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18th November 2020

Watch your tone: The importance of brand tone of voice and how to get it right

Tone is what you say, but more importantly, it’s how you say it.

If your boss messaged you with, “Do you have a moment to talk?” you may start fearing the worst. If they rephrased this to, “Got a sec for a quick chat?” you’d probably be a little less worried. These are two examples of the same message with two very different interpretations. The difference is the tone in which they’re written.

Tone of voice is a crucial tool for brands. It forms their personalities, how they are perceived, and how they can effectively deliver the right message to their various audiences.

So how are different tones achieved, and how can you make sure that your brand hits the right note during difficult times – say, for example, during a global pandemic?

The tone of voice toolkit

To nail the right tone, you first need to decide which tone you’re looking for. Think about the personality of your brand, the message you want to share and how you want your audience to feel when reading it. Do you want to sound formal? Casual? Cheerful? Serious? Academic?

Once you’ve decided, there are several tools at your disposal to craft your tone to perfection.

Word choice
This may seem obvious, but choosing the right words plays a big part in tone. If a word doesn’t feel right, load up that thesaurus.

Sentence length
Short sentences are energetic. They’re simple. Succinct. Snappy. On the other hand, longer sentences can bring a sense of weight and trust to your piece that may match your brand’s personality. Playing with sentence lengths also affects the pace and rhythm of your writing.

Personal pronouns
Do you want to sound approachable? Using first-person pronouns (I, we) is a great way to connect with your audience. If you want to sound more professional, third person (he, she, they) makes your brand sound like its own entity.

Lack of punctuation is more casual, which may not be the right choice when writing in professional environments.

Even one sentence that sounds out of place can affect how your message is perceived. Be sure to review and tweak where needed.

Tone tips during Covid-19

There is no exact science to getting your brand’s tone of voice right during such unpredictable times, but here are a few tips you can follow to help keep you on the right path.

Be human
It’s easy to forget that the audience you’re writing for are people, too. Listen and read what people, and your customers, are saying and reflect the same tone in your copy where appropriate.

Be authentic
The difference in brands that are getting it right and wrong is authenticity. Don’t try and be something you’re not. KFC stayed authentic back in August with their tongue-in-cheek campaign that aligned with hygiene advice.

Stay relevant
With so many messages constantly changing, it’s difficult to stay up to date and relevant. Nike’s messaging in a campaign back in March was centred around the need to stay indoors. It was seen as supportive of the government’s messaging while staying relevant and true to their brand values.

Be empathetic
Empathy, understanding, and even certain types of humour may strike the right tone with your audience. Innocent struck the right balance with some fun billboards in London, reminding the nation of the way things were before lockdown.

Tone of voice isn’t a science, but with a little care and the right approach, you can assure that your brand strikes the right tone – whatever challenges we face in the future.