Content Marketing 101: Developing Your Tone of Voice

Your tone of voice is important for any kind of effective communication, making it absolutely essential in content marketing.  Tone is not so much what you say but how you say it -- it's a change of adjective, a subtle punctuation, a story.  Your tone speaks volumes, gives feeling, and leaves an impression.

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If you want to effectively communicate and interact with your audience you must develop your distinct (and appropriate) tone of voice. You may have excellent copy and beautiful design but no one will give two hoots about your content if your tone is boring, patronizing, or just completely ill-fit to your brand.      

How to Find Your tone of voice

Voice

Voice and tone are inextricable in definition -- your voice is your brand's unique personality, and your tone expresses that character unique personality.  If you're not sure exactly what your "brand's unique personality" is, ask yourself the following questions.  

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Try to be specific when you answer these questions, and create a list of 3-5 adjectives that describe how your business should sound.  You should also make a list of 3-5 words that do not describe how you want to sound. If you need more guidance, BBS Media has a great brand personality exercise that can help. 

Tone

Tone, your expression of your business, will vary depending upon your marketing channel and audience.  For example, your daily social media posts will have an informal tone compared to that of a formal white paper or press release.  Your voice stays consistent (see my note on consistency below), but your tone is driven by context and should react appropriately. 

Examples of Tone of Voice:

I've included four examples of personae (style) and the general vibe (tone) associated with each.  These groupings can help you understand a few different types of tones, guide you in the right direction to find yours, or help you perfect a tone that has already been established.   

  • Energetic: Use an active and energetic tone when you want your writing to make readers feel lively, upbeat, or adventurous.  Energetic tones may be appropriate for companies who offer provocative vacations, fast cars, fun gym memberships, or any product or service that wants to convey passion and excitement.  Achieve this kind of tone through the use of action-oriented lists and fragmented sentences.  Short, power-packed phrases and words are the key—you don’t want to bore your reader with overly long sentences or bland vocabulary. 
 Photo by  Quentin Dr  

Photo by Quentin Dr 

  •  High-End Elegance: An elegant tone is intended for the affluent audience.  They don't like to be rushed, and they do love a good adjective. Think of indulgent spas, chic interior design, craft boutiques, luxury jewelry. Write in a way that is  focused on appearance and “feeling.” Don’t use action-oriented adverbs and phrases, as these can convey a feeling of being rushed. Write with longer, flowing sentences that highlight the exclusivity or status of your product.  Make your target audience feel admired, reassured, and important.
  • Trendy/Bold: Trendy could be the tone for any innovative company whose target demographic is young adults.  Overall, the trendy tone is unique, weird, wild, and witty.  An effective bold tone is loud but not obnoxious and fun but not totally irreverent.  It works well with app companies, hip clothing brands, popular technology, or anything that can be considered "cool."  A trendy tone is often funny and will forever make your brand memorable.
  • Dependable: What do a first-time investor, a person shopping for insurance, and a school administrator researching educational texts have in common?  They don't necessarily want you to make them feel hip and wild; they would rather your communication instill a feeling of professionalism, guidance, and dependability.  The tone should be relaxed and warm but not informal, instructional but jargon-free. You’ll want to structure your  content in a way that highlights organization and precision while also inserting a sense of trust and reliability.  Use convincing facts and statistics, and always avoid rambling.   

Be Authentic

The most important thing about your tone is that it feels authentic and not forced. An affected tone will come across exactly how it is -- fake. If you’re not normally a humorous person, then your marketing content is not the time to try out your funny bone.  If you're completely clueless about social media, perhaps you're not the best one to be writing to millenials. 

 Photo by  Vladislav Klapin  

Photo by Vladislav Klapin 

Keep Your Tone Consistent 

Once you determine what kind of tone fits with your business, you must make sure that it stays consistent across all levels of your communication.  This kind of consistency prevents a disjointed customer experience and will strengthen your relationship with your customers by reinforcing familiarity through channels they trust.  

To ensure consistency, create a writing guide as a reference (or as a training tool) for your content writers.  A writing guide will make your expectations clear on how all aspects of content should be created. Your writers can then creatively work within your set guidelines.There are plenty of writing guide templates and established style manuals you can use. Below are some examples:

Use Your Voice

Your tone of voice establishes who you are. It makes your brand stand out and become familiar all at once.  With a proper tone of voice your business becomes an entity with a unique personality, worth getting to know.