Developing a memorable brand for your business is essential to drawing attention and reaching the right customers.
Your brand is how you present your business to the public. It’s an essential part of a successful marketing strategy.
Your tone will define what your brand sounds like and who it speaks to. To make your communications consistent and purposeful, you can develop tone of voice guidelines for your business. But if you’re not sure how to do that, we can help.
To develop tone of voice guidelines for your business, you’ll need to:
- Look at examples
- Define your target audience and values
- Outline your approach
- Detail style guidelines
- Write up the document
- BONUS! Read on to find out
See also: What are brand guidelines in marketing?
Look at examples
Before you can build a tone of voice guidelines for a business, it’s helpful to look at examples. Examining ones that work well allows you to plan a unique approach for yourself.
For example, you might be familiar with Innocent Drinks’ marketing approach. They’re renowned for their casual and cheeky tone.
The joking tone contrasts their business name. Plus, the style makes their brand feel approachable and friendly, like they’re buddies with the reader.
Innocent’s tone is consistent across their marketing channels but changes slightly to fit the platform.
Here are a few examples:
Trainline’s tone of voice is another great example to look at. This company uses simple and direct language to show customers they’re helpful and dependable.
During the COVID pandemic, Trainline shifted their tone to emphasise supportiveness. Instead of just focusing on convenient travel, they prioritised health and safety.
Trainline shows how to successfully shift a brand tone to match a change in the market.
Here’s a few examples of Trainline’s tone:
Define your target audience and values
Once you understand what a successful and smart tone looks like, you can develop one for yourself. The first step to doing this is considering the foundations of your business: your target audience and values.
Your target audience is the people who are most interested in your products or services. So, this audience will depend on your market.
See also: What is market research?
As you write marketing content, try talking to this audience as if it’s a one-to-one conversation.
But to write directly to them, you’ll need to know your audience well. So, you might consider creating ideal customer profiles.
Example! Say you run a coffee shop in London. For this business, you might target coffee addicts in the London area.
So, you could take a conversational, short and direct tone. This tone could appeal to city people with short attention spans who need caffeine.
Another major aspect of your tone guidelines is your business’s key values. So consider the purpose of your business, including what you offer and the problems you solve.
But what does your company stand for?
For example, you might prioritise:
Listing your values will help you understand what elements to bring forward in your tone.
Example! A contractor that values sustainability might focus on eco-friendly solutions in their marketing tone.
Outline your approach
The next step to creating tone of voice guidelines for a business is deciding on your overarching style. Here, come up with a list of adjectives you want to stick to.
First, will your brand use formal or informal language?
Then, decide if your language will be simple or more complex. Is your target audience knowledgeable of the market terms, or do you want to simplify things for them?
From there, you might label your tone with adjectives like:
Consider choosing 2-3 words to describe your tone overall.
Detail style guidelines
Having the broader style in place will help you narrow down and develop your tone guidelines. At this point, it’ll be easy to outline best practices to create language that will match your tone. You can also write examples for it.
Plus, consider how you might shift your marketing content depending on the communication channel you write it for.
Consider the channel
If you write a post for LinkedIn, the length and content might differ from a post for Twitter. Both posts will match your brand tone, but they’ll also work with the platform.
When thinking about the different channels you use, try to come up with a few descriptors for each. For example, your target audience for LinkedIn might shift slightly from your target audience for your website.
For LinkedIn, you could try using more professional and complex language than on your website pages.
Fill out the details
To develop your guidelines, come up with grammar rules to stick to. For example, will you use the oxford comma? Being consistent in your grammar rules will help your content blend together.
In this part, you might limit yourself to full, grammatically correct sentences. Or, you could decide to take a more fragmented and conversational approach.
Also, make a list of words and phrases you like to use in your content. These phrases will follow your general style guidelines.
You might choose to use more punny and playful language or stick to concrete and clear phrasing.
Also, create a list of words and phrases you want to avoid in your content. If you find formal words like therefore go against your tone, list them in the ‘no-go’ section.
Write up the document
Once you establish a tone, you can write it all down for safe keeping. Having a document for your tone guidelines will make it easier to look back to guide your marketing efforts.
If you outsource marketing, you can also share this document with people and add to it if your brand changes.
In your tone guidelines, remember to include:
- Your target audience
- Your key values
- Main style identifiers
- Guidelines by channel
- Best practices for grammar and word choice
- Do and Don’t words and phrases
And just like that…
Congratulations! You’ve not got all the tools to create a strong and memorable tone for your brand.
Want to focus on other aspects of brand building? Maybe consider your colour scheme next.
For more, see: The psychology of colour in marketing and branding
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