How to Develop a Tone of Voice for Your Brand

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If you were ever told to “watch your tone” by a parent or a teacher growing up, then you’ll know full well that there’s a right and a wrong way of speaking to people.

The same can be said for brands speaking to their audience. A distinctive, memorable brand tone of voice, that speaks their language, can easily grab your target demographics’ attention. When customers feel a connection to your brand, then clicks, follows and purchases are likely to increase.

Misjudge how your audience likes to be spoken to, however, and they may end up turning away in droves. If capturing your brand’s tone of voice is something you’ve struggled with, then we’ll take a closer look at what it entails and how you can go about improving what you say and how you’re saying it.   

What is a brand tone of voice?

Although tone of voice implies speech, in the realm of brands and branding, it refers to the carefully chosen words, phrases and stylistic choices you’ll use (and avoid using) across your company’s written copy.

From your website and social media posts to your emails and packaging, your tone of voice represents your brand’s personality and values, and informs everything the company broadcasts, both on and offline.

group holding speach bubbles tone of voice

Of course, you may need to tailor your tone of voice for certain messaging, depending on things such as:

  • The audience you communicate with should your brand target more than one type of customer
  • The varying lengths and formats of the media you use
  • The goals you want to achieve. The aim of a how-to article differs from that of a post advertising new job roles, for example

With that said, your overall tone of voice should generally remain consistent throughout every piece of content you create.

When it’s defined and implemented, the right tone of voice flows like a good story, combining language and personality in a way that can be as memorable as it is informative. If your audience can identify your brand on the strength of its content alone, you’re doing something right.

Why is tone of voice important?

It makes your brand memorable

A strong tone of voice expresses a brand’s personality and values, encapsulating the company and the people behind it. The right tone of voice conveys the things the people behind the scenes are passionate about, what drives them and what they want to share with their customers.

It builds trust

The link between trust and familiarity shouldn’t be discounted. Familiar things require little effort to process mentally and put us at ease as a result. Keep this in mind when developing a tone of voice; through more consistent use of language, your brand can become more like an old friend to the customer.

It separates you from your competition

When a brand’s tone of voice is distinctive and unique, customers should be able to recognise you from word one. Brand recognition requires consistency and repetition; if your personality or messaging is always changing, then your audience might struggle to identify you. To achieve consistency, have a think about the words and expressions your company would use if it was an actual human being – we’ll go into more detail on this later.

young woman working on her laptop

It can make greater connections

When you can connect with your customers through your tone of voice, it creates a connection with them that keeps them coming back. If they feel like the company cares about them (which you should do anyway), those interactions become more valuable in the long term.

It has the power to influence and persuade

It’s surprising just how sensitive people are to language. A few words are all it takes to make a first impression, so it’s important to choose them carefully. Lucky for us digital marketing types, we can hold all sorts of different words, phrases and sentences up to the light to get the most out of them.

When you know which words to use, whether you loosen up your language or opt for jargon-heavy copy, the easier it can be to persuade or influence your audience.

Developing your own brand’s tone of voice

That’s all well and good, but how do you go about finding your own voice? Using the tips below, you’ll be able to create a clear tone of voice to help your brand and company stand out.

Identify your audience

Customers want to feel as though brands understand them and their needs. Feeling like just another number is not on their agenda. To understand how to speak to your audience with the appropriate messaging, you need to know who your audience is.

Researching their gender, age, interests, education, and job title can all provide an image of who your audience is. You may come up with multiple personas that best describe the kinds of people you interact with on a daily basis. As well as loyal customers, you may also find that some of your audience are potential future customers who are yet to purchase your goods and services.

For more on identifying your audience, read our guide on building customer personas for your brand.

group sat in meeting

As you begin to identify these personas, their traits, interests, hobbies and use of language will come to the fore, providing you with crucial information to base your tone of voice around. Are they an older audience? Probably best to tone down the slang. Perhaps they have a particularly niche pastime and want to speak to an expert? In this case, jargon-heavy copy might be the way to go.

Identify your values

Before you begin writing, defining the core purpose of your communication is key. To do this, you’ll need to take a closer look at your company’s core values.

When you can better understand the how and why of your business, you’ll not only be able to pin-point the language you want to use in your messaging, but you can also start building an ethos around your brand that customers will respond to.

To define your core values, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why was the company set up?
  • What makes your brand unique?
  • What do you stand for as a brand?
  • What values do you want to share with your audience?

By answering these questions, it makes it easier for both employees and customers to know what to expect when interacting with each other. Distilling these values into a concise mission statement shows who you are, what and who you care about, and how your brand can help. It also helps everyone within your company to be on the same page, which is hugely important when it comes to aligning your message.

Speaking of consistency, it’s also worth creating a message architecture. This basically boils down a brand’s main communication goals into a shortlist of terms, phrases or statements, allowing the company’s content creators to deliver aligned, consistent messaging across all types of content.

With that said, it’s not a glossary of words to use in your content but prioritised reference points your team can use to convey your brand’s messaging priorities. Put simply, it describes what you want to communicate to your audience, rather than how.

group meeting using post-it notes

Audit your current voice

Before creating a tone of voice that fits your company, it’s a good idea to audit your current content and communications to see what your brand sounds like right now.

Try making a list of your top-performing (according to your content metrics) and best (you can be more subjective here) pieces of content and ask yourself the following:

  • Does it fit the brand values you want to communicate?
  • Does it reflect the values described in your mission statement?
  • Does it correspond to your message architecture?

Go through each piece of content and note down what your brand sounds like.

Define your brand’s tone of voice

Now you’re ready to combine all the information you’ve collected during your research to define your brand’s tone of voice.

One of the best ways of defining your tone of voice is by using a brand voice chart. Through your research, you’ll have identified certain words or phrases that best represent your brand.

Using these three, four or however many words, you’ll then explain how each trait should and shouldn’t be represented in your messaging.

Using four columns, you should:

  • List your brand characteristics down the left-hand side
  • Include a brief explanation in the next column
  • Explain how to use and not to use this trait in the next two columns

Once you’ve encapsulated your brand’s tone of voice in this handy reference chart, you’re ready to move onto documenting everything in your brand’s tone of voice guidelines.

Implement the tone of voice into your communication

Clear guidelines ensure brand standards are maintained, and that all your messaging is consistent across all your customer-facing communication – even if several people are responsible for creating such copy.

hands typing on keyboard

By the way, a neat rule of thumb is to write your guidelines in the brand’s tone of voice you’ve worked so hard to define. It’ll serve to function as an example of how it should be correctly used when writing.

You should also include some extra examples of how to use the tone of voice (and how not to use it), so that team members can easily get to grips with writing for your brand.

Be sure to also include:

  • Your target audience, customer personas and their voice
  • Your brand’s core values
  • Your mission statement
  • Your message architecture
  • Your brand voice chart
  • Specific vocabulary and grammar rules
  • Clear examples in different contexts

We hope this guide on brand tone of voice has spoken to you. If you’re looking for powerful, attention-grabbing copy to help your own brand’s voice stand out, see what we can offer here or, alternatively, let’s get talking on 0161 504 7007. 

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Oliver Urwin
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