Tone of Voice - A Handbook

Tone of voice - a quality in the voice that expresses the speaker's feelings or thoughts, often towards the person being spoken to.

The more people you have writing, the more styles get thrown into the mix. Before you know it, your content’s tone and voice are all over the place.

Tone of voice is how the character of your business comes through in the words you write and speak. It’s not about what you say, but it’s about how you say it – and the impression it makes on everyone who reads or hears you.

How you express yourself is unique to you – whether technical and verbose, boastful, inwardly focussed, factual, concise, clear or informal – how you speak to your audience creates an impression of your company – and ultimately dictates how your audience feel about you.



Why is tone of voice important?

When you read a company’s content you understand it on two levels. The facts, you are hearing or reading tell you what the company does, while the tone of what you are hearing or reading tell you what it would be like to engage with that company.  Think about it – practically you can tick all the boxes but if you aren’t likeable, engagement is low.  It’s human nature and ultimately people do business with people.

But that said, despite its name, tone of voice simply isn’t about how you speak, it also includes the words you use.  Your website, your social media, your correspondence, your sales brochures, your call centre scripts, the way the receptionist answers the phone, client presentations – they are all relevant to tone of voice.  The language used gives your brand its own district and recognisable voice.

A consistent tone of voice tells your audience that the same brand is speaking to them. It demonstrates reliability and that every part of their experience with you will be equally good.


Six reasons why you should care about your tone of voice:

1. It makes you human – people like to deal with people, so they look for a brand that has a personality they can recognise and can bond with.  The trend at the moment in business to business marketing is about authenticity, honestly and openness. Buyers are looking for more emotional ties to branding rather than just the rational benefits. Everyone ultimately chooses the businesses they like working with so tone of voice is incredibly important in communicating these brand values.

2. It helps you cut through – as content marketing becomes more popular and companies are generating more and more content, a distinctive tone gives you the best chance of connecting with people. If you take the logo off your website or social channels, is your voice recognisable?

3. It replaces face to face communication – everybody is busy, nobody has time to meet and discuss anymore? It’s true. In a huge percentage of cases, face to face contact comes way down the line when you’ve engaged with that person or that company several times. Your tone helps you build trust and begin a relationship which stands a much higher chance of turning into something long term.

4. It builds authority – all the best and most memorable things we see and react to are lively, funny, emotional and passionate.  Tone of voice is a great carrier of authority and belief.  Demonstrating personality shows you have confidence in what you are saying and consequently that it has real value.

5. It gives you focus – tone of voice and actively thinking about it can add real value in deciphering the company’s identity, vision and values. Simplifying everything to cut through the clutter and confusion can really help set strategic direction. It is really hard to be all things to all people so really working this out helps define your audience and your niche appeal.

6. It makes you different –  B2B tone of voice is in its infancy. Most companies haven’t woken up to the idea at all so embracing this now will really set you apart.

Every company wants to ultimately connect with its customers and potential new customers, build authority and stand out from the crowd.

Cartwright Communications works with companies to analyse tone of voice and build better brand guidelines for greater engagement and success.  Call us if it is your top priority in 2018.

Rachel has over 20 years' B2B and B2C PR experience, within the entertainment and food industries. Rachel devises effective communications and engagement strategies which deliver the right message to the right audiences, and she has significant experience in brand management, stakeholder relations and crisis communications.