What does your tone of voice tell about you? Probably more than you think.

It’s important because it’s something people recognise you by.

Imagine that you’re sick or have a sore throat.

Your voice is not the same and everyone can tell.

It’s almost as if you’re a completely different person.

We use our voices to express our character and identity.

Brands do the exact same thing, albeit a bit differently.

Finding a tone of voice is crucial since it helps a brand communicate and engage with its audience in a much more meaningful way.

What Exactly Is It?

Your brand’s tone and voice are all about expression:

How you sound, what language you use, how you say things.

People know it’s you, not because you tell them but because your style gives it away.

And it’s not just about the words that you use. It’s about personality.

What are you saying and why are you saying it? What are your motives?

A brand’s voice tells a story and makes you sound more human.

Companies with a clear voice stand out from the rest.

Brand voice matters because it helps audiences identify and connect with your company.

Your messages may change, but your voice should be consistent throughout.

Take Apple as an example:

The world’s most valuable company. Their designs are clean and memorable.

Apple’s front page currently features the all-new iPhone XR.

The name is on top and the product appears on the lower half of the screen.

The only text in between reads: ‘Brilliant. In every way’.

You’d know it’s Apple without even having to see the actual product.

Everything about the design, colour and choice of words screams Apple.

You get more information about the product as you scroll down the page, but you’re probably already sold.

Finding Your Tone of Voice

You may have not found your brand’s voice yet, and that’s ok.

Your brand’s voice is part of your brand’s identity, which usually takes time and effort to develop.

You’ll first have to do some research:

  • What are your competitors doing? What tone of voice do they use? Is it effective? Learn from other people’s mistakes. Your industry may be connected with a specific tone but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to it 100%. Carefully examine how your competitors position themselves through writing.
  • What do your employees think about the brand? Interviewing your own team could give you a sense of what your voice actually looks (or sounds) like. Employees are the company and they often play a big role in shaping the brand’s tone of voice, many a time without even realising.
  • What does your content look like? Review your existing (and most successful) content and try to figure out recurring patterns. Do you sound serious, playful, sincere, bold? Make note of what works well so that you may repeat it in the future. Are there any bad examples that you want to avoid? This may be a good time to write everything down on paper and create clear guidelines that you can use as reference points.
  • Can you get away with a big change in tone? Maybe you found out that one of your competitors uses a very different tone of voice to yours, albeit successfully. Don’t just copy their voice hoping it will work for you too. Your customers may think it strange and, as a result, lose trust in your brand. Before making any drastic changes, start with a small campaign to test the waters. If all goes well, you can begin to incorporate more significant changes in your marketing campaigns.

If you’re just starting out, make sure you can strike a good balance:

Find a tone of voice that is promising but also honest and realistic at the same time.

You need to sound excited, inspired and motivated but don’t go overboard.

Talking about your business in a way that doesn’t ring true is not a good idea.

And remember:

Tone of voice is not just about your customers and marketing.

It also affects your staff.

Make sure you differentiate between style and tone.

The former refers to technical aspects (grammar, use of vocabulary, syntax and sentence construction.)

The latter relies on emotive and persuasive language and techniques to get the job done.

Creating Your Tone of Voice Template

You’ll need to create your own tone of voice handbook.

Having everything clearly written out will make everyone’s job easier.

Make sure the handbook includes:

  • Some general information about your audience: Any personas created or psychographic data collected that will help your brand better identify your target audience’s needs.
  • Necessary advice about different use cases: What kind of language will be used in marketing, website, newsletters, blog posts etc.
  • A strong and unique voice: What is your voice and what how would you like your customers to respond to it? What does this voice know? What emotions does it evoke?
  • Consistent Language: Is it formal or relaxed? Serious or playful? What are some key-words that you’d think may define your brand’s tone of voice? Are there any words that should be avoided?

Your brand’s tone of voice may not be your first priority if you’re just starting ou.

But you should start early if you want to build loyalty among your customers.

Consistency is good. It makes you stand out and brings people back.

A handbook will ensure that your brand’s tone of voice remains consistent throughout.

As your company grows, you’ll need to have guidelines in place to ensure everyone is on the same page.

A confused or inconsistent tone of voice that’s the product of varying content from different authors may scare people away.

The Next Steps

Creating your brand’s tone of voice handbook is only step number one.

You also need to make sure that everyone understands and refers to it.

You may also have to train your writers to write content that conforms to all set standards.

Ensure that your style is consistent and error-free as well:

Spelling, syntax, punctuation etc.

It’s always a good idea to proofread everything before publishing it.

Avoid mistakes and inconsistencies by proofreading content in-house or by using a professional proofreading firm.

Find a distinctive voice that will help you stand out.

It’s okay to keep an eye on what other companies and your competitors are doing, but don’t imitate their tone of voice.

Be different. Be you.