4 reasons tone of voice matters as much as content
What would happen if Gordon Ramsay and David Cameron were to swap tones when speaking to their audiences? I fear Gordon's ratings would fall through the floor. And it wouldn't please David's followers much either. Written tone of voice is just as critical and can be trickier to get right – but it's important if you want to stop your audience going the way of Gordon's viewers.
Let’s just get the definitions out of the way first… Content is what we say (the message). Tone of voice is how we say it (whether it sounds whacky or conventional, friendly or formal, shocking or non-committal).
Why does getting tone of voice right matter?
1. It helps people recognise you
Imagine not having a brand logo or colour palette. How would anyone know who you were? Tone of voice is the verbal or written version of that. It helps clients identify you. For instance, do you know who made this soft drink?
“With a portion of fruit in every carton and no added rubbish whatsoever, it tastes good, does you good and stops water being boring.”
2. It shows you’re different from the others
Tone of voice says what’s different about you versus all the other companies that do what you do. Reading this excerpt, I’m left in no doubt that I’m going to get a unique approach if I brief Good creative design agency.
“What makes a Good client? Big name? Sexy product? Huge budget?
Not in our book. For us, good clients exist everywhere - regardless of budget and sector. They're good people who believe in honesty and integrity, with a passion for straight talking and a desire for something out-of-the-ordinary.”
3. It says a lot about your personality
Personality traits can come across strongly when people express themselves in writing so it’s important to have them at the front of your mind whether you are producing content for a website, tweeting or writing a proposal. This excerpt from Holiday Inn’s site tells me they are friendly, caring, honest and relaxing.
"Genuine people delivering real service. You are a valued guest. Not a room number. And we promise to treat you with the friendly, welcoming attitude you deserve and expect. That means genuine service that focuses on your needs."
4. It helps you connect with people
There’s a trend towards a more informal tone and style of writing. Because it mimics speech by doing things like using contractions (e.g. “don’t” rather than “do not”), it seems friendlier. That doesn’t suit every organisation but you can still make the connection with a more formal style. One trick is to imagine you are talking to an individual client as you write. Take this example from Accenture’s blog – although its quite formal and serious, it still succeeds in making the connection.
“In this post I would like to focus on the Risk Masters: the top 10 percent of the almost 400 companies in our survey that demonstrated superior risk management practices. By highlighting their practices, I hope to give you practical examples that you can use to build your company’s risk capabilities.”
Recognition, differentiation, connection and expression of personality are 4 very good reasons to make sure you focus on tone of voice. Next time I’ll be writing on the practical aspects of developing a tone that is uniquely you.