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Tone of Voice: Not on Point?

Have you completed our 1-Minute Tone of Voice review? If you read the first post in our quick and easy ToV series, you have (hopefully) given your current brand copy and communication assets a quick alignment look over by examining recent emails, social media posts, product and service copy, and website text.

If you gave that 60-second exercise a try, what did you discover? Perhaps you’re confident that your current brand voice represents your team and product values in a way that connects with *and* converts your target audience. If so - congratulations! If, on the other hand, you discovered that your current Tone of Voice and brand messaging is maybe … a little … not so on point, fear not! We’re in the business of copywriting for a reason and love helping others match the voice inside their head with the words on the page. (And - because we’re really shooting for gold when developing your Tone of Voice - finding that sweet middle spot where the voice inside your head matches the words on the page that matches the voice your clients need to hear? That’s a 3-pointer!)

What You Can Do Right Now If Your Tone of Voice is a Little… Off

If your findings weren’t exactly what you hoped for (or, you’re ready for a revamp, relaunch, are bringing a new platform, product, or service to life, or, pivoting because what is 2020?) there are plenty of quick and easy steps you can take to revise your brand copy that will better represent your products, services, and team and better connect with potential clients and customers.

Step 1: Research the **** out of your ideal client, customer, and/or target market.

What you’re looking for is not only the same sociodemographic, lifestyle, and economic information that helped you map out your original product or service offering but also your ideal client’s language and choice of words. (We say client but know that this same step will always be applicable whether you offer a service, sell a product, or want to represent your brand and business in a way that matches your team values.) Make a list of:

  1. Your client’s most commonly used words;

  2. Their speaking and writing level (are they Year 9 students or Doctorate Degree academics?); and,

  3. Consider how formally they use language (are their commonly used phrases particularly casual dotted with slang or do they have a strict adherence to industry terminology, grammar, and punctuation?)

Step 2: Take a quick look again at the copy, slogans, text, and taglines used to represent your brand, products, and services.

Keep your investigator hat on and see if you can define the Tone of Voice currently representing your brand. (Whether it was intentional or not!) Are the adjectives that come to mind along the lines of warm, friendly, approachable, and casual? Or, perhaps, formal, direct, and academic? Another style again may be witty, colloquial, and tongue-in-cheek. Oftentimes, adjectives that can be housed together (for example, warm and approachable) will be found together. If you find your Tone of Voice ad hoc among different messages (say your social media posts tend to be highly formal, academic, and direct whereas your client communication emails are slang heavy and particularly casual) we need to get you on the copy consistency train, stat!

Step 3: Look back at your client research from Step 1. Can you define a (general) Tone of Voice from your market findings?

If your ideal audience are a formal, academic, and rather professional crowd - can you identify or create a mock Tone of Voice to represent this? (Again, look around at client communications, emails, comments on social media posts, product and service reviews - you name it! Find their words out in the wild.) Take a crack at Step 2 again (define a Tone of Voice) but instead create pick descriptors that you feel represent the language used by your ideal clients. What is the ToV this time around? Casual and industry jargon heavy? Or short, courteous, and direct with *very* little waffling?

What we’re looking for after completing this step is ‘gaps’ - as in, how does your current ToV match (or not) your ideal audience’s ToV? Remember, knowledge is power and you can’t make adjustments to align your brand copy to your audience without knowing first where you’re missing the mark.

Step 4: I have reviewed my TOV. My clients are casual - but I am FORMAL!

We hear you fortunately, this is where the TOV triad comes in. The balancing act among the ToVs of the world is actually a sweet spot where we want to intersect your copy with the following:

  1. Your ideal clients language level and word choice;

  2. Language that best represents your brand, product, or service (including our team values and ethos); and,

  3. Language that connects with and converts clients (CTAs, community building, etc.)

As for your findings - let’s run with the “my audience is more casual than I am” example. There are many writing styles and mechanisms you can rely on to convey a formal Tone of Voice (if you believe that best represents your person and/or brand) without talking yourself up and out of the market. In this instance, ‘formal’ doesn’t have to equal industry heavy jargon that may be inaccessible (or boring) to most end users; instead, ‘formal’ can indicate a full and proper use of language, grammar, and punctuation, and limited to no use of slang. See if you can spot the difference in the two examples below:

  • “Good afternoon. We received your query and aim to respond to all requests within 24-48 hours.”

  • “Good afternoon! Many thanks for touching base. We appreciate your taking the time to contact our team and will aim to get back to you within 1-2 business days.”

Have you ever given thought to the effect a full stop or an exclamation point can have? (We bet if you’re a Millennial aged texter you have…) The first example is short, sharp, direct, and leaves little room for warmth or engagement. The latter is warm, acknowledges the reader, and is precise in what it’s offering while maintaining an approachable tone.

Step 5: Stop, be still, and listen.

…To the voice inside your head. (Better yet, skim through your existing copy a second or third time and read it silently. What does the voice inside your head sound like? Who is reading your brand copy aloud?)

After giving your text a skim, try to personify your brand. Consider: if your brand were a person, speaking to their intended audience, (no public speaking fears here, please), what would they sound like? How would they use their hands (or not) when presenting? Where would their eyeline go? How would they engage (or not) with their audience?

Quiet down, listen to the voice inside your head, and visualise the person behind the sound. Do they speak quickly? Or more slowly, drawing out every word? (Have you ever heard Matthew McConaughey speak? YouTube that man. That’s drawing out.) Perhaps the brand rep is witty, smart, and sharply addresses comments and questions with rapid fire ease. Sketch this person out and their voice along with them - this is personifying your brand. (Even if ‘they’ never see the light of day!)

“Why, why are we doing this?” You ask. Good question. Beyond the fact that it’s one of our favourite things to do (we describe scratching out a brand’s Tone of Voice akin to finding a written equivalent for an abstract idea), carving out and identifying your brand ToV can allow you to:

  1. Match your client’s voice.

  2. Better connect with potential clients.

  3. Build a community.

  4. Build trust and authority status.

  5. Build familiarity and encourage conversation.

  6. Close that sale.

We gather it seems like there is a jump between Step 5 and 6, but, really? What is needed to connect with and build trust with your clients? What positions your brand and business in the forefront of your ideal audience’s mind among all of the other players out there? What toes a buyer over the line from prospect to purchase? Awareness, connection, and trust. What is one of the few assets differentiating your brand from competitors? Positioning, personality, connection, and trust. We believe in carving out your brand’s Tone of Voice so much (so much), that we’ve drawn up a quick and easy graphic (see below) to highlight our point. Better yet, in our next post we’ll go further into the method behind the madness of developing your new ToV. For now? Find your gaps! See where your ToV is slightly left of field of your ideal audience and check to see what descriptors could better represent your brand and values. Your future team (and turnover) will thank you.

See you on the blog!

The CCC Team

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