How to get your tone of voice spot on

30 Jun 2021

Content marketing

Megan Boyle

Megan Boyle

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Every brand has a TOV (tone of voice), or at least they should. But, surprisingly, a lot of companies forget about it, and allow it to get lost, especially if they expand or change direction. If you’re struggling to answer ‘What’s my tone of voice?’, then this is the guide for you. 

What is a TOV and why is it important?

TOV notes can be found in brand guidelines, and they have an important job, especially for your social, content marketing, PR, and design teams. Whoever is writing, creating or designing for a brand, needs to convey a consistent tone and message, no matter the topic. If one article appears too tongue in cheek, when a brand has never had that tone before, or if it just doesn’t fit with the brand, then this can damage a reputation and put people off.

Where to start when developing a tone of voice?

Values. If you don’t know your own brand’s values through and through, then you will struggle to nail down a TOV. Start with a whiteboard session to brainstorm your own brand’s values, what it encourages, how the culture is, and where you want the company to go. The words you see getting repeated will help you develop a TOV and your underlying values. 

Know your brand

Different businesses will suit different tones. If you’re a sex toy retailer, then the serious, professional tone is definitely not needed. Many adult/sex brands often swear in their articles, with puns and tongue-in-cheek messaging. Whereas if you’re a finance or medical company, this laid-back tone will probably not go down too well. When there’s money, security, or health involved, people need to feel like they can trust you and your impression needs to be one of authority. Depending on the topic you’re covering, you may be able to inject some humour, but it’s about reading the room, understanding the subject, and knowing your audience. 

Innocent drinks tone of voice
Innocent Drinks TOV

Developing brand voice guidelines

You’ll often find fashion brands have very detailed brand guidelines, as they work with so many different creatives to deliver projects and campaigns, and so everybody needs to be consistent. 

Content involves storytelling, and it’s no different with brand guidelines. Begin with your brand’s story, so that whoever opens up the document gets a great overview of the background of the company and where it wants to go.

In your guidelines, it’s good to have a do’s and don’ts. For instance, if your target audience/customer profile is a more mature male one, then you could have handy columns to state what kind of vocabulary would work and wouldn’t. For example, ‘We never address our readers with ‘guys’ or ‘boys’. We prefer ‘men’ and ‘gents’.

You can guide the tone by emphasising who your customers are by describing their interests, what publications they tend to read, and how they like to be addressed. What also helps is a vocabulary wall or poster to inspire content, which can give a better understanding of the TOV too.

Getting everybody on the right page

When your business baby is growing, it can be hard to let go of things, especially when you have a very particular TOV. That’s why your brand guidelines are so important, no matter your industry. Every company develops and adapts; one year you might not have even heard of SEO, and the next you’re developing strategies that need content creation and a blog set up. 

Whether you’re using a digital marketing agency or employing more staff, having an in-depth immersion meeting is an efficient way to get everybody on the same page, followed by your brand guidelines. Make sure you delegate proofreaders to check the content in line with the TOV, and don’t be afraid to schedule in regular refresher meetings to keep the TOV front of mind.

Is it time for a talented agency to help drive your website traffic and conversions? Whether you need PPC, Social, or Content Marketing, TAL Agency has years of experience in working with a diverse range of brands and TOVs – you can trust us. Contact us today.

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