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The Importance of Consistent Tone-of-Voice

October 2018 6 min read

I’ve been to my fair share of content workshops. Not only are they a great excuse to get out of the office but they actually arm you with at least a couple of actionable tips to improve the quality of your writing (feel free to disagree on Twitter).

One of the most common recommendations from these workshops is to place greater emphasis on content consistency, and more particularly, tone-of-voice consistency.

Whilst the content of our messaging is important; how we communicate this content is just as important. We can see that this idea has caught on with some of the world’s biggest brands; BT now employs a Head of Language whose role is to ensure that all of the company’s comms are consistent, fluent and accurately reflect BT’s personality and vision.

Of course, there are likely to (and should) be slight differences in tone between your various social channels – if you’re limiting press releases to 280 characters, you may be in trouble. But to oscillate wildly between slapstick and solemn is sure to confuse your customers, and even lead to lasting brand damage. Think of your organisational tone as a linear scale, with clear boundaries set on each side of the scale. Your tone can slide up and down this scale but it shouldn’t overshoot either of these points.

There is no good tone-of-voice nor bad tone-of-voice, just consistent and inconsistent. Different audiences require different tones but it is important that there is consistency throughout all of your communications. It’s impossible to build brand equity without a consistent tone-of-voice; potential consumers feel disconnected from your brand and, as a result, are unwilling to engage with these inconsistent brands in any meaningful way. The key lesson? Humans don’t buy from strangers.

And even if you do manage to generate sales without maintaining consistent content, it’s much more difficult to build long-term engagement with customers; they don’t connect their transaction with your brand and it classified as a one-off transaction.

Luckily there’s a few tools that can help you win the war against incoherence and help build greater brand recognition in the eyes of your customers.

Tone of voice grid: We’ve found these grids really effective at helping our clients come to terms with brand voice and then helping them to communicate this tone in all subsequent communications. I find it’s best to try and think of your organisation as a person; how would it talk to your audience? How would your audience liked to be talked to? Would your organisation talk to your audience as a group or as individuals? Would it get straight to the facts or would it crack a few jokes along the way?

 

Volume

Whisper

Softly-Spoken

Conversational

Loud

Obnoxious

Energy

Chilled-out

Easy-going

Alert

Effervescent

Manic

Sociability

One-on-One

Small group

Colleagues & Friends

Community

Universal

Attitude

Safe

Conventional

Politely Opinionated

Provocative

Polarising

 

The all-powerful grid is ideal for finding answers to these sorts of questions. It might seem a bit silly to start treating your organisation as a person but it’s worth it. Customers buy from people, not from businesses.

Content Repackaging Calendar: Repackaging calendars are more closely associated with content strategies but they can be great in helping to keep your tone-of-voice on the right track. The idea behind content repackaging is to publish parts of pre-existing content through other channels. Instead of treating content as a finite resource, simply ‘repackage’ it as something else – a blog becomes a tweet, a video becomes an image, a press release becomes an email newsletter and so on ad infinitum.

Okay, so this is great for filling out my content but how does help maintain tone-of-voice? Well, the great thing about having a repackaging calendar is that it gives you a comprehensive overview of all of the content produced by your team and shows the different tones for each of your channels – allowing you to keep tabs on your entire content output over a considerable time period.

Build a Brand Bible. If you want your tone-of-voice guidelines to be taken as gospel by your content apostles, we’d advise you to get to work on building a brand bible for your organisation. With a bible, any Matthew, Luke or John can instantly understand the values of your brand. Why not give examples of the different tones of voice that you use for different channels?

A brand bible can tie together a lot of different style items into a single document, reducing the time spent asking your co-workers “do we say this or this? So, is your brand bible going to declare that you shouldn’t use contractions or that you shouldn’t use contractions? Dashy bullet points or bullet-pointy bullet points? Is Christmas on 25th December 2018 or 25/09/18? Is your phone number 0800 210 4222 or 0800 21 04 222? Do you use “quotation marks” or ‘quotation marks’? Write down the answers to these questions and make sure you make the bible accessible to your content team – it might just be the answer to your prayers…

Workflows. For a world in which ‘content is king’, far too many organisations are severely restricted by their content management systems and this has a knock-on effect on your tone-of-voice. A workflow will send content to an all-seeing content overseer that will check all content to make sure it aligns with your brand’s tone-of-voice guidelines. And only after it has been approved will the content be published. Even if you can’t find a single person to act as an all-seeing content czar, nothing’s stopping you from fiddling with the workflows a bit to ensure that the content is checked by two or three other people in your team. Remember, when chasing tonal perfection, two brains are always better than one.

Figure 1: Whatever the content, ensure it's consistent

 

To see if your CMS allows you to set up these workflows, I would suggest having a root around in your CMS settings, or failing that, simply search “workflow functionality in *name of your CMS*”. And if your CMS doesn’t have any sort of workflow feature, perhaps you should consider upgrading to a CMS that better suits your needs.

Hopefully this article has made you aware of two vital content concepts: tone-of-voice is an overlooked and undervalued piece of the brand puzzle; and it’s actually really simple to create a consistent tone-of voice throughout your organisation.

I wish you the best of luck in finding (and maintaining) your voice! And if you need any help or guidance on how to get started on implemented the changes, we’re only a click away…

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Joe Sanders Digital Marketing Executive

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author unless explicitly stated. Unless of course, the article made you laugh, in which case, all credit should be directed towards our marketing department.