Hello. I’m Joe. Welcome to another blog from Digital Media Team. This one is about tone of voice. Here is how you can improve it.
Sorry, did that sound weird to you? That’s because it isn’t our tone of voice. To be frank, there was barely a tone of voice there at all.
It’s easy to underestimate the power a tone of voice has on an audience, but it can be the one thing separating you from really connecting your brand to a massive customer base.
So if you’re still struggling to capture your audience’s attention, and you’ve followed everything we posted about organic socials and other brands who are killing it re: social media (because of course you have), maybe the next step is developing your own strong tone of voice. So read on, and let us guide you through it!
The Beginner’s Guide: Hold up, what even is a tone of voice?
You’ve heard people throw this term around without really understanding what it means. Simply put, it’s the way in which you speak to your audience. It reflects your brand values on every piece of content and proves you are who you say you are. It’s kind of like your brand’s personality, and what humanises (or, in some cases, dehumanises) your company’s communication with their customers.
Some will form a friendly, informal approach (especially when the audience is younger and modern), some will be formal and straight to the point (often when you’re dealing with a lot of customer queries and complaints), and some will even be self-referential to the idea of a tone of voice and twist it round.
Did you know there’s a restaurant in the USA that has waiting staff treat their customers rudely on purpose as part of the experience? Customers flock to the place because of this subversive tone of voice, because it’s refreshing and different.
We’ve worked with clients whose TOVs land on all ends of the spectrum, and each offers a unique experience for their particular customer base.
Creating a Tone of Voice: A Step-by-Step Guide.
First off, get to know your audience.
If you’ve done any form of content marketing so far, you should have a pretty good idea of what your audience looks like. The important aspects include, but are not limited to: their age, gender, education level, jobs, spending habits, and general interests.
Looking into what social platforms they engage with (again, something by now you’re likely familiar with) and how they talk to each other and other brands.
Don’t just look for positive interactions, though. Look at times where your intended audience has been irked by brands. Look at how they interact with their peers, and build a profile based on those they respond well to or look up to.
Define your brand’s values.
If you haven’t at this point, you should consider creating a mission statement for your brand and defining your core values. What do you want to accomplish as a brand? How would your brand’s persona and your audience fit into this?
There are three important factors that you should define within a mission statement:
(1) Who you are.
(2) Who you would like to be.
(3) Who you are not.
Focus on who you would like your audience to see you as, and come up with specific goals and words to describe your brand. From there, you can create a tone of voice that is true to the goals you have in mind.
Build a character around your audience’s positive reactions.
Remember that this isn’t a straight-up copy and paste job, and you’re not trying to replicate a person who is part of your audience. Your tone of voice could be the voice of a peer, but could also represent a voice from their life. Just because Gen Z-ers speak with a specific slang doesn’t mean they want their coffee shop to talk to them like that.
A recent Millenial/Gen Z meme has cropped up which refers to “the social media intern” as a way of talking about the strangely familiar and youthful tone of voice of large, corporate companies.
It’s definitely worth taking a risk with younger audiences, but doing it authentically can be difficult and require a lot of attention. You don’t want to come across as insincere as it will make you seem less trustworthy to consumers.
Some brands, such as Skype, use a warm, family-friendly tone to target audiences of all ages. They are not playing the role of a peer, but instead, as described in their brand guidelines, “You could think of us as that overly generous Aunt who always insists you have a third helping.”
Think outside the box here. There are many ways of creating a tone of voice that will be engaging and new, and not just more of the same. It’s easy for YOU to see your brand as unique. However, without a well-defined tone of voice, you’re likely to fall into the noise of every other “unique” brand.
Create your tone of voice characteristics and dimensions.
If you’ve ever been a gamer, think of this as a character-creation screen. There are four scales that you can measure your tone of voice’s characteristics on:
There’s no right or wrong answer to where your brand stands on this scale, other than making sure it fits the profile of your brand. Each trait has positives and negatives. For example, a formal voice may come across as professional but lacking in personality, or an enthusiastic voice may seem friendly but could potentially irritate the reader. It’s all about balance.
What your brand or product is also can inform the type of voice that fits you best.
If you’re selling pink gin, your brand’s persona will want to be bubbly, friendly and a little bit sassy. An energy drink brand might want to be enthusiastic and caffeine-powered. If you’re selling a suit, you’ll want to come across as dapper and confident.
This isn’t always the case, but you could think of your tone of voice as the idealised person your customer wants to be.
A brand that stays too far left or right overall has the biggest risk in falling flat or coming across as unprofessional, so really find that sweet spot that fits your brand.
In the case of DMT, we would define our tone of voice as quite casual and down to earth, while relaying facts as plainly as possible to our audience. While we are casual and irreverent, we do not push to be overtly enthusiastic or high-energy as this can sometimes be a telltale sign of a brand trying too hard to appease younger audiences.
Create Guidelines For Your Brand
Once you’ve defined your brand’s characteristics, you’ll want to create a formative document that explains your tone of voice and how it can be conveyed across all forms of social.
This can form part of your brand guidelines or be something completely internal, but it’s helpful when you share it with whoever is involved with creating your socials or any material for your brand.
From a content writer’s perspective, while we can figure out your brand’s tone of voice from previous copy we’ve seen, it is infinitely more helpful if we see it presented to us plainly in a document like this. It helps us connect instantly with your brand and know exactly how we should approach copy for our clients.
Get your voice out there.
The final step, of course, is to start posting and interacting with your audience using this fully fleshed-out persona. It might not work straight away, it might need a little tweaking here and there, but remain confident in that this is how your brand should be speaking based on the research you’ve done and the work you’ve put in.
Keep the guidelines close, and over time this persona will become second nature as you communicate on your socials. As with any personality, it will grow and change over time, moving organically with your changing and growing audience.