A Practical Guide to Brand Voice and Tone

a practical guide to voice and tone

I saw this movie whose plot revolved around a team of space explorers going on a rescue mission (my husband picked it out).

The plot was decent, but its downfall was that every character aboard the ship had the same personality (Voice) and same delivery of each line no matter what the situation (Tone).

Clearly, this was the personality of the writer and he/she did not take the time to develop each character’s own unique voice.

As outsourced marketers, we can find ourselves writing for many clients. It is our job to apply our client’s unique brand voice to their communications and pair it with the right tone for the situation they are in. After all, we’ve all heard the saying, ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it.’

Let’s look at these two components of communications and do some exercises together to perfect their use.

Brand Voice

Ann Handley gives us a good definition to start with in her book, Everybody Writes “ … your brand voice is simply an expression of your company’s personality and point of view.”

But who is this company? If it were at a cocktail party, what would it talk about? Would it be in a serious conversation? Would it be factual and to the point? Would it be joking and fist bumping everyone in the room?

If your client hasn’t presented you with a solid brand voice, this short exercise should put you on the right track to uncovering it.

Brand Voice Exercise

Think through who your company is and how you want to convey that to the audience. My advice to brands (and to you at the cocktail party) is be yourself.

Think about five adjectives that would describe this company. Now write them down. Keep them in mind as you move along to the next step…

Tone: Brand Voice’s BFF

In the movie I mentioned above, each character had the exact same humor and wit, but what was more awkward was that they used it exactly the same way, whether they were on spaceship cruise control or in the middle of heated battle. Their tone never changed.

Your tone is the expression of how you convey your attitude in a specific situation.

You may have uncovered in our last exercise that your company is gregarious, outgoing, efficient, helpful, and caring. A gregarious tone is acceptable in a product launch announcement, “Achieve complete organization with our new product X. We mean it!”

But maybe not the best for helping a frustrated customer. You can still be outgoing, but tap into the more helpful and efficient side of your brand voice, “We completely understand your frustration. Let’s get this done together and get you back on track.”

I find it best to personify the company and even match them up with a character you can visualize. Let’s practice.

Tone exercise

Take your brand voice and apply it to the following hypothetical situations. What would this company say and how would they say it?

  • The first time it met a new customer at a cocktail party
  • With a frustrated customer who can’t get their order to go through online
  • When someone just asked it, “So, what do you do?”

Without the help of facial expressions or body language, content marketers often have to rely on the written word to convey personality and tone online. Knowing each of your clients’ voices and how they would react in situations, will help you write successfully for many different companies at once.

Take these exercises to your own content, whether it be social media messages, customer services pages, or blog posts, and make sure everything is consistent. People want to know your brand the same way they know a friend at a party because it creates trust and loyalty. And ultimately, those two sentiments are what help you win more sales and create more raving fans.

photo credit:  space ship001 via photopin (license)

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