The role of tone of voice in branding

A tone of voice that reflects your business and is relatable to your target audience is the starting point for creating on-brand content. Here we introduce tone of voice, and discuss how it’s possible to use yours to build genuine human relationships online and off.

What is tone of voice?

Every time you interact with people – through your website, on social media, in an email, or face to face – your tone affects how you come across.

Even if you don’t know you’re doing it, your tone of voice sends subtle messages to your audience.

It manifests itself in everything from your word choice, to your use of punctuation (exclamation marks!). Now I’d even consider things like emojis and GIFs a part of your tone.

When we talk about tone of voice in relation to your branding, we really mean how your brand would sound if it were talking to your target audience in person.

Tone of voice is how your brand would sound if it were talking to your target audience face to face.

As it’s made up of all sorts of factors, there are all sorts of ways your tone could be misconstrued online. But there are lots of ways to reinforce your tone (and therefore your branding) positively too.

It all starts by knowing your company and knowing your audience. And I mean really knowing them: as people with feelings, rather than personas with pain points.

Build human relationships through your tone of voice

If you’ve read about how we create user personas, you’ll know we always invent complex characters when doing this.

Good writing comes from being able to empathise with your readers. This is easier to do if you see them as real, living, breathing, complicated, contradictory humans.

Many of us empathise naturally in day to day life of course. And in person or over the phone it’s easier to understand someone’s reactions to what you’re saying.

Online though, we generally can’t see or hear the people we’re communicating with. This means we need to figure out what they want us to say before (metaphorically) speaking with them.

Build genuine relationships online by getting to know your target audience as real people.

Tone of voice in branding

With all that in mind, how do you find your tone of voice? Well, it starts by understanding your audience and your company.

Once you know your audience (again, I mean really know them) and your company inside out, you can figure out a genuine tone of voice your audience will relate to, care about and trust.

1. Understand your target audience

Too many brands fail because they try to appeal to an ideal audience that just doesn’t exist. So getting to know your audience in person, as well as in theory, is the goal.

Learn their mannerisms, what annoys them and what makes them happy. What are their needs, interests and life goals? What really motivates them?

Did I mention…you should really, really know your audience?

Learn more about creating realistic user personas

2. Understand your company

Your tone of voice is about you too. What makes you, you? What does your company stand for? What will you not compromise on?

You need to feel totally at ease with your tone of voice as a company, because unless you live and breathe it, it’ll never come across as genuine.

Consider the following areas, as they’re all part of your tone of voice:

  • Your business objectives
  • Your business’ core values
  • Your level of service
  • How you work
  • Your existing challenges
  • How you’re different from your competition

Create a tone of voice style guide

Somewhere between your target audience and your company, sits a mutual understanding.

It’s here you’ll want to focus your tone of voice.

One of my past clients was a bespoke wig company. The idea came about when the business owner, restored confidence to a woman with alopecia by creating her a bespoke wig.

The company genuinely wanted to help people and bring positivity during an otherwise difficult time.

While the brand and customers aren’t exactly the same, there’s a clear middle ground where they can relate. This is through their empathic, kind, positive tone of voice.

Once you’ve found your tone of voice – the natural progression of understanding your business and your audience – a style guide can help you apply it consistently across your business’ communications.

Not only will it help you create relatable content on your business website, it’s also applicable across your other marketing channels, including social media, emails and events.

Searching for the middle ground between your business and your audience? Contact us and we’ll help you find it.

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