Hello. Hi. Sup. Alright. Ayup. Howdy. Hiya. Greetings. Yo.
Finding and maintaining your tone of voice can be a difficult challenge. Especially in today’s business environment where digital disruption means that we have an increasing number of channels to communicate through: your website, social media, press releases, brochures, emails etc. it can be overwhelming.
A tone of voice document often forms part of an organisation’s brand guidelines. It’s purpose is to make sure that all employees, external agencies and temporary workers who communicate externally are singing from the same song sheet. It’s essential to portray the business in a consistent manner that reflects the tone of voice and spirit of the organisation. This could be formal, informal, fun, serious etc.
Who are we? A question that not enough businesses ask about themselves, and one that your tone of voice document should answer in great detail. If you don’t know what you stand for, then your employees don’t and your customers won’t either. In this guide we explore the most important things to include in your tone of voice guideline documents.
1. An overview of your business
It seems obvious but a brief description about what you do and an overview of your company makes the perfect introduction. What services/products do you provide, what markets do you serve and in which locations, and what is the history of the business?
2. Your vision
Where is your business heading? What is your raison detre (reason for being)? If you can successfully unite your employees behind a common goal, it will very likely aid productivity and bring them together for the common purpose. It’s a great feeling to be part of a motivated team all striving for the same thing. Here’s a few good examples:
“At IKEA our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.” – IKEA
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” – Nike
“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” – Google
“To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brand and actions. To create value and make a difference.” – Coca-Cola
3. Your values
What do we believe in? What are our lasting beliefs or ideals shared by our employees that form our culture? A simple anonymous questionnaire or if you’re brave enough, a brainstorming session will help to generate a picture and common theme. If it isn’t what you want to hear – set about shaping them.
*TIP – choose 5 buzzwords to describe your company. For example are you insightful, contemporary, creative, friendly or innovative? Choose your words carefully as they will reflect the personality of your brand. The take the time to explain them, what exactly do you mean by them? For example friendly: informal but informative rather than overpowering and pushy.
4. A customer profile
Ask yourself – who is our customer? How old are they, where do they live, what do they like doing, where do they hang out? Knowing who your customer is and what they want and expect from you can help you develop how you address them. Your tone of voice communicates with your target audience. If you have a range of different audiences don’t feel obliged to keep changing your tone, be consistent, true to your brand and develop a tone to suit the majority. Read this post from Marketing Donut on why it pays to profile your customer.
Fundamentally it’s all about your brand and how best to communicate your message – thinking about what you want to say first and then how you want to say it. There are contributing factors that can help you decide on the tone that you take, but deciding on the tone and being consistent is the key to success. Turn your company from generic and faceless into your own brand with a unique personality that your customers can familiarise themselves with.