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  • Writer's pictureDan White

What is tone of voice?

What is tone of voice? Here’s how we see it…


Tone of voice is how you want your brand to make people feel. What you say and how you say it all impacts how people understand you - and in turn what actions they’re going to take.


Your tone of voice might be ‘fun’ or ‘playful’, ‘serious’ or ‘engaging’. These words might be the best way to describe you. Then again, maybe it isn’t. The level of investment, time and attention that brands pay to developing their tone of voice is painfully undervalued. But this is tone of voice - how you decide you want your brand to sound to your customers.

So, why is tone of voice so important?

Normally though, a brands tone of voice only gets a couple of buzzwords in a brand book 500 pages thick - and that’s pretty rubbish. For all the time spent perfecting colour palettes and fussing with fonts how you’re saying what you’re saying has been historically neglected. (This is exactly why we set up The Way With Words). Regardless of how defined your tone of voice actually is we know that having something, indeed anything helps for these reasons. It…

  • Shows the personality of your brand (and your team)

  • Helps you stand out from your competitors

  • Helps persuade more people to engage with you - and ultimately buy from your brand

  • Gives your team a uniform idea how they should write

What is tone of voice used for?

Your tone of voice should be used across every customer communication. Naturally, a lot of attention is placed on all written communications. So from your website copy to Tiktok titles everything that’s typed out has the same personality as everything else. However, it doesn’t stop there. The spoken word, from TV voiceovers to how your teams deliver presentations can all be aligned to your tone of voice so that every message that convinces someone to do something is on message and on brand. Give me some examples.

What’s the essential ingredients of a good tone of voice?

Like the ever elegant swan, a first rate tone of voice is powered by a lot of less than elegant research and thinking. You’ll need to know your business and what it stands for. You probably want to start by looking at:

  • Your brand strengths

  • Your USP’s

  • Your key challenges

  • Your ambitions

  • What you love - and what you stand for

  • What you hate - and what you stand against

  • Who your target audience is

  • Your customers ambitions - and their fears

Work all that out and you should be able to write yourself an umbrella statement, a snappy way summarise all this. And from here? Well, you should be able to start working all sorts of different messages that work for you.

What’s verbal identity then?

If you look around our site you’ll see sometimes we mention tone of voice and sometimes we mention verbal identity. So, are tone of voice and verbal identity the same thing? Not exactly.

Tone of voice sits at the heart of what you do. It nails your colours to the mast, that yes that’s us kind of feeling. Imagine, if you took away all the branding, the colours and the context of your copy and just read your writing from a blank sheet of paper. Would you still know it was you? Establishing that tone of voice gives a copywriter, a Ad writer, scriptwriter or anyone else who is communicating to your audience the steer they need to write the right thing.

Verbal identity takes this one step further.

Verbal identity takes your central message and works out how it should weave and wind across every touchpoint your customers reach you through. That way everything across your entire organisation is aligned; From your billboard slogans to the terms and conditions of an email invoice. Typically, you’d find verbal identity coming into play across enterprise level organisations or international outfits. Think of the likes of brands like Innocent and Oatly.

 

Treat this as an introduction to the world of tone of voice. If you want to go further and deeper into things we’ve got a stack of examples to show you. From how important tone of voice really is to examples for a friendly tone of voice, or your tone of voice on social media. Either way, we’re here to help you nail your voice - whatever it is.

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