How your company communicates as a brand is one of the most influential ways you will connect with your ideal customers.
Your company personality is defined by two related elements: brand voice and brand tone. The way to stand out in a crowd is to create thoughtful guidelines around your brand voice and tone and to use them consistently in company communication.
The Difference Between Brand Voice and Brand Tone
At 11outof11, we say brand voice represents your company’s unique perspective and the values you stand for.
Your brand voice helps create consistency across all of your communication. This means people will be able to recognize your voice, whether they’re consuming your social media messages, email communications, blog posts, or an in-person seminar.
How your company chooses to communicate is your brand tone.
Tone of voice is how you communicate your brand values to connect with your audience. It includes your overall communication style, your selective choice of words, and the emotionality of those words – how your words make people feel.
Depending on the communication, your tone will change. Whether it’s a promotional message, customer interaction, or something else, you base your brand tone on what’s most appropriate for that communication.
Why Brand Voice and Tone Are Important
In business, as in life, what you say and how you say it carries weight with your audience and influences how they view your brand.
A strong voice and appropriate tone:
- Help people identify that it’s you who’s talking.
- Help people relate to what you have to say so they’ll remember you.
- Help attract new audiences to your messages and entice them to learn more.
- Help create stronger brand loyalty with your audience.
In survey after survey, the majority of respondents agree that it’s important for them to connect with, support, and buy from brands they trust. When your tone of voice cuts through all the other brand noise, you can talk to your audiences on their terms while building brand authority in the process.
How to Find Your Voice
- Take cues from your company’s mission statement.
Companies write mission statements to:
- Create a picture of who they are and what they stand for.
- Envision what they want to be known for.
- Define what they do and how they do it.
- Show people their core values and what they care about.
- Describe who their ideal customers are.
- Explain how they achieve goals, outcomes, and value.
All of these things influence and inspire your unique brand voice and tone.
For instance, 11outof11 has a core set of beliefs that inspire everything we do. The things we take to heart are:
- Do the right thing, always.
- Assume positive intent.
- Create a tone of warmth and friendliness.
- Embrace change.
- Practice blameless problem-solving.
- Focus on potential solutions.
- Listen generously.
- Ask good questions.
- Set and ask for expectations.
- Pay attention to the details.
- Be process-oriented.
- Be an expert.
- Be obsessive about organization.
- Be a fanatic about response time.
- Be relentless about improvement.
- Be considerate of teammates.
- Follow up on everything.
- Communicate personally.
- Share information.
- Honor commitments.
- Measure results.
- Deliver legendary service.
- Celebrate success.
- Create meaningful, personal relationships.
- Family first.
- Be humble.
These concepts energize us and help us refine our brand voice and tone, delight our clients, and nurture long-term success for the company. These should be your goals as well.
- Build an architecture for your brand messaging.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, message architecture is a list of words, terms, phrases, and statements arranged in order of importance that explains your company’s communication goals and messaging priorities. It’s a helpful tool for your content creators to align all of your brand messaging, no matter what type of content they’re creating.
Once you have your list, group the vocabulary under these three categories: 1) who you are, 2) who you’d like to be, and 3) who you are not. Then organize the categories in order of message priority. Find a variety of examples here.
- Decide on your best tone of voice.
How do you want your company to sound, most of the time? Researchers who study the broader qualities of brand tone have narrowed down the list to four primary tone-of-voice dimensions. They are expressed in relation to one another and include:
- Funny versus Serious
- Formal versus Casual
- Respectful versus Irreverent
- Enthusiastic versus Matter-of-fact
Marketers will use tone-of-voice words to describe how you want to communicate within each of these dimensions:
Keep in mind you’ll likely have several dimensions to use for different occasions.
- Test your brand voice and tone to see if it resonates with your audience.
Many companies use their buyer persona’s behavior to refine their brand voice and tone. What kind of content does your buyer persona prefer? Journalistic articles? Straightforward how-to videos? Funny memes? Tongue-in-cheek humor?
Good old audience research can give you answers to content performance, which can help you determine the voice and tone your audience responds to best. There’s a big difference between if they relate to what they see in the Wall Street Journal versus USA Today.
- Use a Brand Voice and Tone Guide.
It’s good to write down guidelines and use your desired brand voice and tone to write them. The guide itself can serve as an example for content creators. For instance, here’s the first paragraph of 11outof11’s Brand Voice and Tone Guide:
Our voice is casual, warm, and inviting. We’re friendly, upbeat, professional, and happy to help. We’re a marketing resource that feels more like a friend. We sound caring and nurturing and are never egocentric. We’re used to getting messages from our customers about how they can’t wait to chat with us (and we love it!).
To help the writing process along, many companies use a brand voice and tone template that includes voice characteristics (aka the four tone-of-voice dimensions) with your company’s unique and original descriptions of them. There’s often a “Do List” and a “Don’t List” to help content creators know how to use your brand voice and tone in their writing. These are tactical examples that make it easy for your brand voice to come through in all of your content.
Other useful features to include:
- Core values and mission statement
- Message architecture
- Description of target audience and their voice
- Vocabulary to use and avoid
- Grammar rules (aka whether to use the Oxford comma, etc.)
Once you have your brand voice and tone guide, make sure to distribute it to everyone who creates content for your company as well as those in the C-suite and other stakeholders who need to buy in.