Say what now? Finding your tone of voice

Jess's Photo by Jess Davies

Determining your tone of voice is just as important as selecting your brand colours.

The topic of this post has caused a song to start repeating in my head and I therefore need to start this article with a quote from a power ballad by fellow Australian, John Farnham.

You're the voice try and understand it. Make a noise and make it clear. Whooooaaaa... Whooaaaaaa!

Thanks, John.

When building a new website or creating a new brand, there is always a lot of focus on the colours, imagery, typography and how your business will be presented. While looking good and reflecting your business's personality visually is important, the words you use to express who you are and what you do are just as vital.

Developing a tone of voice is critical as it can shape the way in which people understand you. It is similar to when you meet someone for the first time – what you say and how you say it can really make an impact (for good or for not so good.)

How you go about developing a tone of voice can either be a long and detailed process involving Post-it notes and sticky tape, or it can simply involve having a good old think about how you want to come across to your clients. There are a few simple questions to keep in mind to make sure you get it right.

Who is your business?

It is a bit like that first date question of, 'If you were an animal, what would you be?' – you need to understand who your business is as a persona. 

Is it young or old or middle aged? What sort of interests would it have if it was a person? What would it wear? 

By creating a persona for your business you can start to create mannerisms, values and beliefs that will come across in all of your content.

What do you want your clients to know about your business?

This is a critical question that will determine the way in which you use words to talk about your products and services. You need think about what you want your clients to take away – key messages, values, understandings of what sort of business you are running.

When clients view your website, the words should sell your products and services while demonstrating your business's personality and values. Perhaps you are an energy company that is proud of your beliefs in sustainable sources or a wedding planner who wants the bride and groom to be to feel truly special – whatever your values, your tone of voice needs to embody them.

Be proud to be you

Don't be scared to take risks with tone, wording or content if you feel it will help to demonstrate who your business is, what your services are and what makes you different. Avoid excessive jargon and make sure your target audience will understand what you are saying, but feel free to add a touch of style, wit and personality to your writing. You want to stand out from the crowd and truly show who your business is and what amazing products and services it has to offer. It may be that quirky uniqueness that sparks an interest in a new customer. 

Got it! Now what?

Once you have worked out a tone of voice that you're happy with, go forth and use it! Make sure it comes across in everything you write for your business, from content on your website and emails through to tweets and blog posts. 

Have a content writing question? Want some help with your business's tone of voice? Get in touch for some word-y advice and support.

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