Rhiannon Garth JonesJuly 17, 2018

How to find your brand voice and hit the right tone

I’m going to get right to it: your brand voice is the single most important aspect of your communications. Get it right and minor mistakes will slip by unnoticed. Get it wrong and it won’t matter if your content is the best thing since Harry Potter – because your audience will have stopped paying attention.

Your brand voice reveals your identity. It’s how your audience connects with you.

Three little words

Obviously, first of all you need to be sure of your brand – who you are. If you’ve already got that nailed, you can skip this section. If you haven’t, you can’t really shortcut it. But we have some great advice to get you started.

When you have your brand words down on paper (be it a handful of key words, a longform mission statement), you can start to work on your brand voice.

If your company were a person with certain values/qualities, what would they be like? How would they sound?

Say your brand is:

  • Authoritative

  • Expert

  • Serious

Or maybe it’s:

  • Quirky

  • Friendly

  • Playful

Finding the three primary characteristics of your brand can really help kickstart the process of brand development.

Then you can flesh them out a bit: Quirky often has connotations of Unexpected, Unusual, Irreverent, for instance. Authoritative has to have some weight, to be Factual, Definitive, Direct, Reliable.

Don’t forget: your brand values have to make sense in relation to who you are. Some things just don’t suit a funny tone. Don’t inadvertently make yourself the joke, or try something that might confuse your audience.

Now you can take these three words and run with them. Try to write some company mantras that capture what you’re all about, and a mission statement which defines exactly who you are, where you’re going – and, of course, why you’re going there.

Now your brand is more tangible and deliberate you can start refining it.

Do take that tone with me

The next step is how you convey those characteristics in your writing across all platforms and channels, and in all contexts, external and internal.

Buffer has a handy guide to all this that we recommend taking a look at (it’s always better to get tips from more than one source). They summarise the difference between ‘voice’ and ‘tone’ very succinctly:

“Essentially, there is one voice for your brand and many tones that refine that voice. Voice is a mission statement. Tone is the application of that mission.”

You probably won’t have exactly the same tone when speaking to your investors as you do on social media, for instance. Just like you wouldn’t talk to your doctor the same way you talk to your best friend. So, work out what tones of your shiny new voice are needed for different types of scenarios.

Do you have a lot of existing content? Take a look at your best (and worst) performing pieces and analyze the voice, tone, personality. Are there similarities? It might be that you are already quite close to a brand voice, but just haven’t formalised it. Or that your audience has responded strongly to a certain tone and that should feed that into your decision.

Try this exercise, from another really helpful blog. Fill in the blanks.

Various statements about one's brand a listed with key adjective missing

By now, you should have a few ideas. Write your mission statement (or a section of your website, or a blog – whatever works) in some different styles, and see which one you like best. Test them out on other members of staff – it might be that combining two approaches gives you the strongest voice for your brand.

Once you start to develop a style and tonality that sounds like you, your brand will come to life. You will have brand personality, and that’s something your audience can really connect with.

The next step

If you haven’t already nailed your brand visuals, that’s probably your next step. All this work you’ve done with brand voice and tone will be very helpful – so don’t throw it away!

We have a nice guide on that process too – check it out.

If you have already got that sorted, you obviously need to make sure that it fits with your voice – it’s no good if your voice is serious and authoritative but your visuals are playful and quirky!

Consistency – as ever – is key.

Let me know how you found your brand voice. Do you change your tone for different audiences?

In the mood for sharing?