Last month we attended the inaugural Creative North Conference held at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.
The theme of the conference was The Future of Content. The day consisted of a series of talks centred around content, the emerging trends and technologies that are influencing how audiences behave, and how businesses can stay relevant.
We’ve long recognised the importance of properly planned and well-written content and the impact it has on the businesses that we work with - so much of the debate at Creative North really resonated.
The conference offered a diverse mix of speakers who covered a range of topics within the sphere of content; from how to establish your tone of voice to how to cut through increasingly saturated social feeds.
We’re going to focus on two key topics from Creative North that align specifically with our approach here at Club. The first is tone of voice. The second is authenticity.
Tone of Voice
Sometimes abbreviated to TOV, tone of voice is how your business communicates with your audience. It isn’t what you say, but rather how you say it.
At Creative North, tone of voice was the central theme of talks by Anna Pickard, Head of Brand Communications at Slack and Nick Parker, founder of the agency That Explains Things.
And as Anna put it during her talk, ‘The culture turned inwards makes the product. The culture turned outwards makes the brand.’
Brands are increasingly recognising the importance of having an established culture and consistent tone of voice in order to effectively engage consumers.
– Anna Pickard
The culture turned inwards makes the product. The culture turned outwards makes the brand.
If consumers can identify a consistent voice and personality running through your brand, it helps them to build up a picture of your business as a whole. And with that comes a sense of trust and familiarity.
It’s important to know your target audience when defining your tone of voice. After all, how can you know how best to say something when you’re not entirely sure who you’re speaking to? Taking the time to identify your audience is a vital step in understanding how best to communicate with them.
One you've established who you're talking to and the tone of voice to use, documenting it ensures consistency across your brand outputs. If the way you communicate on your website differs dramatically to your tone on social media, you appear fragmented to your audience, which makes it difficult for them to identify who you are as a company. Consistency is key.
In her talk at Creative North, Anna discussed how Slack’s tone of voice covers all aspects of their communications with their customers; from their in-app notifications to their product release notes. They seek to be ‘clear, concise and honest’ at all times.
Just the same as you get to know a person and the quirks of their personality, your audience should feel like they get to know you a little better every time you communicate with them. To do this effectively:
- Know your audience
- Understand how best to communicate with them
- Define your brand’s personality
- List the characteristics that represent your brand’s tone of voice
- Write in your tone of voice
- Be consistent
Authenticity matters now more than ever. This was the key message of Peter Stephen’s talk at Creative North. In the opening minutes of his time on stage, Peter referenced the Consumer Content Report from 2018, which found that 86% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support. The report also found that 57% of consumers think fewer than 50% of brands create content that is authentic.
There was one word that many of the speakers at Creative North were reluctant to use but found themselves doing so anyway in the absence of anything more suitable - ‘millennial’.
– Consumer Content Report 2019
86% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support
What does authenticity look like?
We’ve all become a bit suspicious. Suspicious of being sold too. We’ve become distrustful, if not immune, to traditional advertising. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity to brands.
Marketing spin won’t cut through in the way it once did. The smartest brands give consumers what that want; Authenticity.
Authenticity comes from within. It’s about understanding what your brand stands for and what it values and only then can you begin to market yourselves in such a way that consumers will both appreciate and believe.
Authenticity is being honest, showing integrity, having a vision. Being transparent, consistent, reliable, passionate. These are all things that consumers today crave. They want to be able to buy into a set of values, not just a product.
At Creative North, Peter highlighted some of the things worth remembering when thinking about brand authenticity:
- It’s more than just about making money
- Get in touch with your passionate side
- Tone of voice is for life, not just for Christmas
- Get to know your audience
- Be social and engage
- Share a few secrets
- Be good, be bad and be ugly
- No-one forgets being let down
- Be yourself
- Don’t mess with the truth
Since we know that brand authenticity is having an increasing impact, we’ll likely explore this topic further in a separate journal post. But Peter’s thoughts at Creative North were a timely reminder that consumer expectations are shifting and brands that fail to adapt risk being left behind.
Creative North was an inspiring and thought-provoking day. It served to highlight the challenges and opportunities that exist when thinking about the future of content.
Some of the key takeaways from the day were:
- Establishing a tone of voice is important to maintain consistency across your brand
- Authenticity is having an ever-growing influence on our purchasing habits
- The (social) feed is becoming saturated and brands are having to work hard to cut through and capture the attention of consumers
We’re looking forward to next year already!