Updated: Nov 20
Creating a consistent tone of voice is crucial to your brand. Discover 4 easy tips to define your brand's voice — then set up a free chat with us about how to bring that voice to life.
Your brand needs a tone of voice as clear as your message.
Define your brand's voice — now. It can't wait. When you speak without a defined tone of voice, it adds zero value to your business. It creates a sense of confusion about who you are, what you do, and who your brand is for.
But how do you start creating a tone of voice for your brand messaging? It's not just about what you say, it's how you say it. When you adopt a cohesive style of speaking, you hold a megaphone up to your brand. And it's sure to perk up your target audience's ears.
These 4 questions will help you define your brand's tone of voice and create your brand story:
Let's look at each of these 4 questions, and show you the easiest way to answer them.
4 easy questions to define your brand's voice
Question #1: What is your brand's personality?
"Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and into the orchestra pit, into that big black space where the audience is." -- Mae West
We know there's no substitute for substance. A great product or service is what puts your brand on the map. But your brand's personality is what makes people look at that map.
And if nobody's looking at you, it doesn't matter what you have to offer.
So how do you determine what your brand's personality is? Start by measuring your business across 5 factors, and be honest with yourself about where you land.
(In other words — don't worry about who you want to be, and focus on who you are.)
5 factors to determine your brand's personality
Authoritative vs conversational
Do you want to sound like an authority in your field, or do you want clients to see you as an old friend? This is the most critical decision you'll make in setting your brand's tone of voice.
If your business depends on insight, knowledge and reputation, speak with a tone of authority. Treat your brand like a professor delivering a lesson plan. Use powerful language that provides clear direction and proof of knowledge. Clients who place value in authority are turned off by casual language.
If you must create a sense of belonging and warmth, start a conversation rather than a lesson. Formal copy turns away a reader that wants to "belong" to your brand.
Practical vs imaginative
Is your brand about adding practical value to someone's life? Or does it promote goal-setting and aspirational thinking?
Think about whether the true value of your business is practical or imaginative. Are you helping your customers conquer today, or inspiring them to shape tomorrow?
Quantitative (statistical) vs qualitative (storytelling)
What's going to sell your brand — numbers or words? The choice between "facts and figures" and "brand story" is pivotal in develping your tone of voice.
Do you have a legacy of success defined by measurable wins? Can you show outstanding growth rate, sales figures and massive ROI? Then keep the story short and focus on the numbers.
Do you rely on how your customers feel? Does your brand have a remarkable story to tell? (Or do you want someone to craft that story?) Put a spotlight on your brand story and tell it to the world.
Serious vs funny
Nothing is more confusing than a serious brand that tries to be funny (or vice versa). You don't have to be serious or funny all the time — but you must lean one way or the other to create a solid brand identity.
This tone has to remain consistent across your copy. Make sure your website, social media accounts, marketing materials and branded content all speak with the same level of sincerity or humor.
Conservative vs bold
Don't confuse being conservative with a political stance. A conversative approach to tone of voice simply means "not pushing the envelope". This is a good idea for entrenched brands and those that rely on an authoritative tone.
Want to rattle some cages? Are you a new brand shaking up your industry? Have some fun with your copy — but please be careful not to overdo it. Don't mistake being bold for being rude.
The ability to define how your brand "speaks" isn't just rooted in your identity. Your tone of voice should also be guided by how your target audience speaks.
Question #2: Who is your target consumer, and how do they talk?
You have to know who you're talking to, all the time. (See Step 2 of our previous article for more on this, it's worth your time!)
You cannot afford to create a brand identity, only to find out afterwards that it doesn't resonate with your target audience. You'll waste money, energy and time — and all to establish a public tone of voice that will end up on the scrap heap.
It isn't hard to learn who your primary consumer is. Think about the people in your life who would most benefit from your business. Ask yourself these simple questions:
Who are they?
What do they sound like?
What words do they choose?
What brands do they already love and trust?
How do you speak to them in everyday conversation?
Answering these questions helps you develop a picture of your core customer. Giving that customer a face and identity shines a spotlight on what they want. When you know what your target audience wants, you will discover exactly how to speak to them.
That focus will help you tackle your next mission — how to draw out the emotion you want in your content.
Question #3: What is the primary emotion you want to evoke?
"When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion." -- Dale Carnegie
You've seen it before. You have better services than the leader of your industry. Your products are superior. And what's more, you fully believe their customers know it.
So why are they winning? It's all about the Dale Carnegie quote that we love — your competitors have tapped into the right emotion.
It's not just about getting a reaction with your brand's content. It's about getting the correct emotion. So ask yourself... when a customer chooses your product, what need are you really filling for them?
Is their business decision rooted in a desire to feel stylish? To be secure? To be a thought leader? You might even be giving someone a reason to feel loved.
Don't shortchange the impact your brand has on its audience. You aren't just providing a good or service — you're fulfilling someone's emotional needs. If you can pinpoint that need and evoke that emotion in your brand's tone of voice, you are going to win.
Root your brand's tone of voice in positive emotions
Sure, we've all seen negative selling succeed... in the short term. But negativity breeds more of the same, and it ultimately will have a net negative impact on your business.
Don't equate your brand with negative emotions. Keep it positive. If you're a business based on providing security, don't play on fear — offer peace.
It's all about inclusion. Make your customers part of the tribe. Provide opportunities to welcome them into the fold. Give them a piece of your spotlight, and they'll often do some of your heaviest lifting for you (especially on social media).
And if you're going to rely on customers and testimonials to speak for your brand, you should sound like your brand as well!
Question #4: Do you sound like your brand? (You should!)
If you are the face of your company, you must read this section. If your brand doesn't sound like you, the whole house of cards simply won't stand up.
This isn't an overstatement. Imagine you are a new customer trying out a small business for the first time. You visit the website, love what you read, and book an appointment to meet the owner in person.
You walk in, shake hands, and instantly feel uneasy. This wasn't the way I felt on their social media account, you think. Their website was so... different.
Big companies can get away with crafting a "corporate tone of voice". Their clients aren't walking in to the CEO's office and comparing site copy to a conversation.
Small business owners must craft their brand around their own tone of voice. And that's a good thing!
If you craft your brand story around your own style, you'll always feel authentic. Your customers will feel connected to your brand because they know who you are. Creating a brand identity won't feel like a job, because it won't be a job. It will simply be you.
Hey. We understand these questions sound easy, but the answers can be challenging. Lucky for you, brand voice solutions are what we do best! So why not ask us for a little help? There's nothing to lose — your first consultation is always free! Reach out to perk.