In this article on tone of voice, you’ll discover:
- Why you need a compelling tone of voice to catch the attention of customers in 2022
- Why authenticity beats whacky
- Why everyone in your organisation needs a shared tone of voice
It’s easy to get so caught up in communicating all the great things you do and forget to pay attention to the way you speak to your audience.
Read back some marketing copy or that new description you just wrote for your website – how does it make you feel? If you were stifling a yawn mid-sentence, it’s probably time to re-think your written tone of voice. Because if you’re bored, the chances are you’ve already lost the people you’re talking to.
What is tone of voice?
Tone of voice is the way in which you express yourself in writing. It’s your brand’s personality, communicated. Getting the right brand voice is about knowing who you are and what you stand for, knowing who you’re talking to, and working out how to best showcase what makes you stand out.
Why should you care about tone of voice?
Have you ever met someone you thought you could just listen to forever? While they may have had interesting tales to tell, it’s likely that it’s the way they told them that had you hooked. That’s who you want to be for your ideal customer.
The main purpose of your written communication should be to create feelings in your target audience (if you missed our blog on creating powerful messaging to trigger emotion, you might want to check it out here). And there’s solid research to back this up: a 2015 Harvard Business Review article found that “fully connected” customers are worth 52% more than “highly satisfied” customers. According to a two-year study of 100,000 retail customers, “emotionally connected customers have a 306 percent higher lifetime value (LTV), stay with a brand for an average of 5.1 years, and will recommend brands at a much higher rate.”
An increasing number of consumers want to have trust in an organisation’s values before doing business. One survey found that it was important to a massive 81% of respondents that they spent their money with brands that shared their values. One way to build trust is through a consistent and value-driven tone of voice.
Makes your message stand out
There’s no doubt that the UK market in 2022 is challenging: inflationary pressures, availability of experienced employees, energy prices and increased competition were the most significant challenges reported by a recent ONS survey. Brands that blur into the background are unlikely to win new business.
Three tips to get clear on your written tone of voice
Be afraid to be boring
Nick Parker at Voicebox (who was our guest on June’s TPW vodcast ‘Fine tuning your tone of voice’ – catch up here), says that he always makes his clients read their content aloud: “it means that they can have that moment of ‘oh wow, this is extremely tedious’ and they realise they can’t bear to read their own brand’s writing. If content is boring, you might as well not bother writing it in the first place.”
But the opposite of boring doesn’t have to be whacky. “There are more ways of being interesting than being a clown. There are great examples of content out there that’s interesting and still delivering a serious message – take the CIA website for example.” Nick believes you have to dig deep into the impact of what you do in order to find the interesting angles. “People sometimes forget if you make metal alloys that they can be bits in the Mars Rover or a part of a bridge that’s a really essential part of national infrastructure. Get used to talking about what you do, in a way that means people will care.”
Your tone of voice should embody your brand personality
Just as you don’t have to be whacky in order to avoid bland and boring copy, don’t be tempted to be something you’re not in order to become more interesting, because today’s consumers cherish authenticity. In a survey, 90% of customers said that authenticity was an important factor in deciding which brands they like and support. As Nick said on the TPW vodcast, “It’s the Dolly Parton theory of branding. She says: ‘find out who you are, then do it on purpose’.” Let your values shine out so your perfect customers can find you.
Get buy-in from all your teams and senior leaders
As tone of voice is about your brand’s personality, it should be consistent across literally everything you do. From the way employees speak to customers, to the employee profiles on your website, your marketing emails and the way you write your annual report. It’s not just a way of writing back-of-pack descriptions, but a living expression of who you are as an organisation. And it needs to be at the heart of every part of your business.
Your tone of voice should reflect your brand personality, which in turn reflects the values you hold most dear. This creates the trust that Gen Z and Millennial consumers want to feel. Consistency and buy in from senior leadership, teams across the business and all types of content is crucial. Nick’s advice is “don’t get overwhelmed, but start with the words that are most relevant to customers and go from there.”
Hone your distinctive tone of voice so your content can shine
Developing a tone of voice that is true to your vision and is authentic will help you engage customers. By making sure your brand voice is consistent, your audience will get a better sense of what you stand for and what they have in common with your brand.