Tone of voice: it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
Today, more than ever, it’s important our work first into a larger cultural narrative. We want stories. We want opinion. We want to know what we are buying, and what we are supporting. Tone of voice is about what you stand for.
Tone of voice is not what you say, it’s how you say it.
Tone of Voice amplifies a brands personality, attitude, opinions; and helps connect with audiences in an authentic way. It supports your visual identity (logo, colour palette, image style) by bringing it to life. They should work in harmony, and both should be considered. They are both two halves of the whole, and are fundamental building blocks of a brand.
If you get your tone of voice right, it helps you stay true to your values, and know when it is important to become disruptive. It also helps inform business decisions, and helps audiences find you.
How do you want your brand personality to come across in words, both written and spoken? To start defining tone of voice, consider the following:
Know your audience. Who are you speaking to? Where are they? What language and narrative do they relate to? By understanding them you can speak to them in a way they recognise and connect to.
How would your brand behave if it were human? Are you witty and funny? Professional and slick? Helpful and warm? Define this. What you are saying may change, but your personality should stay consistent.
What were your values when you first started out, and do they still influence your positioning today? Values are the foundations that underpin your brand.
Language and style
Having a style sets out a framework to follow for all communications. From workshops, to email styles to campaign copy. How do you want to sound? Create a tone of voice guidelines that internal team members can follow.
Guidelines bring consistency and outline what you say, how you say it, and why. A tone of voice can be a one page document. Make it as simple as you can.
For consistency and impact, you should know your tone of voice style. This isn’t just for potential audiences, but also potential team members, stakeholders and partners. It gives clarity, professionalism, and builds recognition, gains trust and solidifies positioning.
The best brands have a consistent tone of voice. Here are some examples
Their campaigns are always witty and entertaining. They release great campaigns that connects to all ages, using clever concepts to connect in a relatable way to multi generations.
Mailchimp are purposeful and conversational with a little bit of entertainment.
Here’s another example we use a lot to describe tone of voice within branding: if Nike had a coffee shop, you would know exactly what to expect in terms of tone, as soon as you walked in. That’s the sort of recognition you should be aiming for.
The first draft of anything is shit. Ernest Hemmingway.
It doesn’t need to be perfect right away, just start.
At Sail, we have a track record of branding and tone of voice, so if you’re facing challenges around these areas, feel free to give us a shout.