5 Steps to Discovering Your Brand’s Tone of Voice

Posted on Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Patrick Pilkington
Patrick Pilkington

Internet users generate about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. If your brand’s voice is going to be heard through the noise, it needs to be unique, authentic and consistent.

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A consistent tone of voice (ToV) builds a connection with customers and creates a memorable image of your brand. Your tone might be playful, academic, irreverent or authoritative – as long as it honestly represents your brand’s values.

The best way to achieve a consistent ToV is to have clear set of guidelines that describe how your brand communicates with its audience and influences people. You’ll know you’ve cracked tone of voice when your messaging can be recognised without your logo or brand name attached.

Follow our five simple steps to discover your brand’s own unique ToV…

Step 1: Understand your audience

Before writing a ToV guide, you need to have a detailed understanding of who you’re talking to. Having detailed buyer personas helps you to keep your key target audience in mind when creating messaging. Find the demographics you need to reach and dig into the following:

  • What kind of language do they use?
  • Which social media channels do they prefer?
  • What phrases do they use in search engines?
  • What content do they engage with most?

Try to picture your brand and customer having a conversation as two people, then consider the most effective tone. Think about how your brand would speak if it was a real person. Would it be a wise teacher? A helpful colleague? Or an enthusiastic friend?

Asking customers for their opinion can be valuable too. Traditional market research through customer surveys or interviews can help to reveal what customers already think about your brand. Ask customers:

  • How would you describe our brand in three adjectives?
  • If our brand was a person, what type of person would it be?
  • What content piece/email/tweet from our brand best represents us?

Step 2: Define your core values

64% of customers say that shared values are the primary reason to trust a company. Core values define the personality behind a brand and should shine through in all your communications. Ask yourself:

  • What’s your brand’s story?
  • What do you stand for as a business?
  • What makes your brand unique?

The core values need to be consistent, otherwise people will see through them as false. A ToV that doesn’t match up with a brand’s values will alienate and confuse customers. One useful exercise is to boil your core values down to three key words and keep referring back to them when defining your ToV.

Ideally, the values you decide on will line up with your customer feedback from Step 1. If they don’t, then you know work is needed to change how people view your brand.

Step 3: Define your ToV

Once you have your core brand values and a clear idea of who you need to communicate to, it’s time to start defining your ToV. It’s important to get a range of internal views on what a brand’s ToV should be – as people from all across the business are going to need to use it.

Some people who may need to be involved in discussions around ToV:

  • Senior management
  • Copywriters
  • Creative director
  • Brand strategists
  • Internal marketers

It can be helpful to draw a line between two opposing tones and decide where you want to fall on the scale. This also allows you to mark where your tone is now and where you ultimately want it to be. Here are a few starting points:

  • Funny vs Serious
  • Casual vs Formal
  • Irreverent vs Respectful
  • Enthusiastic vs Matter of Fact

Step 4: Create the ToV guide

The next step is to translate your brand’s ToV into a set of clear guidelines that can be updated and refreshed when necessary. Anyone in the business should be able to read the ToV guide and clearly understand it.

The whole business needs to working from the same page, as a disjointed ToV across your communications will confuse customers. If you stay consistent, customers will grow to recognise your brand’s ToV over time. Familiarity will lead to trust and a better connection.

A table like the below with real-world examples can help people to easily understand how to apply your ToV:

We are…We say…We don’t say…Because…
Casual and personableHello [Name],
We’re really sorry you’ve had a disappointing experience. I’ve passed your comments on to my colleague in the refunds team and will drop you a note as soon as I have an update.
Cheers,
[Name]
Thank-you for your email
Your complaint has been received and you can expect a response within 2-5 business days.
Yours sincerely,
The Customer Service Team
We want the customer to feel like they’re being spoken to as a person in a 1-2-1 conversation.

Step 5: Audit your existing assets

Now that you have a finalised ToV guide, you can make a start on applying it across your brand’s assets. It’s key that there is consistency across your website, social media channels, emails – and all your communications.

Messaging can vary between mediums and situations. You brand might communicate slightly differently on Twitter than it will on LinkedIn, but the overarching personality should still shine through. Studies have shown that brands who keep their voice consistent can increase their revenues by up to 23%.  

However, there may be occasions when ToV needs to be adjusted. For example, responding to a tragic event in the news may call for a more sombre tone than your usual ToV guide would suggest. The key is to use common sense based on the situation.

Need help telling your brand’s story? Our team unearth and communicate your personality and values, so that your audience understand who you are, what makes your business different, and why they need you. Check out our full range of brand services here.

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