Why does tone of voice matter?
As human beings, we naturally adapt the way in which we speak to suit our audience and the situation we are in. This modulation makes sure that the message of what we are saying gets across to the listener in a way that is appropriate for their status and relationship with you, the speaker. With the written word, this is slightly different, and can be illustrated with the way we sign off emails. 'Many thanks' and 'Best wishes', may be appropriate for a colleague, but for a superior, you are more likely to use 'Kind regards' or 'Yours Sincerely'.
But what about content that is written representing a business? This is slightly different in that you need to employ a consistent tone of voice that fits the personality and values of a brand. This will have slight variation depending on the medium of communication. But why does tone of voice matter so much? And how can you apply it across all of your brand communications?
Why is tone of voice important?
Consumers' image and perception of a brand is influenced by brand communications as well as the visual factors such as logo and colour palette. In other words, how a brand sounds is just as important as how it looks.
According to the Harvard Business Review, shared values are the factor that most inspire an ongoing relationship with a brand. 64% of consumers who said they had a brand relationship cited brand values as their primary influence. This is why it is important not to build up a false impression of your brand through tone of voice. For example, a firm of investment bankers that projects itself as a fun, informal and irreverent brand is a risky choice, as it undermines consumer confidence in what is traditionally considered a professional and serious sector. The dissonance between technical terms and a happy-go-lucky tone may be jarring and difficult to keep consistently. Similarly, a start-up cosmetics company that uses dry, formulaic and uninspiring language will put off younger audiences and fail to inspire creativity. Opt for a tone of voice that reflects your genuine values.
So Who defines a business's tone of voice?
There is no straightforward answer to this question. This is because companies vary in their organisational structure and whether their marketing teams are in-house or outsourced. It is important that anyone who is involved in the creation and curation of your brand's tone of voice has the necessary knowledge of your brand culture and values. However, further issues present themselves when personnel leave a company, which can result in confusion and varying messaging that does not follow the agreed brand tone of voice.
A set of agreed brand guidelines provide a solution to this problem. Brand guidelines are vital in defining and maintaining a consistent tone of voice in your brand communications and they can also help with your content strategy. Brand guidelines record the way in which your brand should be presented in written communication - once agreed upon, ensure that this document is shared widely throughout your organisation.
Using insight about your audience, you can create customer personas that represent what each segment values in their interactions with a brand. Remember that your audience isn't completely made up of buyers, as anyone who has a potential interest in your brand will be looking at your tone of voice. When people identify a particular tone of voice, they relate it to a personality, and it is up to you what image you want to project for your potential customers.
Examples of tone of voice
The tone of voice used by WordPress positions them as a simple, no-frills solution to website design. They use short statements and directly address their customers in a friendly tone. Through use of statistics, they demonstrate their expertise in their field, while reassuring their customers with informal language, giving the impression that they are on hand to offer support whenever it is required.
As a charity that listens, Samaritans adopts an authoritative tone while remaining open and sensitive. Samaritans' values are Listening, Confidentiality, Non-judgemental, People making their own decisions, and Human contact. These values are consistently reflected in their tone. They are respectful, approachable, and constantly signpost ways to get in touch to make sure that nobody suffers in silence.
Jimmy's Iced Coffee
British iced coffee company Jimmy's has a consistent tone of voice. Their tone is humorous and casual. Content focuses on positivity and the quality of their products, appealing to a younger generation of iced coffee drinkers. The laid-back tone and straightforward language carries through to their packaging as well as their website; it sends the message that their products are simply iced coffee with no additives or other surprises.
Consistency is key when selecting and defining your business's tone of voice. By putting thought into your tone of voice, you can maintain a specific approach to both consumers and employees, and communicate your brand values with every interaction. Contact us today if you are looking to review your brand toolkit and tone of voice.