Developing a ‘tone of voice’ is a major part of any brand development and is probably one of the most challenging yet fundamental parts of bringing a brand to life. It’s essentially how a brand talks if it had a voice, so why is it so often the last element of the brand plan to be delivered?
Many companies invest a lot of time and effort into the design, marketing and promotion of their brand but invest lightly in understanding their communication channels and how best to engage and relate to their customers through words.
Why it’s important for your brand…
The words used to represent your brand and the manner in which a brand speaks should be at the heart of all your communications. It’s important to create a level of consistency across your platforms to enhance what your brand stands for. The brand ‘tone’ is essentially the way in which a brand communicates its values, so it’s important to get it right and refine it as you would with your marketing strategy.
This is not only applicable when delivering messages to your external customers but also to your internal team as well. A defined tone helps to portray the vision of your brand from the start and brings to life the ethos of the company. In theory, if the is tone right it can be a powerful tool to ignite your brand, engage customers and employees from the outset.
Bring your brand to life…
Research, vision and investment in time, will help identify the core elements for developing your tone of voice. It is important to utilise your existing and potential customers, colleagues and others, to test communication methods, words and content to gauge their reactions. Undertaking primary research will provide valuable insight into ensuring the messages and the methods of delivery are tailored correctly depending on who you’re talking to and where the conversations are taking place.
From here you can use your core values and identify customer personas for your brand to ensure that you are talking to the right audiences in the relevant manner.
Do it in style…
A style guide is an invaluable tool which can assist in getting employees to understand how to write for each audience type and adapt it accordingly.
It is essentially a set of standards, which simply informs anyone who produces content for your brand, the kind of tone they need to write in, and what type of language they should and shouldn’t be using for the different audience types. It’s a useful document for employees which doesn’t need to be an exhaustive list of do’s and don’ts, a visual guide is often the most effective way to get your key messages across. Additionally, it is especially useful for new employees to help them identify what your brand is about and how they should communicate your values.
A great example of how to keep your style guide simple yet effective is demonstrated in Skype’s brand and voice guidelines.
* (c) Skype
Tone it up (or down!)…
Obviously, not all audiences are the same, and will engage in different ways with your content and brand. It’s important to not be afraid to be creative with your style guide and variations of your brand tone, so these can be dialled up or down depending on the target audience and the messages you need to deliver. Flex is key to developing a robust tone of voice, but remember, try not to diversify away from your core values too much, as this can create confusion for your customers and what your brand stands for.
Tune in and review…
As with any element of brand development and marketing, it’s important to ensure that when it’s time to review the direction of your business and its objectives, a review of your brand voice is also undertaken.
Communication channels, customers and new technologies evolve and change each day, so why wouldn’t you evolve the way your brand speaks in order to reach these audiences as well? Giving responsibility to a brand guardian within your company, to take stock and adjust at relevant periods according to market changes is always best practice. Though, it’s important to remember that tone of voice isn’t just one persons sole responsibility, it’s a collective way to deliver your brands personality.
So, don’t leave that voice murmuring away in the corner, use it to deliver your brand messages and give it the time and investment it deserves as part of your brand and marketing strategy!
If you’d like assistance with developing your brand identity and tone of voice, get in touch with one of our marketing account managers – we’d be more than happy to help.