As brand reputations become more important than ever, are you keeping your audience connected? In this workshop, we discussed the core tenets of a strong brand voice, the role it can play, and best practise guidance for consistency in your TOV.

With over a third of consumers highlighting a business' 'distinct personality' as a key stand out feature over competitors - are you making the most out of your brand voice?

In our latest workshop, ‘Tone of Voice 101 - Building and Enforcing a Consistent Voice for your Brand’, our experts discussed some of the practical challenges of implementing a specific brand voice, and what in-house teams need to consider before making any kind of shift, including how to frame your current brand TOV and the avenues you could explore to add real business value.

Our experts:

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In this Article:

  • Why brand ‘Tone of Voice’ matters – and its defining factors
  • The biggest challenges in building a great 'Tone of Voice'
  • Key considerations before making any kind of shift in your brand voice
  • Taking your brand TOV to the next level


Why brand ‘Tone of Voice’ matters – and its defining factors

Brand tone of voice is the distinct personality or manner in which you convey messages to your audience through specific word choice, writing style or emotive speech.

In an era where brand reputation is more important than ever, our experts discuss the factors that make a strong TOV and the wider role this plays in your brand strategy.

Neil highlights the importance of clear guidelines, “you need something at the heart of your TOV to tell you exactly what it is, yet most guidelines don’t.

In many organisations, the people doing the writing are not professional writers, so they require practical guidelines with loads of examples, along with a ‘hook’ that they can remember when they’re on socials or writing letters to customers and so on.”

Dom says, “brand TOV can be split into two parts – the message you’re trying to deliver and how you’re delivering those specific messages.

A lot of the tone of voice falls in the ‘how we deliver’ side of things, and you might start to tie in brand beliefs or values into that, considering the impact that has on consumers.”

Mike adds, “you must understand what your audience wants, and then you must understand what your organisation's capable of delivering – if those two things don't mesh properly, you end up with an inauthentic tone of voice.

What your audience is talking about how they're talking about it, informs your tone of voice.”

Rob says, “having four unique personality traits which are aligned with the business can give you a well-rounded tone of voice.

For each of those personality traits or rational, we advise to write down clear examples of messaging that follows them and ones that don’t at all, to identify where those boundaries lie.”


The biggest challenges in building a great 'Tone of Voice'

With 61% of marketers stating that businesses are struggling to keep their language interesting and engaging, we asked our Network specialists what are the challenges – or blockers – to a great ‘Tone of Voice’?

Knowing what you want to Achieve with your Tone of Voice

Ben says, “from an SEO perspective, but also within other channels, you're going to have parts of your strategy that push people one way or the other – whether this be new or returning audiences.

So, there are different elements that can build up your brand voice across a website, from on-page copy, headers, imagery, to titles and descriptions that are appearing in search, all those matters.

But ultimately, what you want to achieve with your tone of voice, is going to be different depending on the goal of a specific channel or part of the website you're working on.”

View our Round-up: Investing in SEO

Different Interpretations of the Guidelines

Rob highlights, “internally, if everyone has a different interpretation of the TOV guidelines, then what you put out there will be inconsistent.

This can lead to a confusion from the consumers end, as they’re seeing different tones across your various marketing material, which will start to blur the message you're trying to send out.

Meaning your brand will begin standing for less and less.”

Read: How Not to do Tone of Voice Guidelines

Aligning your Brand TOV with your Audiences’ perception

Mike highlights, “in terms of tone of voice, the biggest issue is alignment – brands often talk about themselves in a certain way yet that’s not how the consumer sees it.

So, brands will go to market with a tone of voice that they think is amazing, but they haven't really done the research to understand how the consumer is going to interpret or respond to this.”

Neil Taylor, Founder of Schwa on the importance of TOV guidelines

Desire to be in the Middle

Dom says, “with a lot of clients, there is a desire to be right in the middle when it comes to tone of voice guidelines – for example ‘be confident, but not arrogant’ or ‘fun, but not funny’.

Therefore, everyone portrays themselves in the same way. Instead of ‘fun, but not funny’, why not write ‘laugh out loud, funny’ and portray that every single time, this may not be right for every brand but it would make you more distinctive from a tone of voice perspective.

Download: The Re(Brand) Workbook

Stick to your Guidelines!

Neil highlights, “sometimes people have guidelines, but they have flexibility to them that lets everyone get out of jail.

Your tone of voice is not meant to differ to a specific audience or channel – if you’re completely mirroring your audience then you don't have a tone of voice.

So, there is a question here about getting you guidelines clear, but then also being bolshie about how you stick to it.”

Read: Tone of Voice 101 – How to Establish the Right Tone of Voice for your Audience

Key considerations before making any kind of shift in your brand voice

Dom says, “the first thing to consider before making any kind of change to your brand voice, is working out if it's a tactical or strategic move.

So, are you making tactical change in reaction to your competitors? Which isn’t necessarily a good idea, or are you making a thoughtful, strategic change in reaction to shifts within the market or consumers?”

Dom also shares the Five C’s for assessing and positioning your ‘Tone of Voice’:

  • Clear – Does it make sense to your audience?
  • Consistent – Is it consistent with your business now and where you want to be in the future? And can it be consistent across different platforms?
  • Credible – Is it believable in relation to who or what you are?
  • Compelling – Does the audience like it?
  • Competitive – Does it help you stand out from the competition?

He adds, “you can score each out of 10 to assess your current TOV position.”

Internal buy-in

Mike highlights, “if you're pivoting, or changing your tone of voice then you've got to communicate that internally – if you're business doesn't believe it, then you won't sell it to anyone else.

You must get the wider business to think in the same way that your marketing team is thinking, otherwise your brand voice will start to feel inauthentic as the business go in one direction while marketing goes in another.”

7 Ways to Get Genuine Stakeholder Buy-In for your Marketing Strategy

Taking your brand TOV to the next level

Ben says, “one advertising campaign could define your tone of voice.  

There are multiple different platforms, such as Search Console, Google ads, various social platforms with reporting, use data from any or all of these to tell you what's resonating with your audience, and be prepared to act on it.”

Rob adds, “depending on your resources, invest in visual brand development alongside your TOV, as this can fall flat on its face if it’s not supported by the correct colours, illustrations, or images.”

If you're investing in TOV strategy this year, make sure you're getting the most from your time. GO! offer cost-free agency recommendations, pitch management, and more - get in touch to get started.

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