Tone of Voice in Communication: What Is It and Why Is It So Important?
Everyone has experienced difficulty communicating clearly with others. People pay more attention to your tone of voice and body language than the words that come out of your mouth. While this can be helpful, it may sometimes work against you.
Written communication also has a tone and voice. If you choose to express yourself in a way that leaves readers uncomfortable, you may lose them before they can comprehend your message.
How can you use the right tone of voice to represent your company to potential customers? Keep reading for practical tips that can transform your marketing efforts.
Table of contents
- What Is Tone of Voice?
- Three Dimensions of Tone
- How Tone of Voice Affects Communication
- Why Brand Tone is Important
- How to Develop Your Company’s Tone of Voice Guidelines
- In Summary
What Is Tone of Voice?
The tone of voice generally means the way you speak to someone. In marketing, it refers to the manner in which you represent your company’s personality. How you communicate makes a lasting impression on your readers.
Individuals or companies convey a personality through the written and spoken word. For example, your unique style may come across as:
Let’s consider several voice examples to illustrate different ways of saying the same thing:
- ‘Looking for an affordable car? Check out these new models just in!’
- ‘We have some new vehicles available. Stop by when you can.’
- ‘Get your new car here.’
- ‘National and international brands for immediate sale!’
Depending on your audience and what you’re trying to accomplish, you may need to choose one style over the others. The trick is that you must first define your target group and communication goals.
Three Dimensions of Tone
Some authors list as many as nine different tones you can use in writing. However, they fall into three main categories. We’ll explain each one below.
Formal vs Informal
Using a formal tone usually means you stick to a third-person point of view. This style is appropriate for informational or educational purposes. Corporate or nonprofit websites often choose this more traditional approach, too.
An informal or casual tone involves writing more like the way you speak. You typically refer to the reader as you and your business as we. Contractions are essential, and some slang may even be appropriate.
A casual tone is personal and relatable. You can use it in blog posts, social media, and some email messages, depending on the audience.
Serious and Respectful vs Irreverent or Comical
A tone can also be serious or irreverent, respectful or humorous. Your choice in this area depends on the audience you select, with age playing a pivotal role.
Younger people appreciate more playful interactions. On the other hand, if you come across as too irreverent, older people might not take your company seriously. You need to define your target audience clearly so that you can communicate with them effectively.
Tones convey emotions and consequently evoke sentimental responses in the reader. For example, you can come across as:
- Happy or sad
- Optimistic or pessimistic
- Threatening or welcoming
- Enthusiastic or matter-of-fact
- Fearful or hopeful
How Tone of Voice Affects Communication
Your company’s tone affects people’s impressions and how they feel about you. The human mind interprets information on two different levels.
The analytical side tells a customer precisely what your business does. The more creative part of a consumer’s brain draws conclusions about how it would feel to deal with your company. If a potential client gets a negative impression, they may ignore future communications from you.
It’s critical to develop a consistent tone of voice. Uniformity in language conveys to potential clients that your company is organised and reliable. It thus increases their chances of doing business with you.
Why Brand Tone is Important
The importance of your personal tone of voice in communication is important, but your brand’s is as well. Tone serves as an expression of who’s behind a brand. It shows your humanity, personality and values, allowing buyers to connect. Today’s consumers look for authenticity and openness in the companies they purchase from.
Your tone of voice distinguishes your business from others. You want it to be unique so that customers can recognise it quickly. Once a client becomes familiar with your brand’s personality, they’ll feel more comfortable and begin to trust you.
Carefully chosen words can influence and persuade. If you make people feel good, they’ll associate you with pleasant emotions even if they no longer recall the words you used. People form unconscious impressions based on what they hear or read.
If you can communicate energy and good humour, you may effectively convey passion about a topic. Speaking or writing with confidence creates the impression that your content is valuable.
How to Develop Your Company’s Tone of Voice Guidelines
Creating a tone for your brand’s communications can be a huge undertaking. There are multiple variables to consider. However, you can be sure that it’s worth the effort.
Involve the Team
Before you start deciding on a brand voice, consider organising a group of staff members to work on the project. It’s easier to get your team to buy into a new content strategy when they help create it. High-level decision-makers need to participate in this process, so they can fully back the application of the new guidelines.
Staff members can participate in focus groups to generate ideas. You can also ask them to bring examples of existing copy from company communications and discuss the pros and cons of each.
If you prefer to involve fewer people in this undertaking, it’s wise to at least get comments and feedback at several points during the voice definition process. In this way, you can make sure you’re developing an appropriate tone for your company.
Define Your Values
Your organisation’s tone of voice reflects its values and approach to life and business. It’s not something you can take lightly. Instead, it needs to flow from your brand’s essence.
You can develop a consistent tone for content marketing by considering what your company looks and sounds like today. To accomplish this, you’ll need to establish your brand values. They’ll determine the message you seek to convey.
Try to summarise your values using a few powerful words. You can choose adjectives, e.g. smart, organised, honest, or friendly.
Other words or short phrases may also represent your brand identity well. Take a look at a few examples:
- Outstanding service
- Something for everyone
- Customers first
- All you need
You can glean these terms from your emails, web copy, social media posts, or blog articles. They may even be on posters or bulletin boards in your office. Team members can brainstorm individually and combine their results to identify themes.
Consider conducting the following exercise with your staff: Give them 30 seconds to explain why someone would do business with your company. This activity can help identify your distinctive selling point and may also reveal essential brand values.
Performing a competitor analysis might provide your staff with useful examples. A study of internal processes may also reveal values and priorities that can inform voice development.
Know the Audience
In content writing, it’s essential to know who your readers are. You want all of them to be able to understand and connect with the copy.
Readers typically relate best to content written in a friendly manner. Write to your audience as though you were speaking to them. Simplicity and authenticity usually bring excellent results.
Try to avoid using terms that the average reader would need to look up in a dictionary. To get an idea of the vocabulary your users prefer, analyse the words they use in written communication.
For example, you can look at comments on social media or blog posts. Consider how clients typically react to an article or other interactive portion of your website.
Collate responses, then analyse their formality. Make a note of any additional patterns that emerge.
Do you want to delve deeper into the way your audience sees your brand? You can ask clients to describe your company using short phrases or single words. Then, use this information to speak to them in the same manner that they already talk about your products or services.
Your content marketing copy may not follow all the rules found in style guides. An informal tone is often necessary to connect with readers on your website or social media pages. However, when customer engagement skyrockets, you’ll reap the benefits of adapting your language to client preferences.
Just to make things harder, tone of voice does not cross borders. Each country and culture have their own rules and businesses can sometimes get themselves in unwanted trouble for not assimilating to audiences’ expectations. If you are looking to expand your audience in the UAE, think about contacting branding agencies in Dubai for example to avoid any accidental misunderstandings or misrepresenting your brand.
Every organisation needs a distinct tone of voice. A unique corporate personality conveys your company’s values and allows you to build audience trust.
To develop your tone of voice, you first need to consider your values and mission statement. Then, work with your team to create a personality that your target audience finds engaging.
If you’re ready to get started but need some guidance, don’t hesitate to contact us. Sortlist can connect you with an agency whose content strategists can provide the support you need.