Your brand tone of voice is crucial. But in a visual world, most businesses rarely see the value in nailing how they sound. Instead, they concentrate more on the logo, website design, photography or colour scheme.
And that’s fine, they’re all important.
But so is nailing your tone of voice.
What is tone of voice?
Tone of voice isn’t just what you say. It’s how you say it.
What you say comes from the knowledge you’ve gained that makes you the expert.
How you say it is all about your personality.
But to confuse you a little more, voice and tone are different things too:
Is your brand’s personality.
Is the emotion you apply to your voice and changes depending on circumstances. For example, announcing the passing of your CEO is going to be more sombre than if you’re announcing your new range of summer beach balls.
Your tone changes like in everyday life.
Your personality (voice) doesn’t.
Why your brand tone of voice is important.
If you’re an exciting brand aimed at young adults and you sound like you’re talking to 87-year-old-men in brown cardigans, well, you’re not going to appeal to your target audience.
Get your tone of voice wrong and you can wave sales goodbye. An engaging tone of voice, pitched to the right audience does three things:
One. It sets you apart from your competitors
Your tone of voice is a way of making your business sound human. And it allows you to use expressions, dialects and cultural references that strike a chord with your audience.
Do that and, regardless of whether it’s an article, social media post or an ad on the side of a bus, it should be recognisable as your brand.
Two. It helps you build trust
When your tone resonates with your target audience, it’s easier for them to process it mentally. By keeping the tone the same across all platforms builds familiarity and trust that you know what you’re talking about. We’re all
Three. It persuades people to buy your stuff
All human beings are open to psychological persuasion, whether we like it or not. And words alone can persuade us to buy a service or product, purely from the feelings and emotions they evoke in us. And there are so many different ways of saying the same thing.
Think about it when you’ve been asked if you have a spare pound. Which would you react to better:
- “You wouldn’t happen to have a pound coin I could borrow, would you?”
- “Do you have a pound I could borrow?”
- “Could you lend me a quid, mate?”
One of the above would persuade you to dig into your pocket and give somebody a pound, but we won’t all choose the same one.
Tips to help you nail your tone of voice.
Getting your brand’s tone of voice right doesn’t have to be long-winded and complicated. Here’s my own personal advice on how to nail your sound:
No, not Prince, but instead the old favourite: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Don’t overcomplicate things with clever language or loads of jargon. Nobody but you will think that’s clever. If you can say something in three words instead of ten, do. Nobody wants to read long, complicated stuff.
Two. Use active voice to make you sound human
There’s nothing wrong with sounding professional, but I always advise customers to sound like human beings, not robots.
Write like you would when talking to a friend or a customer walking into your shop or calling you on the phone. Let’s say you want to start with something small, like an email confirmation message.
The best way to sound human is by using active voice, not passive, like so:
Passive: Your correspondence has been noted, we will send you a reply in due course.
Active: Thanks for emailing, I’ll get back to you shortly!
The active example sounds human and works whether you have a conversational or business-like tone of voice.
Three. Write the way you speak
In addition to the second tip above, human-sounding copy in its basic form is just making it sound like a person talking.
But writing how you talk doesn’t have to mean chucking in loads of swear words or slang. Think about when you speak to a friend. Or when you’re on a Zoom call to a client. You’re not all uptight and dull. You’ll speak naturally, have a bit of a laugh and just be completely human.
To really hear how you sound, talk to a friend or partner about what you do, record it and listen back.
What will you notice?
Well, other than that you say “erm…” a lot, you’ll hear your passion and excitement about your business. And you’ll use specific words and phrases that slot perfectly into your marketing copy.
That’s why I always try to speak to clients, rather than just send emails. By hearing what they have to say about their business, I can hear their passion for their work and the kinds of words they use to describe it.
Four. Get the use of ‘You’ right
Using the pronoun, ‘You’, in the right place can make you sound even more customer-focused.
A lot of brands use the word ‘You’ now. Hell, I tell my clients to use ‘You’ more than ‘We’ all the time. But there’s something most brand’s don’t always consider: using it to make an even better connection.
I’ve stripped the below examples back to their basic meanings to make it even easier.
Take a look and decide which makes you feel more cared for as a customer:
- We do this, in case you want that.
- You might want this, so we do that.
It’s the second one. The first isn’t bad. You’d definitely feel cared for. But the second, by leading with ‘You’, it makes the customer sound more important than the business.
It’s a small thing but put your customer first. It’s about what they want then it’s about what you do and why you do it.
Five. Practice sentences in different tones of voice
Sitting down, writing and nailing your tone of voice isn’t easy, especially if you’re still figuring it out.
So, what’s the answer?
Well, if you’re not sure, write down a sentence in a different tone of voice to see which suits your brand and personality.
Something like these:
1. Matthew Drzymala is a freelance copywriter in Liverpool. He has worked with clients across multiple industries, so you are in safe hands no matter what your profession.
2. Meet Matt Drzymala, a freelance copywriter in Liverpool. Having worked with clients across hundreds of industries, he knows how to make people notice your brand.
3. Hey, I’m Matt, a freelance tone of voice copywriter who’ll make your brand impossible to ignore.
Three sentences, all a bit different.
Try it, it’ll take you 10-minutes and can really help you nail your brand tone of voice.
Six. Create tone of voice guidelines
Yep, when you’re happy with your tone of voice, next you need to create those all-important guidelines.
Because, as your business grows, you get busy. And when that happens, you might have to let a copywriter or one of your employees take over the writing of your articles, social media and marketing.
Tone of voice guidelines allow other people to see how you sound, so they can pick up where yu left off and run with it (and not make you sound totally different.
And they don’t have to be long or difficult either. Make your guidelines one page. One big brand that does this perfectly is Mailchimp, so visit their website to see how easy they are to create.
A brand getting their tone of voice right.
To give you an idea of a brand getting their visual and written content right, look no further than Pret-a-Manger:
You know it’s Pret without seeing the typeface or logo. Their tone of voice is consistent across all of its branding and products.
But they’re also masters at changing their tone to match an occasion. Like they did during the pandemic:
Both voices are recognisably Pret. But the tone is tweaked for the NHS workers offer.
Need a hand with your voice?
Then let’s chat to see how I can help you. I’ve worked with loads of brands who wanted to change their voice from corporate and cold to chatty, human and warm.
Or, if you want to crack on and have a go yourself, use the tips above and let me know how you get on.
Until next time,
PS. If you need help writing in a chatty style, check out my article, 15 ways to write in a conversational tone of voice (with examples).