“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”
We’ve all heard this adage before. While it may serve a purpose in personal communication, it’s just not true for brands. As a brand what you say is just as important as how you say it. And since most brand communication is written, you’ve got to account for a lack of vocal and facial nuance with what you’re saying, too.
Every brand has a style guide, and just as important as having branded logos and colors is having a brand voice and tone document. This document will help you figure out how to express the brand’s values and thinking in written communication on websites, emails, social posts, and more. Voice and tone are two distinct aspects of verbal and written expression that impact how a brand’s audience perceives them.
A brand’s “voice” is much like a person’s “voice.” It’s how they speak, the words they use and the order of phrases that communicate a feeling or message.
A brand’s tone, just like a person’s, changes subtly depending on the topic. A brand may use more slang or be more energetic on social media, but more straightforward on an email or a landing page.
Let’s look at an example of how the voice stays consistent while the tone shifts with circumstance:
How a brand interacts with their audience on social media on 4th of July is going to look a lot different from how they do on Memorial Day. Why? Because 4th of July is a day of patriotic celebration, and Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died while serving our country. You wouldn’t want to share a post for Memorial Day with the cheerful exuberance you would expect in a 4th of July post. If you did that, you risk alienating the members of your audience who have ties to the military.
Clearly the tone is just as important as the voice in these kind of posts, and both are equally likely to influence the way an audience views a brand. Here are some things to keep in mind when thinking of how to use your brand’s voice and tone to positively influence your audience:
1. Pinpoint what you want to talk about as a brand.
Understanding what topics you want to talk about as a brand is a great first step. These topics should relate back to the brand’s values. You can incorporate the brand values into your writing on these topics. This is a great way to reinforce who your brand is and what the brand stands for.
2. Understand the words that evoke your brand values to your audience.
You know who your brand is, but are you showing your audience who you are as a brand? To find out what your audience thinks of you, you can use social listening to analyze what words or phrases your audience uses to describe you. Using emotionally evocative language is a simple way to impact how your audience sees you. If your audience sees you as glib when you’re going for lighthearted, take a moment to look at the language you’re using as a brand and find ways to keep it playful but sincere.
3. Treat your audience like a part of your team.
You want your audience to become fans and advocates of your brand. You don’t want your audience to feel like they’re being condescended. Share tips, but don’t write in a way that makes your brand sound superior. This can be the simple difference between saying “You may know _____ but did you know _____?” versus “here is every little thing about ______.” Encourage your audience to create and share their own content with your social media accounts by writing posts that have a personal touch. If your audience feels like you’re creating a community, they are more likely to feel connected to your brand and be involved with your social accounts.
Ultimately as a brand what you say and how you say it impacts how your audience sees you and relates to you. By creating a clear voice and tone guide for your brand you can understand how your audience sees you. As well, you can have a positive influence on their future interactions with your brand on your website, via email and social networks.
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