When you think about your brand’s image, what immediately comes to mind?
Logo? Colours? Font?
Whilst these are certainly the ‘sexy’ elements of a brand’s identity, tone of voice is arguably one of the most important aspects of branding.
Cue gasps of horror from our design team
OK, yes, of course the visual aspect of branding plays a massive role in establishing brand identity, but the words you use to communicate with your audience define your brand’s personality.
They set you apart from competitors. They deliver your message and communicate your values. They define how people perceive your business and they humanise your brand.
So it makes sense to think carefully about which ones to use and how to use them.
Before I start any project, I always work closely with the client to establish their brand’s tone of voice to ensure the content we deliver cuts the mustard and engages the audience. Otherwise, what’s the point?
If you’ve never done this for your brand before, here are a few tips…
1. Do your research
Before you write anything, you should always consider who you’re talking to.
Chances are, you know a bit about your customers and how your product or service can help them.
But do you know what makes them tick? What keeps them awake at night? What do they read and when do they read it? Which brands do they love and which do they hate? What are their values and how do they spend their spare time? How do they communicate with brands and which social media platforms do they use?
It’s worth doing some qualitative research to gain detailed insight into your audience. You can use this to make sure you’re choosing the right channels to talk to them with language that will make them sit up and pay attention.
2. Evaluate yourself and others
Take a look at your competitors. What are they doing and how can you stand apart from them? Are they doing anything you admire? Have they made any mistakes? If so, learn from them.
You should also evaluate what you’re currently doing. Gather together all of your content from brochures and leaflets to social media postings and web copy.
Ask yourself, which bits of content do you love? Which pieces have really worked? Which have failed? Would someone viewing your content from across different channels be able to identify it was all from the same brand?
This will help you to determine what you’re doing right, where you could improve and what you simply shouldn’t be doing.
3. Determine who you are
So you know what you do and how you do it. And you know who you’re talking to.
But what core values does your brand embody? Choose three to describe your brand…
E.g. Honest, professional, reliable
E.g. Passionate, innovative, disruptive
Then look at your brand as if it were a person. What personality would they have?
Funny? Compassionate? Confident? Creative?
Use these answers to determine your tone of voice and the type of language you’ll use, such as emotive, funny, direct, punchy etc.
4. Write some examples
Whether it’s a Tweet, business card, customer email or blog post, the words used are showcasing your brand so the whole team needs to be on board, from PR to sales. Consistency is key.
Once you’ve decided what your tone of voice is, it’s a good idea to create a set of guidelines for your staff and marketing agency to follow when creating content for you in the future.
The best way to illustrate this is to write up a few examples so they can see how it translates across different platforms. Are there any must-use words? Any that are strictly forbidden? Get it all down in the guidelines.
5. Be fluid
Once you’ve established your tone of voice, the work doesn’t stop there.
Over the years your business will change, your customers will change and the marketing channels you use will change. Make sure you keep pace and always think about new ways to communicate with your audience.
Here are some great examples of brands who’ve nailed their tone of voice.