The Writer recently published 10 ½ things Superbrands have sussed about tone of voice, drawing on the findings of independent research into tone of voice among UK brands. All 10 ½ points are worth a read, but here are our five favorites.
“You don’t have to sound like Innocent, or Virgin”
This first point is all about sticking to your brand identity. Although many brands are breaking with tradition and successfully trying their hand at playful communication (most notably on social media), your tone of voice should reflect your brand. So by all means, let down your corporate guard in order to better engage social media audiences. But if you sell real estate and insurance rather than smoothies and ice cream, don’t try to be Innocent or Ben & Jerry’s.
“You can measure its effects”
It is, of course, important to measure the impact your tone of voice has on customer and audience engagement. As The Writer points out, “just changing the tone will make a difference”. On social media, for example, A/B testing is an effective way of comparing two variations of the same message. What’s more, how you say things should never be overlooked. According to The Writer, “65% of brands with a tone of voice say it’s as important as, or more important than, their visual identity”.
“Make it someone’s job”
With so many communication channels out there these days, it’s important for brands to make sure their tone of voice is consistent, while at the same time adapted according to the context. Take blog articles – when shared, the same wording shouldn’t be used on Twitter and LinkedIn, as they are two very different social networks. This is why managing tone of voice is a key element of brand communication, so establishing whose responsibility it is may not be such a bad idea. While it is often the job of marketers or community managers, The Writer points out that “brands like BT have a ‘head of brand language’, with the power to sign off (or veto) important comms, even outside the brand”.
“Chief execs are interested”
This is a biggie. According to The Writer, “91% of businesses with a tone of voice say their senior leaders get its value”. Indeed, executive management should be the first to understand and implement the brand’s tone of voice. Only then can it be effectively diffused throughout the organization. That said, with the rise of employee advocacy as a key communication method, it’s important for companies to strike a balance between establishing a tone of voice used for the brand, and making sure employees have the freedom to share company content in their own words.
“Don’t stop at brand marketing”
This is a good note on which to end. Marketing isn’t the only department that communicates about the brand externally; HR and Sales must also engage audiences in order to achieve business objectives, particularly on social media. It’s therefore important to make sure all teams are on the same page in terms of tone of voice. Whether it’s an infographic, a product press release or a new job opportunity, the way in which your brand communicates online should be distinctive, and consistent across channels.