A consistent tone of voice can help you achieve great things. It can align your team, help you connect with customers and drive business growth.
But here’s the curveball. Consistency doesn’t have to mean sounding the same across the board.
Let us explain.
First up, make sure your tone fits
For the purposes of this blog, we’re going to assume:
- You’ve already spent some time developing a tone of voice that fits your organisation like a bespoke suit.
- The development of that tone of voice was built on all the things your organisation stands for, with company-wide agreement.
- You’ve arrived at a tone of voice that’s powerful, distinctive and clear.
Now let’s look at how to keep it consistent.
Make room for inconsistency
Here’s where things get interesting.
Your tone can’t be just one thing, all the time. For example, the language you use to promote a discount needs to be different to that used to chase an unpaid bill.
“Surprise! We’ve popped a note to our lawyers about your unpaid invoice” is probably going to make matters worse.
So when we say consistency – what we really mean is: be inconsistent, consistently.
Enter the imaginary tone of voice mixing desk.
Say your tone of voice is funny, friendly and sincere. You can adjust the levels of these traits depending on the situation.
The pillars stay the same, but the implementation changes, making the words hit a little different each time.
Now you’ve set the tone, you can fling open the marketing department doors and put it into action across your entire organisation.
You should spend the time getting buy-in from everyone – from CEO to sales team.
To do this, you’ll need a how-to guide explaining how the tone of voice fits with your organisation’s purpose.
We're not talking about a style guide. Rather, a detailed document that breaks down each element of your brand identity, and how you can bring them to life on the page.
Work with anything less, and you risk venturing into Terrible Tone of Voice territory. Shudder.
We'd love to tell you more – as there's a whole process involved with putting one of these babies together.
Get creative. It’ll give the sceptics a reason to believe.
Try focus weeks with prizes for the best use of different aspects of the brand voice.
This will make using the brand voice feel more like fun, and less like a school exam.
In it for the long-haul
When it comes to tone of voice, you can’t just set it and forget it.
In the early days, appointing a brand guardian – or a team of them – is a great idea.
They can cast an eye over each piece of content before it goes out to make sure it nails the right tone.
This limits the number of people who can put their own spin on your tone of voice before it’s properly established. And it gives people somewhere to go with all their tone-related questions.
If guardians aren’t possible, build spot-checks into your process. Weekly to start, then monthly, then a couple of times a year.
Does the language align with the tone of voice you defined?
Is the ‘mix’ right for the context?
Later, you can sense-check the tone of voice too.
Does it still fit with your place in the market and your ambitions for growth?
If it doesn’t, go back and refine it.
Is that it?
Do all this and you’re on your way to creating a brand language that unites your team, reinforces your company culture and builds brand loyalty.
Then, as it starts to drive real business growth, you'll start seeing the power of one true voice.
Next steps in tone of voice
Your organisation needs to talk as one. But how do you craft a great tone of voice? And how do you keep it consistent?