Tone of voice. Let’s chat?

Acrobator
6 min readNov 26, 2020

Applied practical instructions and life hacks born in practice from Acrobator Consultancy’s Managing Partner Kseniya Negrutsa.

First things first, to even start thinking about Tone of Voice, you need both your marketing and communication strategies formulated beforehand. At least some of the basics. The absolute minimum is: product, target audience and market analysis, as well as the goals that you aim to achieve with your marketing efforts. Without those, there will not be sufficient information to base your tone of voice on.

But what is that again?

Tone of voice is the way companies speak on their website, social media, in their presentations, emails or via any other channels where the company gets in touch with customers. The words you use in your communication literally define how people perceive your business. This is a branding element that your audience remembers and recognizes effortlessly, just through the way you speak. So your tone of voice is as important as the logo and visuals you choose.

Do you need a file with a formulated tone of voice?
Hell, yeah!

If the understanding of the tone of voice is only in the head of your copywriter, it will go away with him/her, if he/she decides to leave. Plus, it’s way easier to explain the tone of voice for newcomers, when you have it clearly formulated and stored in the form of a document. This document has to be self-explanatory, so that a person will understand how to write just from reading the document. Moreover, the tone of voice has to be used not only by copywriters, but also sales representatives, marketers, content managers etc.

Let’s start

1. Look at your marketing and communication strategies and ask yourself a question: “Who is actually speaking?”.

Give answers from two viewpoints.
First, answer as a company. Who are you as a company? What do you do? Why should people care about what you do?
Then, answer as a group of people. Why do you do all of this? Who are you as persons? What do you like about what you do?

Those answers should allow you to build a Role model of the speaker that your brand is.

Example: Agricultural company
Company
with track record, unique expertise, innovative technologies and sustainable approach.
People who invested their own money, took a risk to enter emerging markets, who would rather earn less but will take care of our planet.
Role model: self confident wise entrepreneur — father figure.

2. Look at your marketing and communication strategies again and ask yourself a question: “Who are we talking to?”.

Your target audience was already segmented and described in your marketing strategy. To utilize the knowledge that you have about your audience, we suggest using personas. Choose several key personas. When writing for the brand, imagine how you would speak with these people. Form a generalized Role model for them.

Example: same agricultural company (see the previous example)
Target audience (in a nutshell): potential investors.
Role model: Your fathers friend/elder acquaintance — expert from some other field.
You respect him, you’re glad to see him.
You mean that he is an educated intelligent person.
You treat him with patience and understanding. You realise that he doesn’t understand your business, doesn’t understand professional slang etcetera, but you value his opinion.

3. Now let’s form key messages

(if you haven’t done that in your strategies before).

Let’s consider two types of persuasion: emotional and rational. To communicate effectively, we need to balance them both.

  • Pinpoint what you want your consumer to feel when he or she will read messages from your brand.
  • Determine the rational reasons for choosing your product — competitive advantages and unique selling points of your product, you want your consumers to know explicitly.

SEO VS Tone of Voice

When you are in a place to choose between these two, we say choose both. You need to follow your SEO strategy for obvious reasons, but do not abandon your customers in the mess of keywords. Don’t forget about your identity and emotional messages. I understand that you want to make it brief, to increase the chances for the text to be read. But even in the shortest text, there’s room for emotional persuasion.

4. Make a definite set of rules

  • The Formality level decision should be dependent on the results of the previous steps and on the preferences of your target audience. Check how customers address you when approaching — and approach them with a similar formality level. Similar, not obligatory the same (it is a tiny, but important note!)
  • When deciding on professionalization, remember that most people will stop reading the text after seeing two unknown words. But feel free to use as many terminologies as needed, if your target audience is knowledgeable on the subject (in pharma, for example).
  • Slang usage, as well, depends on your audience preferences. Maybe your target audience adores weird wordings or even filthy language. Weirdly enough, where for one audience typos and grammatical errors are forbidden, in the eyes of others may make your brand look more humane and approachable. So decide wisely and ground your decision on your marketing research.
  • Humour is a super effective instrument. But it’s better not to joke at all than to joke, not funny! And another thing — humour can be a sensitive topic, so take responsibility for your jokes and be sure that you wouldn’t offend your customers with them. If you decided that you are up to humour, don’t overdo it, keep in mind that:

5. The golden rule — be consistent

Your tone of voice needs to be consistent across all your channels. Can you imagine using different logos depending on your mood? So, don’t do that with your tone of voice neither — it’s also part of your branding!

6. The golden rule — exception 😉

The only exception to the constancy rule is a one-to-one communication with your customers. While people may enjoy your completely informal tone of voice in social media, they might expect a more formal approach during one-to-one communication.

Surveys show that 65% of customers preferred their support staff to have a casual tone during their interactions. However, the perception depends on the context, according to Jay Ivey (an analyst at Software Advice) 78% of customers would be dissatisfied if their request was denied using a casual tone. In contrast, if a request was formally declined, only 35% said it affected their satisfaction. Researchers attributed this to a casual attitude being perceived as condescending or insensitive in specific contexts.

So, correct the level of formality, but stick to your identity.

Now, you’re all set.

Just to make sure that you’ll nail it, here are 5 last practical tips:

  • When writing any text, always imagine yourself as your Role model;
  • When writing any text, always imagine who it is addressed explicitly to;
  • When editing before posting, always read the text aloud to get a better perspective;
  • Remember that the goal is not to let the reader pay attention to your excellent copywriting, but to let them onto your excellent product.
  • To make your tone of voice work for you, you need it defined in the document. And also you need a person responsible for its consistency, who will ensure a shared understanding of it among employees.

This is a base of tone of voice building.
Remember that tone of voice is very dependent on your product. For different products, various other points will have to be taken into account.

And last not least, if you still think that tone of voice it’s just a frill that wouldn’t add value:

In the 21st century, being a business like everyone else most likely means not staying alive for a long period of time.

If you feel that you still need some help — Let’s have a chat? 😉
Find me on
LinkedIn.

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Acrobator

Acrobator is a family of two organisations: growth hack investment fund — Acrobator Ventures and digital marketing agency — Acrobator Consultancy