Hone your tone

These days there is a lot of talk about investing in tone of voice.
But what exactly is it? And do you even need it?
As someone who makes a living by writing words for different brands around the world, I say yes.
In fact, I’d go as far as saying it should be an essential element of every business. After all, who doesn’t want a distinctive and recognisable brand voice?
Exactly, everyone does.

What is tone of voice?

Tone of voice – or TOV, for short – is all about communication.
It’s the way you say things, rather than the exact words that you use, which then reflects the character of a business.
For example, do you want to appear sophisticated? Then you will need a tone of voice that exudes elegance.
Or do you prefer to come across as grounded and practical? Then a sensible and reliable tone of voice is the best approach.
Basically, establishing a tone of voice is about making sure a business sounds like you – whoever the “you” might be behind the brand.

Why do I need it?

As with most things in life, you don’t need a tone of voice.
But you should want it.
A strong tone of voice creates consistency for your business, and consistency shows that a brand is reliable.
To go a little deeper, I’m going to use Oatly as an example.

The Oatly effect

Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny that the people behind Oatly have nailed the brand’s tone of voice.
It’s sarcastic and conversational and has played a big role in propelling Oatly from an interesting vegan product to international oat milk stardom.
Here’s one of their ads on the London underground from a couple of years ago.

As with everything Oatly does, some people loved this ad while others couldn’t stand it, but it undeniably sounded like Oatly.
This is exactly what a distinctive tone of voice should achieve – instant brand recognition. 

How do I get it?

The first step in establishing a tone of voice is to determine who the target audience is.
Are they young or old? Conservative or liberal? International or local?
The answers to these questions will help to form a clearer picture about who you are targeting and what makes them tick.
Then you need to determine your goals.
Do you simply want to increase sales? Do you want to become an authority in a particular industry? What is it that you want to achieve in your niche?
Next, think about the core values that you want to communicate.
What do you want to be known for? What is important to you? How does it align with the brand?
Once the soul searching is complete, compile the results to create a definition of who you are targeting, who you are as a brand and what you stand for.
This will form the basis of your new tone of voice guidelines – something that is unique to you and your company.
Sounds like a lot of effort, right?
It can be, but once you have identified a tone of voice it will guide a brand for years to come.
This means you can sit back and relax (a little bit, anyway), safe in the knowledge that your messaging is consistent and your business sounds like you.

Want to know more about establishing a tone of voice for your business? Get in touch at hello@hayleymaguire.com.

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