How to Find your Company’s Tone-of-Voice

Work How to Find your Company’s Tone-of-Voice

What is tone-of-voice?
Before you set about constructing your company’s tone-of-voice document, you should probably have a clear understanding of what tone-of-voice actually is. Tone-of-voice (or TOV, for short) is both what you say and how you say it, and it can make your brand appear playful, risk-loving, serious, comical, pious or trustworthy, dependant on your word choices. Tone-of-voice is a tricky creature to pin down, but by clarifying, say, whether or not you use exclamation marks, or if you talk to your audience as though they’re your friend, you should be able to reach an understanding about who your brand is and how they speak.

Why is tone-of-voice important?
Everyone knows how vital it is to get your brand’s logo right. Whether you’ve chosen two interlinking circles, or to place your company’s name within a hand-drawn cloud, your logo should contain a lot of subliminal information, and give your onlooker a quick summary of your product, your values, and your mission. A logo is also an important signifier of ownership. Whenever a consumer sees a logo, they recognise the brand behind it, and this kind of consistency creates trust. But consistency doesn’t just start and end with your brand’s image. By using the same words and syntax across your packaging, your advertisements and your social media feed, you begin to create a tone-of-voice that your audience can immediately recognise. They feel safe buying from a brand that behaves predictably, and you start to feel like a person, rather than a faceless corporation.

But tone-of-voice also tells your audience who you are. Sure, your colour palette can indicate whether you’re environmentally conscious or not, but nothing is quite so fluid and revealing as the way you speak. For example, let’s imagine two fashion brands. One is a luxury hat designer, and the other sells fun, affordable prints to the 16-24 demographic. Now, let’s imagine that they both tweeted after the recent royal wedding.

@shopshropshire – The new Duchess of Suffolk looked absolutely magnificent in her custom-made Givenchy gown. Bravo to the designers!

@cuteasabutton – Meg looked absolutely BOMB in her gorg Givenchy dress, and got us thinking of other ways to make an entrance… Shop festival wear here.

A good TOV should make it obvious what values a brand holds dear, even if the audience has no prior knowledge of the brand in question.

How to finalise your tone-of-voice document
Let’s get one thing straight: you need a tone-of-voice document. You wouldn’t expect your designers to work without a list of your CMYK colours, and neither should you expect your staff writers to go without a TOV document. It can be as short as two pages, or as long as ten, and should include observations about your brand’s personality, clarifications on grammar, and how (in)direct you are. If you’re still struggling, then we’d strongly recommend investing in some advice from a brand consultant, but if you really want to do-it-alone, here are some questions to get you started:

On a sliding scale, how playful to serious is your brand? And could your vocabulary reflect this? (Note: this is a different question to how serious are you about your brand, as we’re assuming that the answer is always very! But there will – and should – be a different degree of playfulness in the way that a smoothie company speaks, versus the way that a medical research institute does).

  1. Do you use the ‘queen’s’ grammar, or does your comms reflect the way people speak?
  2. How verbose are you?
  3. Is your company a ‘we’ or ‘they’, and is it a singular thing or a plural one?
  4. Do you speak to your audience as though they’re friends, co-workers or potential customers?

SO Marketing is an award-winning web-design and branding agency based in Staffordshire, that crafts beautiful solutions for clients the world over. If you need help with your tone-of-voice document, then drop us an email, call or tweet

Take a look at our previous work. Explore our team and agency. Learn from our latest insights. Get in touch to begin your journey with us!