In my previous article about our upcoming 33 Degrees website redesign, we began the process of using content first design to create a content outline. The content marketing process continues with composing the story based upon that outline. The writer(s) will employ voice and tone when composing the content in an effort to engage and build trust with the reader. Let us explore exactly how we defined the voice and tone in our content marketing.
A brand’s voice is the company’s personality, style, or point of view. It is part of the overall brand identity package and needs to be consistent across all marketing material including the website. Voice allows you to communicate who “you” are through the use of personality, rhythm, vocabulary, and punctuation. A well-defined voice can engage readers, establish rapport, and keep people returning to the website for more.
To develop a company’s voice you need to understand what you want to project about the business. Begin by writing down adjectives that you want the business to be described as by readers. In our case, this provided us with a great list of words to draw from for our brand personality including friendly, professional, informative, and empathetic.
It is important to know where a brand’s voice intersects with the reader’s verbal or written communication style. A great way to determine this is by employing personas. These are a set of fictional individuals who encompass the characteristics of reader demographics. There are many benefits to using personas. We used them to understand the causal and formal vernacular of our readers, focusing on the nomenclature our voice should share with them.
Tone is similar to voice but instead of focusing on the personality of the brand, tone focuses on the attitude and mood. Every situation is handled differently and the tone of the voice should reflect these changes depending upon the context in which you are communicating with the reader.
When employing tone, think about the situations in which the tone should adjust to accommodate a reader’s emotional state or the person who is being addressed. Tone can be many things including: humorous; light-hearted; professional; sarcastic; serious; and more. Knowing where to strategically use content and tone to connect with the reader can result in softening some bad news with a little humor, providing encouragement when nearing a goal, or even congratulations when a goal is completed.
With all these decisions being made about a company’s voice and tone, it becomes important to document these rules for future reference. Be sure to include punctuation, commonly used nomenclature and words, where and how to employ tone, and never forget to include plenty of examples. This will ensure that the company’s messaging stays consistent across all marketing channels.
By keeping a style guide, the writing team will be more effective in writing consistent content. It also provides a document that can be given to outside contractors, such as a freelancer or an agency, to assist them with writing brand content. It also provides a benchmark by which content can be judged against and a set of rules for making decisions about content.
Voice and tone play a critical role in connecting with readers and it should be consistent across all marketing material. Over time, it will slowly evolve with the business and audience. If you are interested in more information about voice, tone, or style guides, I have provided some additional resources below.