The sixth step in Active Marketing’s branding process is to define your tone-of-voice and writing style. A tone of voice is not what you say, but how you say it. This encompasses not only the words you choose, but their order, rhythm and pace. In the context of marketing and branding, we are primarily concerned with tone-of-voice in your written words rather than spoken. Brand personality is the primary influence on your tone of voice – the personality of the brand should be communicated intrinsically in the tone of your messaging.
Finding Your Voice
Your tone of voice is an expression of you and your brand. It is a culmination of everything we’ve worked on so far: your history, your vision, your mission, your values and your personality. Your tone-of-voice sets you apart from the competition by creating an atmosphere that will resonate with your audience, build up trust and influence purchasing decisions. Finding the exact tone that will work towards these goals is key.
A simple sentence can be written several different ways to provoke different thoughts and emotions. Depending on who you are talking to and how you would like to portray your message, this sentence may look quite different.
How are you?
How do you do?
How’s it goin’?
If you are writing to teens in rehab, “What’s up?” may be a good way to go, but if you are talking to adults in a mental health facility, then “How are you?” would probably be more appropriate.
Formal vs. Informal
Part of defining the tone of voice your brand personality will take is deciding whether that tone will be formal or informal. For example, an adult mental health institute would likely take on a formal tone, whereas a teen rehab center would likely be more informal. They are share the same industry, but use different language in order to connect with their target audience in a relatable way.
Formal language can convey professionalism, trust, authority, and respect at the cost of being boring, stuffy and lacking in personality. Formal language should generally follow these simple rules:
- Avoid colloquialisms
- Avoid contractions
- Prefer writing in the third person
- Avoid clichés
- Avoid second person pronouns like “you and your”
- Use full words, avoid abbreviations
- Longer sentences with greater complexity are preferred
- Avoid humor
- Use stories only to reinforce a point or to create clarity in a message
- Colloquial expressions
- First, second, or third person
- Can use clichés
- May address the reader with second person pronouns like “you and your”
- Can use abbreviations and abbreviated words
- Should use short and simple sentences
- Empathy for reader and the challenge of the topic can be shown
- It’s ok to use humor
- Use storytelling to evoke emotion, create bonds, and strengthen relationships
Monetizing the Message
After the brand personality, tone and writing style are defined, we make a list of copy, phrases and words that are preferred to effectively represent the brand, a list of those that should not be used and a list of rules for grammar, with examples of each. This will allow us to remain consistent in your messaging across all marketing platforms.
We invest quite a bit of time in this last portion of the writing style guide because it will be useful in both drafting and editing marketing copy in the future. The time invested up-front in the creation of the writing style guide will more than make up for itself if we intend to write any significant amount of copy.
When complete, this brand guide will be edited to conform to the brand tone and used as an example for future marketers. It will also help to inject the personality of the brand back into the guide so that it is more representative of the brand itself.