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Finding Your Brand's Voice | Distilled |

  1. 1. Finding Your Brand’s Voice A short and sweet guide to developing a tone of voice in business copy
  2. 2. Tone of voice is… Not just what you say, but how you say it, i.e. your particular choice of words, phrases and grammar.
  3. 3. Tone of voice is… About speaking to your audience in a way that is both consistent and considered across all of your external communications.
  4. 4. Having an established tone of voice: • Builds trust through familiarity • Expresses personality • Sets you apart from other companies
  5. 5. It helps turn your business into a brand. In other words…
  6. 6. Here is a step by step guide, complete with exercises. Ready to find your brand’s voice?
  7. 7. Pin down your basic values Step 1
  8. 8. e.g. fun ease of mind fairness justice luxury adventure community the environment excitement progress efficiency family What does your company stand for?
  9. 9. e.g. Apple: innovate, inspire, dream innocent: cheeky, fun, everyday Red Bull: adventure, try, adrenaline* Strong brands bring to mind specific words and ideas. *These are the author’s own associations.
  10. 10. e.g. You bring a little fun wherever you go. You believe in the power of new technology. You care for the community. What key messages are you trying to tell the world?
  11. 11. If you’re lacking inspiration...
  12. 12. Asking workmates for their opinions will, most likely, generate lots of ideas and give you a well-rounded sense of the company’s values. Get others involved
  13. 13. Asking others for help will also encourage the later adoption of the new tone of voice. (People are more likely to jump onboard something they have had involvement with.) Get others involved
  14. 14. Hold a focus group where you ask people to list words and phrases they either do, or do not, associate with the company. An idea:
  15. 15. Encourage people to explain where their associations come from – you may spot interesting stories or new angles. An idea:
  16. 16. Think about vocabulary Step 2
  17. 17. Once you have decided what to say, you can think about how to say it.
  18. 18. How formal should your language generally be? (This will vary across different platforms.) Formal stiff bland serious authoritative respectful trustworthy frivolous disrespectful reckless characterful fun distinctive Informal
  19. 19. Is slang, colloquial or bad language going to build your voice? Or damage it?
  20. 20. What kinds of words and phrases do they typically use? How about mannerisms? The answers to these questions will depend on your target audience.
  21. 21. How would you tell them about your company? What kind of language would you use? Your written copy should loosely resemble your spoken words. EXERCISE A Imagine your target audience stood in a room.
  22. 22. e.g. Fruit drinks company, innocent embraces simple, everyday language.
  23. 23. For example, in Twitter messages, emails or product reviews. What words and phrases are commonly used? This will tell you about the kind of language customers already associate with your brand. EXERCISE B Look at how your customers write about your business.
  24. 24. Brands often take inspiration from their audiences.
  25. 25. It is generally best to avoid unnecessary jargon and technical terms. These can alienate your audience and obscure meaning. Technical language
  26. 26. However, sometimes technical language is needed, such as when referring to a highly niche subject. Technical language
  27. 27. Decide which ones are necessary and which ones should be substituted for simpler language. EXERCISE C Draw up a list of technical terms and acronyms commonly used in your industry.
  28. 28. A good test: If you are confident a term can be understood by at least 95% of your audience, it doesn’t need changing. EXERCISE C Draw up a list of technical terms and acronyms commonly used in your industry.
  29. 29. Consider the role of humour Step 3
  30. 30. But is humour suitable for your brand? And if it is, how can you best use humour? Many online brands use comedy to enliven their voice and add personality.
  31. 31. A few words of advice on humour
  32. 32. It’s best to laugh at yourself, rather than your customer. (i) Be humble
  33. 33. Check out this gem from Dominoes, for example:
  34. 34. It can be tempting to crow-bar jokes into sentences, resulting in clumsy or awkward wording. Consider more subtle, gentle forms of humour that can lighten your copy. (ii) Be gentle
  35. 35. e.g. UK clothing brand Ted Baker is a dab- hand at subtle humour. For example, its blog title uses a lovely bit of alliteration.
  36. 36. The most important thing is that your copy is clear and easy to understand. The rule? If in doubt, leave your joke out. (iii) Don’t sacrifice clarity
  37. 37. e.g. Email provider MailChimp finds fun yet simple ways to say things.
  38. 38. Tell the whole company Step 4
  39. 39. Those who write external communications must get to grips with the tone of voice. Everyone should be aware of the tone of voice and what it stands for.
  40. 40. • Is written in the tone of voice itself • Lists examples of specific words and phrases that are appropriate • Gives examples of copy for different mediums • Includes a memorable summary page with an acronym such as Moz’s TAGFEE Create a tone of voice guide that:
  41. 41. • Someone should be in charge of making sure the tone of voice is maintained across all relevant copy • A clearly defined editorial process should be set in place whereby copy that does not meet standards is weeded out and fixed Introduce governance
  42. 42. Once you’ve found your voice, don’t be afraid to start using it! After all, it’s a unique expression of who you are as a company. If you’d like to learn more about developing a tone of voice, see our training guide. And there you have it.