Odds are, you haven’t been thrilled to read many textbooks in your life. The average college text is long, far too dense, and — most of all — dull. Poor tone of voice can put your readers to sleep. A great one can turn any marketing channel into a gold mine.
In this article, we’ll explain what tone of voice is and why it’s crucial for your marketing.
Tone vs. Voice
Voice and tone always go hand in hand. However, they serve unique purposes in content writing.
Voice is best described as your brand’s personality. For example, it might be enthusiastic, professional, or caring. Voice stays consistent in all of your content writing.
Tone, on the other hand, is the way you express a message. It’s your attitude — and it can change as much as your attitude in real life.
Why is your brand tone of voice so important?
1. Your Tone of Voice Shapes Your Brand Personality
While voice is your personality, tone plays a huge role in shaping it. In a sense, your brand tone of voice sets the parameters for where your personality starts and ends.
Consider the brand Old Spice. You can easily describe its voice as “funny.” But humor can take many different paths. Depending on the message and situation, Old Spice may choose to be witty, cheeky, or even a little offbeat. But the brand never uses sarcasm or crude humor.
As a result, Old Spice is a fairly approachable, friendly brand. That’s their brand tone of voice doing it’s work.
Your tone can change between messaging, but your brand will usually stick to a few different tones of voice. The tones you choose can greatly shape how clients perceive your brand.
2. Tone of Voice Sets the Mood
Different tones of voice can completely transform the meaning of a message. Think of the way you use tone in-person. You can wish someone a happy birthday with huge enthusiasm, but if you’re sending “get well” wishes, your enthusiasm is likely toned down a notch. Similarly, you likely talk to your boss and your friends with completely different levels of professionalism.
Tone of voice helps you get the right message across, but it also goes beyond shaping the message itself. Tone also offers subtle hints about your relationship with your reader — or the type of connection you want to have.
For example, let’s say your voice is educational. If you’re writing like a professor lecturing their students, there may be a bit of distance between you and your clients. But if you write with passion or enthusiasm for the subject, you’re more likely to invite them in.
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3. Tone Makes Your Brand Memorable
For better or for worse, tone of voice can make your brand easier to remember. When it’s good, it boosts the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns or website.
When you write with a poorly managed (or poorly timed) tone, it can reflect badly on your brand.
So how do you know when it’s appropriate to use different tones of voice?
First, stay up-to-date with current events and trends. This will help you avoid distasteful marketing messages. For example, using a light-hearted tone when writing content about tornadoes may be fine on a typical day. But if a natural disaster just struck, your reputation may take a hit if you’re not on top of the news.
Second, know your audience and write with them in mind. You should have an idea of how your readers will perceive your content and what tones they respond to best.
If all else fails, get second eyes on your content. Just one second look can tell you whether or not your writing is sending the message you intend.
4. Tone of Voice Engages Your Target Audience
On social media, 40% of shoppers follow brands to be entertained. Translation: They don’t want to read content that sounds like it’s coming from a robot.
Using different tones of voice adds flavor to your writing. It reduces the bore.
Consider how tone affects in-person communication. A public speaker is likely to lose their audience if they speak in a monotone voice.
Changes in speed, power, and more help them engage listeners, especially at key points.
Similarly, when you shake up your tone between messages — while sticking to your brand voice — you can keep your content reliable, but exciting for readers.
5. Voice and Tone Make Your Brand Human
Together, voice and tone boost the humanity of your brand.
Brands can be tricky to master. A massive 96% of consumers don’t trust marketers, and 62% distrust most of the world’s biggest brands. People trust people, so the more human your brand feels, the more they’ll connect to it.
Tone of voice helps foster this strong emotional connection. When your content feels more real, people don’t just enjoy it for a second. They fully appreciate it, follow it, and ultimately fall in love with your brand. This is key to creating client loyalty.
How to Use Tone of Voice in Content Writing
1. Create a tone of voice guide for your team
When defining your tone of voice, it’s important to document the details in order to create a cohesive process for all team members. The guide should also be accessible to the entire team, so making it a link on your website or including it in your employee handouts can be two ways of distributing the info. Here are a few tips when creating your voice of tone guide:
- A tone of voice guide should be written in the voice you have chosen for the company
- The guide should be detailed to include grammar preferences, punctuation usage (limiting or increasing the use of exclamation points)
- Prepare your team for different writing context situations by including examples of how you would use the tone of voice guide – such as an Instagram post, a product launch email, or sample copy on a landing page
- Be consistent throughout by avoiding having too many writers work on the guide, which can potentially create a confusing tone
A great example of a well-executed tone of voice guide was done by Mailchimp. Their guide is incredibly thorough and walks their team through different use examples such as Writing about People, Writing for Social Media, Writing Email Newsletters, and so much more. This ensures their entire team is on the same page about what is expected from Mailchimp’s brand.
2. Build a process for accountability
When there are several writers working on different types of copy, it leaves room for different personalities to come through the tone of voice. This isn’t the end of the world – you obviously will have multiple writers through the life of the business.
The way to combat this is to have accountability over the content that gets published. Having Content Marketing Managers or Brand Managers approving any important copy that is shown to your customers can help hold content writers accountable to writing in a specific tone of voice.
3. Be consistent with your tone of voice
The most important reason about having a tone of voice is the role it plays in building trust for your brand. When a brand is consistent in how they speak to you, you begin to recognize that voice and the familiarity of it. We expect certain brands to make us laugh, and we expect certain brands to maintain a voice of reason and seriousness. Neither brand is better than the other per se. We just expect different experiences.
Using a tone of voice in your brand is a long game marketing tactic. It’s not going to build trust overnight, but with repeated usage, your customers will begin to learn what they can expect from you.
Master Your Brand Tone of Voice
Tone of voice can greatly transform how your audience perceives your messages and your brand. You can use it to shape the result of any content you put out there. But what makes it truly powerful is its ability to connect with customers and reduce the lack of trust they have for marketers and ads. Use tone of voice to show your humanity, and you can build an engaged and loyal audience.