What’s Your Style? Creating a Voice and Tone Guide
Hi there! This voice and tone guide pairs well with our newer article: How to Build a Brand Identity Playbook for Your Business.
You’ve heard it before: consistency is key. The world’s biggest brands already know this. Visually speaking, most of us understand that all the pieces of a brand need to feel related. But when it comes to written copy, voice and tone are often overlooked.
Consumers demand credibility. Maintaining a reliable voice, tone, and style throughout your digital content can help evoke authenticity and build trust. These three aspects are intertwined, but it is important to understand how each plays a role in determining your company’s public profile.
What’s a voice and tone guide?
Voice, tone, and style vary greatly between companies and industries. The fun, sometimes cheeky tone adopted by our web design agency or a lifestyle brand wouldn’t necessarily work for a law firm.
Voice represents your brand’s personality
This should remain constant. Voice is the manner in which you say things. You need to ask yourself, what’s the language that will resonate most with our audience? Are you concerned about maintaining a professional air, or are you cool with a chill vibe? Voice is established by your company’s purpose, audience, and the message you wish to impart.
At Forge and Smith, our goal is to make a massive web design project straightforward and easy. We don’t want to come across as overly technical, complicated, or jargon-y.
Tone is the mood you present to the public
When it comes to tone, first and foremost, you need to identify your audience’s needs. Being too laid-back when your website’s visitors are likely to be in highly sensitive emotional states or stressed could make even the best services seem uncaring. Likewise, a stiff tone could feel too corporate and unfeeling for younger audiences or certain industries.
The right outcome is determined by selecting the proper tone. Check out Groove’s email templates to see how a friendly, upbeat tone can be used when addressing angry customers.
As long as you are respectful and empathetic to your customers’ needs, you never have to stray from your established voice. Your style preferences influence tone.
Style is all about structure and arrangement of language
Style is the dressing around your message. This includes your vocabulary and method of description.
Is your copy full of industry jargon, or is it written in plain English? Style also dictates those technical details related to grammar and punctuation. Does your company conform to The Chicago Manual of Style or Canadian Press standards? Do you use the familiar slang and colloquialisms used by your customers? Many of these style considerations won’t sway a customer’s decision to buy, but they do attest to your level of professionalism.
A voice and tone guide helps maintain consistent messaging across the board; it also reinforces the importance of proper composition for your staff.
The good news is that there are plenty of examples online that you can (and should) imitate in the creation of your own guide.
Looking to get started? Distilled has a fantastic blog on shaping your tone and voice.
Case study: Mailchimp’s Voice and Tone Guide
If you’re looking to get a little adventurous with your voice and tone guide, look to the voice and tone champions: Mailchimp.
One of the things that make Mailchimp’s guide so effective is that they break it down into the types of content they expect their writers to produce. For a service oriented, customer-facing brand like Mailchimp, it is valuable to understand how users are interacting with their content.
Taking the time to evaluate the range of contexts a user may be coming from is a major step in the content creation process.
Making your guide usable
Make sure your guide is fit for purpose. Has it accounted for everything in your content marketing ecosystem? Do you have different guidelines for social media — and even for each platform — as well as blog posts, website copy, emails, ads, and downloadable content?
A voice and tone guide isn’t a novel. Treat its contents as a list of helpful reminders that can guide everyone from the CEO to the brand new hire on how to write an on-brand piece of copy representing your business. It’s an ever-evolving document, and it should grow as your company does.
If you make your guide readily available and easy to understand, your brand style will become second nature for employees. Visit the Gather Content blog to read more great advice for implementing your new tool.
Chances are, your staff already has an intuitive sense of how the company views itself. A good voice and tone guide will reaffirm your company’s core values.