Warming up your Tone of Voice
When it comes to how your brand talks, there are many things to consider. It can be hard to decide if your business should sound friendly or confident or imaginative. Maybe you should aim to be authoritative and bold? And everyone wants to sound at least a little exciting and inspiring, right? Before steaming ahead, you must first decide how appropriate any of this really is to what you’re trying to project.
Examine your values.
Brands need to revisit their core principles — the values that define them. Take each in one in turn. Ask yourself how you’d like to be perceived by the outside world. Let your values be your guide; they’ll influence everything you have to say, and — just as importantly — how you choose to say it.
In this excellent video from The School of Life, “Can Brands Be Good?”, Alain de Botton opines that “a brand is a constellation of qualities. It’s a personality in the material realm. The bad associations around brand spring from the way that often the personality feels crude, annoying or stupid.”
Be real. But not too real.
There’s a definite trend towards a more “human” tone; for brands to inject as much personality into their communications as possible. This can be fraught with danger — not least because many brands mistake colloquialisms, slang and emojis for genuine, human personality — but also because they use language they’re simply not comfortable with. There’s an entire Twitter feeddedicated to catching brands in the act; embarrassing themselves with the way they speak, desperately vying for the attention of an ever-youthful audience.
That being said, modern, content-laden audiences are increasingly expecting to be spoken to in relatable, easy-to-digest ways. Much like a wall of unbroken text is more daunting than nicely divided paragraphs, being addressed in an accessible manner that befits your brand is much better than cold, impassioned prose or indecipherable corporate jargon. The key is balance.
Consistency is everything.
With such blanket proliferation of content, it’s all the more important to communicate clearly and reliably. Just like the uniform use of visual cues that make up your brand identity, the way you speak to your customers has to remain consistent across all channels. You wouldn’t use a different logo on your email signature to the one on your website — the same applies to the way you speak. As de Botton reminds us, “a brand doesn’t only symbolise a set of ideas. It’s about standardising and reproducing them.”
This means everything from a Facebook post to a web article to a tweet has to sound undeniably and unmistakably you. Consistency helps to express and reinforce the underlying qualities of your brand. Over time, this builds trust. And by having something concrete in place — to refer back to — it will continue to guide the ambassadors of your business.
Tone of voice is just one element of any given brand, but one that is so often overlooked. The way you address people is embedded in the very DNA of your company, so keep your values virtuous and elevate your brand from within. It will, in turn, dramatically improve how you sound. Do this, and people will not only hear what you have to say — they will actually listen.