So, you’re keen to showcase your company’s brilliant personality, build engagement and trust, and stand apart from the crowd. You want everything you write and say to reflect who you are, whether that’s a quirky start-up, a luxury brand or a trusted financial services provider. You want a tone of voice.
But you’re not sure how to go about pinning yours down. You can’t just pick some values that sound good and decide that’s going to be your tone. It needs research, thought and, most of all, honesty.
We can’t tell you how to create a credible, valuable tone in just one page, but here’s a whistle-stop tour of some things to think about.
Who are you?
- Look at your brand. If you have some recent brand guidelines, chances are they’ll define your values, or at least point you in the right direction. Looking at your logo, font and design style can give you an idea of the type of company you are.
- Do some internal research. Spend time with key internal stakeholders and try answering questions like these:
- What do we do for our customers, and why?
- What values are important to us?
- If we were a person, who would we be, and what would we be like?
- How do our customers see us – and how do we want them to see us?
- Is anything about us different?
- Carry out external research. If you can, run focus groups or ask customers to answer questions like these:
- What words sum us up in your eyes?
- Is there anything different about us?
- What do you like about our competitors?
- What do you want from a company like us?
- Choose your values. Look at the information you’ve gathered from your research and decide what’s right for you. Throw around different words like premium, sassy, friendly, warm, honest, helpful, quirky and reputable. Then narrow them down to around three that really nail the essence of who you are.
- Be authentic. Don’t try to be something you’re not – be honest about who you are. If you’re a salt-of-the-earth building company or a trusted healthcare provider, then perhaps you shouldn’t have a cool, trendy tone of voice.
Bringing your tone to life
Next, you need to find practical ways to bring out your tone of voice. You can’t just ask employees to write in a way that sounds helpful, caring and friendly.
- Look at the fundamentals of language. Explore what works for your tone, and what doesn’t. Consider formal language versus conversational, humour, jargon and technical terms. Will you use contractions like we’re and I’ve? Or start a sentence with a conjunction?
- Define your house style for the little things, like bullet points, number style and whether to say adviser or advisor. All these things add up to a more consistent, more convincing tone.
- Decide where and how to flex your tone. You might want to turn up one aspect of your tone in a bad-news letter, and dial up a different part when you’re chatting on Twitter. But you need to stay faithful to your basic values.
Once you’ve done all this, you should have created a pretty authentic tone of voice and set out some practical ways to bring it to life. But if you need a bit of help from the specialists, companies like us have years of experience in helping organisations discover their own unique voice.
Now you’ve created your new tone, how do you implement it? Keep an eye out for part-two 🙂