When your brand is heard – don’t you be tone deaf!
How to create a brand tone of voice template
Intentionally or not, your tone of voice is ‘heard’ every time your brand communicates – it’s heard through your word choice, communication style, and emotional tone, to name but a few elements.
Brand voice is a key element to help customers get a feel of your business’ identity and values. Social media is making it more important than ever to stand out from the crowd and make your brand memorable.
Your brand voice represents your unique perspective and brand values – your brand’s overall personality. So, what do you want people to think and feel about your brand when they encounter it?
You can shape the response with your brand voice and getting this tone of voice right for each touchpoint you have with your target audience (and quite deliberately, those who you do not wish to target) is crucial. Consistency is key, but of course, so is flexibility within that, to reflect different situations.
Take time to consider the easy-to-forget touchpoints, like website error messages, automatic notification emails, call centre scripts and footnotes. In your brand tone of voice template you’re aiming to cover every part of the journey for your audience, whether they’re potential or existing customers, future employees or the media.
With a useful, detailed tone of voice template, your team can create note-perfect content for your brand.
So, where to start?
Your internal template guidelines could include:
- Your brand’s core values
- Your mission statement
- Your message architecture
- A portrait of your target audience and their voice
- Your brand’s attitude to your audience (i.e., how formal or casual to be)
- Vocabulary to use
- Vocabulary to avoid
Define your core values
Revisit your brand’s core values – to really get under the skin of what makes your company or brand unique? What does it truly stand for?
Draft a soundbite brand mission statement to show your customers who you are, what you care about, and how your brand is achieving its goals.
Mission statements that deliver answer these questions:
- What are your brand goals?
- How do you plan to achieve your goals?
- Who is your target audience?
- What do you want your brand to be known for?
Establish a message architecture
To build anything that will stand the test of time the architecture has to be right and that goes for your brand’s message architecture that will support your mission statement’s proposition. A message architecture is a set of communication goals, usually a list of terms, phrases, and statements. To run with the architecture analogy, you need to imagine you are building a skyscraper – it needs to be strong, but able to flex.
Create a portrait of your target audience
A good starting point is to look at how your target audience communicates with each other, especially online, and consider their vocabulary for inspiration. Find out what social platforms your audience uses.
Once you know where your audience hangs out, observe how they interact with one another:
- Do they use slang?
- Are there any particular words or phrases they use often?
- Do they typically interact with brands on social media?
Define your brand’s tone of voice
Armed with this information, now that you’ve determined the ‘why’ behind your brand, you can begin to craft its unique tone of voice.
Perhaps start with what adjectives describe your desired tone? You could consider the Nielsen Norman Group’s four dimensions of tone of voice and use it to map where your brand messaging falls in each category:
- Funny vs. serious
- Formal vs. casual
- Respectful vs. irreverent
- Enthusiastic vs. matter of fact
The Four Dimensions of Tone of Voice identified 4 primary tone-of-voice dimensions.
- Funny vs. serious: Should the tone be humorous? Or is the subject approached in a serious way? (this dimension is only the attempt at humour).
- Formal vs. casual: Is writing formal? Informal? Casual? Casual and conversational are not necessarily synonymous, but they do often appear together.
- Respectful vs. irreverent: Should the subject be approached in a respectful way? Or do you want to take an irreverent approach? (In practice, most irreverent tones are irreverent about the subject matter, in an effort to set the brand apart from competitors. They are not usually intentionally irreverent or offensive to the reader.)
- Enthusiastic vs. matter of fact: Should you seem to be enthusiastic about the subject? Is your brand excited about a service or product, or the information it conveys? Or should the writing be matter of fact?
Tones can fall at either extreme of each dimension, or somewhere in between. Each tone of voice can be expressed as a point in the 4-dimensional space described by these dimensions.
Lead by Example
Lastly, before you go off and create your own template, don’t forget to seek out some great examples of what styles and vocabulary to use and what to avoid. Examples of what’s right and what wrong are golden. Written examples allow your team to see the brand’s tone of voice in action and appreciate how it works in the context of real content. Try gathering some best-practice brand voice examples. For each example, write a short paragraph about why it works and how it fits into your brand’s tone of voice.
And, if you’re really not sure where to start, communications experts like the team at Faith can help you!
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