Hello again! If you’ve been following my LinkedIn feed, you’ll know that I’m currently writing a series of short(ish) articles answering some of the common questions I’ve been asked during my career. It’s an informal affair, so pull up a pew and let’s get to it.
This week’s question (answered on a lengthy coach ride back from Leeds) is all about the essential tone of voice – the way that a brand speaks, and the personality conveyed by good copy. For some, the thought of somehow arranging the English language in a way which gives unique life to a piece of work can feel daunting. Below are just a few notes I have covering this topic, and hopefully they’ll do away with that anxiety!
- First things first, it’s essential to actually settle on a tone of voice. Too often, businesses say that their tone of voice is ‘professional, yet friendly’. Firstly, I’d certainly hope you’d be friendly regardless, and as a business, you should always be professional (see Poundland’s naughty elf adverts from Christmas 2018 for an example of what not to do). For more corporate or traditional companies, I’d suggest ditching the act of pinning an adjective or two to your tone of voice, and opt instead to choose words that your brand would be comfortable using.
- Here’s an exercise for you to try now: think of your brand and choose how they would describe something. Would your brand feel comfortable saying something is amazing, brilliant, super, out of this world, ace, fantastic, or just plain great? Is the exclamation point a welcome bit of punctuation, or does it betray the audience you’re aiming for? Once you’ve asked yourself and your team some of these questions, you’ll find the tone of voice falling into place. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask a branding expert for help!
- For copywriters, the question takes on a different angle, however the answer is similar. On many occasions, brands will provide a tone of voice ready, but if there are any doubts it pays to ask clients which words they’d choose out of a selection to gauge the voice, as well as researching previous work and reading up on their audience. If there’s no definitive answer in that department, you can try two things (depending on how your clients feel): do something different and see how the audience reacts, or rely on a knowledge of the ideal audience and what they want to hear.
- My more unusual piece of advice is to imagine the client speaking, but this really only works if you’ve been around them in person and heard how they talk and their intonations – and is more specifically for when you’re writing articles on their behalf.
- Still unsure? Go the long way round and try two different voices and allow clients to decide – this can then inform future articles, and help them to steer their brand in the right direction.
As always, I hope this has been of some use to you. Now head off and think about your tone of voice, and be prepared to reject the description “professional yet friendly”!