It goes without saying that a brand is only as strong as its brand guidelines. Creating a clear tone of voice section within these guidelines is the first step towards building a successful, global tone of voice. Here’s how to go about it:
1. Carry out a language audit
When it comes to building a tone of voice, thinking about the finer details really does matter. And we mean the really fine details. After all, marketers, copywriters, translators, content creators and more will be using your tone of voice to promote your brand, so having clear guidelines is essential.
Specify the type of words you use, whether that’s business terminology or colloquial chat. Determine how long sentences should be. Set out dos and don’ts with words to use and words to avoid. Clarify whether your voice is passive or active. Be clear on your writing rules. Are you a stickler for grammar? Are the occasional 😄 and 👍 encouraged? Provide a glossary of brand specific terms so that everyone’s in the know.
For an example of this in action, check out Monzo’s incredibly thorough document: Our Tone of Voice.
2. Work out the personality
In other words, if your tone of voice was a person, who would it be? What brands would it be wearing? Who would it be following on Instagram? Where would it be heading for its summer holiday? And who would it invite along for the trip? Sum up your brand’s tone of voice in a few words. That way, your tone is clear to everyone working with your brand, both in-house and externally.
3. Set the tone for your channels
Knowing where your voice will be present and deciding how personality-packed you want each vocal platform to be is vital. More often than not, brands choose to go low personality in its fine print, medium personality in its recruitment or internal content and high personality on social media, in OOH ads and digital banners etc. Of course, there are no set rules when it comes to these platforms. You just have to do what feels right for your brand.
It’s worth noting that some of the best brands are the ones choosing to put their personality at the forefront of all their messaging. Disney, for example, always add a characterful flair to their their fine print, making even their 404 error pages bubble with personality.