thinking, in-depth knowledge.
Once these are summarised they can be translated into written expression. For example, if you are approachable, you would include phraseology such as ‘Speak to us’ as NatWest Personal Banking does. And then you’d take it further and make sure you clearly set out your availability and invite the reader to get in touch at their convenience.
If accuracy is one of your values, consider phrases that show your attention to detail, such as Virgin Atlantic’s ‘We get all the details just right’. Your next step would be to ensure company-wide attention to accuracy of grammar and spelling to prove your commitment to that value. It’s not just about the work, it’s about the delivery of that work and the communication that goes with it. You can be as accurate as you like when you install an audio visual system or hand make a dress, but if your correspondence has errors in it, that’s what you’ll be remembered for.
Speaking the Right Language
You need to speak to your audience in a language with which they are familiar. So consider their demographic. How old are they? How much do they earn? Are they conservative or fun-loving? What are their core values and principles? Find out what they read and where they ‘hang out’ – research them well, because by fully understanding the language your target audience uses, it will become easier to adopt a tone that will resonate with them.
The industry in which you operate will have an effect on the tone of voice you can use generally. For example, if you operate within the financial or legal sectors then you’ll need to use a fairly serious and reassuring tone, because your audience will be looking for a professional approach. If you are in the business of supplying fancy dress costumes, your delivery will be upbeat and fun-inspiring.
Take a look at how your competitors and others in your industry deliver their messages. If you read something that makes you instantly recoil, you’ll know it’s wrong. If you feel at home reading what they have to say, then they’ve probably done a good job with their tone setting.
You should always style your content to meet the objectives of the vehicle it is destined for. So for example, an e-commerce site designed to make sales will have a certain urgency about its tone. Whereas an educational guide will be slower paced and focused on clarity.
Got it? Speak it Company Wide!
More and more businesses and brands are adopting this approach to their marketing copy these days because audience engagement has become so incredibly important. Once you’ve established your tone guidelines, it’s a great idea to create and distribute a manual throughout your organisation so that the delivery of your messages remains consistent.
Need help with brand or tone of voice guidelines? We can help. Contact us for a chat: we speak your language!