Why your business should create tone of voice guidelines
Does your business have a clearly defined tone of voice that’s adopted by everyone who writes copy on behalf of the company? If not, you could be missing out on an important tool for building trust and familiarity with your brand.
What is tone of voice?
Tone of voice is the way you choose to convey your message. In other words, it’s not what you say, but how you say it.
There’s many ways to say the same thing, and the tone you use can make a big difference to how your message comes across. It’s the tone which impacts how what you’re saying makes people feel. Here’s two ways of saying the same thing as an example, how different does each statement make you feel?
Sorry, we haven’t been able to process this transaction. Would you be able to try again with another card?
Your card is not valid and your transaction has been declined. Please use a valid card.
Why focus on tone of voice?
Having a cohesive tone of voice across all your communications will help strengthen your brand. It helps you come across as more authentic, and also differentiates you from your competitors. Drawing up a set of company tone of voice guidelines is the most effective way to make sure everybody communicates your message in the way you want them to.
Tone of voice in practice
Your tone of voice should reflect your brand ethos across all your copy from your tweets to your product pages. These two descriptions of vanilla ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs are good examples of tone of voice in practice.
Ben & Jerry’s are focused on creating ice cream in a way that promotes fairness and this comes across in all their copy, including their product descriptions:
Our Vanilla ice cream is consciously concocted with a deliciously rich mix of ingredients that now includes 100% fairtrade sugar and vanilla.
In contrast, for Häagen-Dazs the focus is on premium quality ingredients:
Delicious and elegantly simple. Häagen-Dazs Vanilla ice cream is made with only 5 ingredients to give you the most supremely rich and luxurious ice cream.
Both are essentially a description for the same thing – vanilla ice cream – yet they are clearly differentiated by their brand voice.
Starting to develop your brand personality
Hopefully by now you’re starting to see benefits of developing a distinctive brand tone of voice. A good way to get started with establishing your tone of voice guidlines is to imagine your brand as a person: What personality traits and values does your brand embody? If you already have a list of brand values or a company mission statement this can be a good place to start.
You could also review the copy on your website, and look for examples that align most closely with your brand’s personality. From this you can create a list of traits which describe how you will speak. For example:
We are helpful, transparent, and fair.
In addition, look for copy that doesn’t sound quite right, and use this to help define how you won’t speak. E.g.
We are not condescending or abrupt.
Need a bit more inspiration? Think about brands you know that seem to have a distinct way of expressing themselves. Study the way in which their choice of language reflects their brand values – and then draw up guidelines for your own business to achieve the same thing.
With your tone of voice preferences written down in this way, you’ll be able to ensure that everybody who creates copy for your business follows them. This will help you achieve consistency across all your communication channels – which is, in itself, an essential part of building a brand.