What does tone of voice mean?
Simply put, tone of voice refers to your organisation’s voice as if it were a person. It’s how you talk to your audience, so it influences how they envision you.
For example, it’s why we’re addressing you directly right now. We were using contracted forms and mid-length sentences, so they did not ramble on and on until they reached a conclusion where you had all but forgotten about the point that was being made. Sometimes, we’ll deviate from the norm. To get a point across. Feel engaged yet?
Looking at the examples above, it’s clear that tone of voice is part of (copy)writing. But it’s important to realise that it doesn’t stop there. It should be part of your brand identity. We’ll get more into that in our best practices below, but let’s start by checking out the advantages.
How do I determine my tone of voice?
Well, it’s easier said than done. We recommend organising a brainstorm or workshop to get everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction. Start by establishing a series of key values and characteristics that you want to see reflected. Remember to align these with the other parts of your brand identity as much as possible.
We recommend working with an established framework like the four dimensions or with some opposites for a quick start. Have all members of (at least) senior management fill in a questionnaire separately. That way, you can see where your vision is already consistent and where it still needs some work.
Here are some examples to get you started:
- Formal and serious VS informal and light
- Established and respected VS innovative and disruptive
- Direct and to-the-point VS indirect and illustrative
Once you have determined the key values, look at other aspects of writing. These will be heavily affected by what you’ve worked out above. Here’s some food for thought:
- Do you want to use “we” or your company’s name?
- Which concepts should appear frequently to reflect your vision? Some examples: customer-oriented, innovative, tailor-made.
- Do you want to use puns? What about emoticons or emojis?
- Do you want to use a lot of quotes?
Keep the following in mind at all times for both the key values and other characteristics:
- What is your target audience?
- Do you want to reach marketeers, C-level executives, potential new hires, …? These are not mutually exclusive! Keep the right audience in mind depending on the type of content.
- What is your preferred means of communication?
- For example, social media and other online content favours short and snappy paragraphs.
Now that the thinking’s (temporarily) done, get to work. Remember that nothing is set in stone: don’t limit yourselves to earlier choices. Write out a few drafts of the same text and evaluate how it makes you feel. Would you read this as your target audience? What would you think of your company if you did?
We recommend using an experienced branding partner or a copywriter to make sure that the consistency’s there. As with all good things, it takes time. After all, practice makes perfect.
Interested in reaping the benefits of a consistent brand identity? Need some help to determine or refine your tone of voice? Contact us, and we’ll be happy to help!
What are the advantages of using a tone of voice?
It makes you stand out. Not like a sore thumb, but head and shoulders above the rest. There’s plenty of competition out there, so it’s essential to make yourself heard.
A tone of voice can help you figure out who you are and position yourself as a company. It also lets your leads and clients know what to expect. Are you the new kid on the block or an established name? Do you do things your way, or are you flexible? In our experience, ToV workshops can lead to some interesting results.
As an example, just look at Microsoft and Apple’s websites. There’s a reason that people think of Apple as innovative and Microsoft as a more traditional household name, and it’s not just their products. Let your vision shine through in your writing, so it’s clear what you represent.
Being consistent in your communication shows your competence. Social media posts and thought leadership pieces have different audiences, sure, but it’s good to keep those at least somewhat aligned. Your customers should know who they’re dealing with. They need to see your brand’s identity reflected in your communication, whether it’s in a Facebook post, on your website, or through a salesperson.
So, the advantages are obvious, but where should you start?