A Basic Guide To Brand Tone & Voice For Consistent Writing In 2020

writing tone and voice

Among the many things that a brand can do to pull closer to its target audience, writing tone and voice cannot be overlooked.

A combination of brand tone and voice is how a brand speaks to its audience through written words, whether it’s a blog post, content used on product packaging or customer support.

It gives a brand character and identity, making the brand easy to be familiar with and building a relationship. Without it, there will be no consistency across the brand's different channels.

In this article, we will look at all you need to know about setting a brand’s voice and tone, and writing content accordingly.

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    Writing Tone & Voice

    Using the terms tone and voice interchangeably is one of the common mistakes writers and marketers make. It is easy to see how one can be mistaken for the other, especially since they go hand-in-hand, but strictly speaking, they are not the same thing.

    Voice Explained

    A voice is one of the unique parts of a brand's personality, a trait which helps you get familiar and identify the brand among other brands. Here are some measures on which a brand voice is defined.

    Brand writing voice scales

    For example, think about one of your friends. He was once a stranger and you weren’t familiar with him or his traits, including his voice.

    But now that you know him and familiar with his voice, you can probably recognize it’s him on the phone when he calls, without even checking the caller ID or name on your phone screen.

    It’s the same for a brand, except that you recognize the voice not from audio, but from the written word. It helps you identify the brand, even without explicitly seeing the brand’s name. Needless to say that a brand can only have one voice.

    Tone Explained

    On the other hand, the tone is a subset of the brand's voice and it is often tailored to factors such as audience and situation.

    Image Source: CoSchedule

    So a brand can have several tones depending on what they write, for whom and in what context.

    Tone is more like mood — the emotional aspect of a piece of writing. Again, it’ll be easier to understand in the context of a real person.

    Think about when someone is being angry with you and you say, “Hey, watch your tone!” It’s the tone that helps you identify how the person is feeling.

    A person would use a respectful, sympathetic tone to console another person who lost a loved one, but the same person would be enthusiastic when announcing the launch of his new business.

    It’s the same person with the same voice, just varying tones, depending on the situation. And it works the same way with a brand.

    Setting & A Consistent Brand Voice

    Since I work with various brands as a content strategist, writer and editor, I always understand their unique voice and adapt my work accordingly.

    When I'm lucky, I only have to tweak my style a bit as I already sound like the client that's hiring me or my team.

    Or the brand that I am working with has already figured out their unique voice, and have specific guidelines making it easier to adopt that voice.

    But other times it can be hard. A brand may have a voice which is tricky to pull off, or they haven’t taken the time to define and communicate it properly.

    If you’re in the same boat, here’s what you’ll need to set a brand voice and ensure that it oozes through the entire organization, including any vendors/partners writing on behalf of the brand.

    And if you’re someone writing for a brand, you can look at these aspects to get a sense of the brand’s voice.

    Check Brand Personality

    Consider the personality traits your brand would have if it were human. How would you describe it? And how does it interact with others? For example, here are the words you would use to describe the personality of some popular brands.

    • Coca Cola – chilled out, welcoming, amicable
    • Nike – driven, energetic, hard-working
    • Apple – creative, different, elite

    In addition, if you have never considered your brand’s personality traits, the following slider chart might help.

    brand personality to establish writing voice

    The authentic personality traits which make you stand out from the status quo are the perfect start for defining your brand voice.

    Review Mission & Values

    If your company has a mission and values statement, it must be consulted when establishing guidelines about your voice.

    Image Source: Sureway

    For example, at Smemark, our mission is to help entrepreneurs and marketing professionals succeed online. It’s the core of what we do. So it makes sense for us to strike as a trustworthy and helpful tone across all our content.

    So when establishing our brand voice, we decided that it’ll be friendly, authoritative and straightforward. We want our audience to get the information they need right away to solve their problems fast and get on with their lives.

    Your Language and Style

    Once you are clear on your personality traits and values, it’s time to consider how they translate into your writing style.

    For example, if you want your brand to be perceived as friendly and adventurous, you’ll want to use words like “awesome” and “pumped” instead of “satisfied” and “motivated”.

    The guidelines you form at this phase will become a part of your style guide. A style guide will help you implement your voice consistently in all communications. For more information, refer to Smemark’s style and readability guide.

    Content Writing Tones

    A writer's tone is mostly a reflection of their attitude, so when it comes to writing for brands, it can get a bit complicated.

    This is because the writer must key into the specific way that the brand intends to deliver its message.

    That being said, you can develop your personal tone to fit the brand's perspective.

    There's probably an infinite number of tones since any adjective you can think of can be turned into a tone. However, for the purpose of this article, we will talk about these 5 tones:

    Formal Tone

    This tone is typically used to represent ideas from an academic point of view.

    It is characterized by lots of facts to prove the writer's opinion, and it requires well-structured languages and higher reading skills. Formal tone carries a sense of professionalism and respect.

    For example, this statement from The Health Law Firm renders the brand as formal, serious and respectful.

    Example of formal writing tone

    Informal Tone

    Content written in this tone strikes as conversational and relatable but still conveys the message with a degree of expertise. Mailchimp uses this tone in their communications.

    Example of informal brand tone

    They describe their writing voice as clear, empathic, and witty. Their clarity helps them to relate well with readers across the world who might be overwhelmed by jargon and hyperbolic languages.

    Expressive Tone

    This writing tone plays the writer's story in their reader’s heads.

    It is often used to pass a passionate message that will force an emotional or physical reaction from the reader.

    Starbucks is a typical example of a brand that uses this tone.

    Example of expressive content tone

    Considerate Tone

    This is an audience-oriented content writing tone.

    In this case, the writer focuses on presenting his content in a way that is as simple and straightforward as possible.

    Uber uses this type of tone to create a consistent experience for their users across the world.

    Example of considerate brand tone

    Aggressive Tone

    All brands mustn't communicate in a playful and cheerful way.

    A more aggressive content writing tone can be the right thing for a brand and Harley-Davidson shows us how.

    Example of aggressive content tone

    They come off as rough and aggressive, so they appeal to the bold and rebellious customers (or wannabes).

    Final Thoughts

    Branding builds businesses that shine in the long term. Voice and tone are an important part of your brand.

    Most successful brands understand this. They invest in building a consistent voice and set of tones which are immediately recognizable by their audience. In addition, they also make sure their writers have the skills to adapt to their brand voice and tone.

    With this article, I hope I have helped you do the same and bear the fruits of your effort for years to come.

    So have you been able to adapt to your content writing voice? What writing tone do you use? Let me know in the comment section below.

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