As establishing the right expression for your brand takes on new meaning in the era of voice technology, Lucy Coles reveals the secrets to creating and maintaining a tone of voice.
There is really only one secret to achieving the perfect tone of voice for your brand – either for the written or the spoken word. You must think in terms of character. Novelists understand the power of character: narrative is nothing without people to carry it. Before plunging into plot, an author will often create a colorful CV for their protagonist, detailing everything from where this person might have been born, the view from their bedroom window, what they might eat for breakfast, through to their political and religious beliefs. Even if none of these factors is ostensibly important to the story, they are all vital to the authenticity of the character. And so it goes for brands. When establishing a voice, the key is to visualize the brand as a human being. He or she needs to be someone who will best express who you are as a company, best relate to your audience, and someone who will stand out from the crowd.
So how do you go about creating this persona?
As they are born from your brand, they share the following DNA:
1. Your brand’s mission and vision
2. Your brand’s values
How does this influence tone?
1. If your brand’s vision is to be ‘the best content and communications brand in the world’ (let’s say…) then, when translated into tone, this equates to confidence, ambition, and optimism.
2. If your brand’s values include ‘integrity’, then your tone must be open, honest, and authentic.
The persona also needs to have:
1. A connection to the audience
2. Relevance – but also standout – in the marketplace
How does this influence tone?
1. To connect to the audience, you must use language that will resonate with them – find this out with keyword analysis, social listening, and focus groups. However, you mustn’t just mirror, you must build on these insights.
2. To be relevant in the marketplace you should make sure your voice links strongly to the subject matter – keywords and social listening are important here, too, as is competitor analysis, both to establish what works and what doesn’t, and to find the space for innovation.
Above all – and without this you will fail – make sure your carefully honed tone is everywhere, from your calls to action to your social media community manager’s replies, your bios to your Instagram captions. The customer will stop believing you the minute your now distinctive tone of voice goes off key. This is where measurement comes in. Keep tabs on what is working and what is not and adjust accordingly.
Now go forth and bring your brand to life.
Dos and Don’ts for Creating a Tone of Voice
Do create a style sheet – for everyone responsible for your tone of voice to adhere to
Don’t overdo it – the persona should not be a caricature.
Do also distil your audience down to a single persona – it’s better to speak in the style of a one-to-one than standing on a soapbox.
Don’t use jargon – no matter how familiar you are with those acronyms your audience may not be. Be as clear as possible.
Do be careful when using humor – it doesn’t often translate globally.