We recently talked about how to define your tone of voice. Here’s the next step: embedding your tone.
You’ve found your tone of voice. You’ve pinned down your values and produced a guide or toolkit, packed with examples and practical pointers. But just handing out copies of the guide and saying ‘Go’ won’t work. Here are some tips for helping everyone across the company to understand and use your tone.
Hopefully you involved key people as you developed your tone, so they’re already on board. It’s best if your CEO or managing director can endorse the programme right from the start – buy-in from the top helps people realise using your new tone is non-negotiable.
Rewrite key content
Before you roll out your tone of voice to everyone, it’s a good idea to rewrite important items like your website, intranet content, customer service letter templates and your corporate brochure in your new brand language. You’ll have samples to show people and you’re leading by example.
Run practical sessions
Hands-on training sessions are essential – you can run them yourself or ask experts like the lorries. You want everyone to leave with an understanding of your tone of voice, but you can tailor the sessions depending on how much people write as part of their job. Some people will just need a couple of hours’ training, where others might benefit from a two-day in-depth session.
An e-learning module can be helpful if time’s an issue, though it can’t replace hands-on sessions. And make tone of voice part of any induction programme, particularly for those who’ll be writing for colleagues or customers.
And we mean everyone. HR and internal communications. Compliance, legal and technical. Customer service and marketing communications. Don’t forget managers who may not write themselves but who do sign off work. Everyone at every level needs to understand your tone if you’re going to truly live and breathe your brand.
Someone needs to be responsible for tone of voice on an ongoing basis. It can also be a good idea to appoint champions – someone in each team who has a particular aptitude for writing or who’s enthusiastic about your tone. They can keep an eye on day-to-day writing and be a point of contact for queries. Give writers a checklist to run through each time they write something, to make sure they’ve remembered the key points.
And carry out regular health checks and give feedback to make sure people are getting to grips with your tone.
Keep it fresh
Don’t let tone of voice become next week’s chip wrapper. Keep it fresh in people’s minds with extras like weekly top tips, pin-up summaries for desks and competitions like email of the week or best complaint response.
Remember that you might need to refresh your tone and guidelines from time to time. Your values may change slightly, modern standards may evolve and regulators might introduce new rules that influence your tone. It’s an ever-evolving thing…