What is tone of voice and why does it matter?
Tone of voice, confusingly enough, refers to the written word and it’s all about how we communicate with our audience. Our tone of voice changes depending on the product we’re selling and the kind of customer we are selling it to. For example, Budweiser and Baileys are both companies that sell alcoholic drinks – but the language they use to sell their product is entirely different. It’s not what you say, but how you say it.
What defines tone of voice? It all comes down to your brand and your customer. You have to choose a tone of voice that both appeals to your target market and represents what your company stands for. Sounds tricky, doesn’t it? It can be, but if you break it down into steps, you’ll see that it isn’t too difficult.
Think about who you are
If your brand was a person ask the following questions;
Who are they?
What are they like?
What hobbies would they have?
Answering these questions leads you to understanding how you should communicate with your audience. Take a look at your competitors, they should give you a good idea of what your tone of voice should be like. What do you like and dislike about their tone of voice? How are you different from them and how should your tone of voice reflect that? Are you more formal or more fun?
Getting an understanding of ‘who’ your brand is helps you push further into understanding how ‘they’ should speak. By getting to the bottom of your brand’s personality, you’ll be able to see if your current tone of voice is right for your brand.
Think about your audience and what they expect from you
What is your company in relation to your customers – a carer, a teacher, a friend? Do you help, instruct or make your customer’s day a little more fun? Take the same tone to match your role in your customer’s life.
This might all seem a little silly, but don’t underestimate the power of branding. In today’s competitive environment, it is no longer enough to sell a good product – you have to sell a personality. A lifestyle. Your customer can’t simply like or need your product – they have to like the brand and what it stands for before they’ll consider parting with their cash.
Get input from those close to you
This isn’t a task that should be completed alone. Ask your colleagues, friends, family and customers about your current tone of voice and what they would change about it, if anything. If they get a different idea of your brand than you expected – your tone of voice definitely isn’t working for you!
Start honing in on who you want to be and maybe test some of your ideas out on those closest to your business. Ask them what brands they like and why. It’s pretty much guaranteed that someone will mention Innocent – as they probably have the most successful tone of voice seen on any brand today. We all know that they are owned by one of the biggest organisations in the world, yet we still seem to think of them as a cute, little company that just wants to be our friend. It all comes down to tone of voice.
Communicate your tone of voice with your team
Whether your tone of voice is right for your brand or not – have you ever communicated your tone of voice to your team? Do they know how the company is supposed to ‘speak’? Start writing a guide (this is also a good exercise in helping you nail down your tone of voice as well). Start with what you don’t do as that’s generally an easier list to make, and ask yourself a series of questions about how your brand ‘speaks’. Is your language formal, chatty or somewhere in between? Which colloquialisms, if any, are acceptable and which aren’t? If these questions are a little bit tough, instead put your brand into different conversational scenarios. Ask yourself if your brand would start an email with hello, hi, hey or hiya. By thinking about these different situations, you’ll be able to explain to your team ‘who’ your brand is, making it easier for them to get on board.
Following these steps should help you get to the bottom of whether or not your current tone of voice is right for you – and help you figure out what you need to change if it isn’t.
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