Tone of Voice
Tone of voice in copywriting: It's not just what you say.
Everyone has a different way of expressing and portraying themselves. Businesses and brands are no different. Your tone of voice (TOV) is the way in which you communicate with your customers or clients, staff and partners, investors, suppliers and the media. It’s the first impression they will have of you and should embody and express your unique personality and brand values. No matter how shiny your brand is or how good your product or service is, a tone of voice can either breathe life into your message or suck the life out of it. Get it right and your tone of voice should turn your business from a faceless brand into one that has character, confidence and authority, and stands out among its peers.
A good tone of voice should be human (write like you speak), authentic (be as honest as you can) and simple (make it easy to understand). Think of your brand as a person. What sort of personality do they have? What’s their style? How do they speak? How do others relate to them? When reviewing a set of tone of voice guidelines, I always recommend that clients strip away the clutter and reconsider and refocus the content, style and tone of their messaging. Do their values still align with those of their target audience? Think of the brands you like and ask yourself why? Look at the language they use and pick out words and phrases that resonate with you. Ask yourself why they work, deconstruct them and think of ways the same principles can be applied to your brand.
As your tone of voice is used at every public facing touchpoint, it needs to be consistent. The more consistent your tone of voice is, the more likely it is that customers will understand why you are unique and will be able to identify with you. This doesn’t mean that it has to be rigid. It needs an element of flexibility so it can be adapted depending on the audience, context and channel (website or social media, brochure or annual report, adverts, direct mail or press release). However, over time, as markets change and language evolves, your tone of voice or brand voice can start to drift. As with people, very few of us sound like we used to.
How to find your brand tone of voice through copywriting.
- Identify your unique brand characteristics. What makes your business or brand unique?
- Identify and understand your target audience and the way in which they communicate.
- Identify and avoid the language styles and tones of voice that you don’t like.
- Identify words that define your business and can be used to shape your tone of voice.
- Use an active voice. It sounds more natural, is more direct and easier to understand.
- Write the way you speak. A conversational tone is more relaxed.
- Your tone of voice should be simple, original and consistent across all public-facing channels/
- Allow for variation depending on audience, context and channel.
- Be prepared to modify your tone of voice as language evolves and market trends shift.
- Above all, your tone of voice should always convey authenticity.
Developing an authentic tone of voice doesn’t always come naturally. If you would like help in defining or refining your tone of voice, please contact me.
“Tom has been our go-to copywriter for several years. He writes informative and engaging press releases and case studies that never fail to get coverage”.
Ginny Murphy, The Wheel Specialist