What is tone of voice and how is it important?

Image of microphone

When it comes to the creative, it’s pretty easy for us marketing folk to keep on brand but it’s a little more difficult with tone of voice.

Our fellow designers like lots of white space; they like us to leave room around the logos; they like us to stick with the fonts they chose for us at brand inception. And that’s fairly simple for us to follow.

But tone of voice… how do we follow that through, from brand guidelines to every touch point that our clients interact with throughout the business? From every initial letter or intro email, right through to social media and beyond?

It can be tricky, as it is about educating every customer-facing employee and giving them an understanding of how best to speak to their clients. It’s not just adding the right pantone reference or using the right stock photography, it’s about getting to the core of the brand to really consider how you want to talk to your clients.

Why is tone of voice important?

For me, it’s because it’s putting yourself in the mindset of the client. It’s about talking to them in a way they want to be talked to; using their language whilst staying professional and approachable. It really is a tall order and one that can be difficult to get right.

Take the example of a super-cool brand that needs to explain a really important procedure. They have to stay true to the brand but also carefully convey detailed information in a simple and effective way.

So, where to start?

Our advice is to start with a short and simple introductory letter, or a series of social posts. Put pen to paper, writing in your normal style. Then, I suggest arranging a short brainstorming session with 3-4 people to critique your writing. It’s best to stay involved in the process, rather than just handing over your written words to be edited, as this is a learning process, a journey you’re travelling together.

Take time to consider each sentence, every word. Is it serving a purpose? Is it portraying a professional approach? Does it feel approachable, encouraging clients to get involved, pick up the phone and stay loyal to the brand for the long haul? In an ideal world, you want a client to be able to differentiate your business by its writing style. You want them to connect with the brand because of what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.

Initially, it’s good practice to pass everything you write through the same team in order to develop a unique style. Over time, you can then start to articulate the tone of voice and teach others what works. There may be certain words that have been overused in the past or that jar on the narrative. Sometimes it’s easier to start with what doesn’t work than what does, and considering the words alongside a fresh creative can help to make sure they work together.

We’d love to hear about a recent project you’ve embarked on, and if you’d like some guidance, we’re here to help.

(Please note, no designers were harmed in the making of this blog, and in fact, we’re doing them a disservice. We do understand that design is so much more than just colour and stock photography – we were just being over-controversial to prove a point!)

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