How to establish your tone of voice

You have worked hard to develop your logo, brand colours and corporate imagery. But that is just the icing. In order to get your message across, you need to actually say (and write) something. And when do you it right, you theoretically don´t even need your logo next to it anymore. Here´s how…

Content is key - visuals are mostly the key ring

Visuals vary from mere eye catchers to real eye candy. Really meaningful imagery is rare to find. But nevertheless are they important for your wholesome brand experience. Visuals should be chosen wisely as they have the power to support or undermine the verbal message.

What is the verbal message and why is it so important?

Everything you say or write in any channel (e.g. your website, social media, newsletters, posters, magazines, fairs, conferences and so on) is your verbal message. This is how you communicate with your target group. And just as your visual brand is unique, so is your verbal brand, thus your tone of voice. It pays to carefully develop and establish your brand tone of voice because:

1. It establishes your identity

Both, to the outside world and to the inside of your company, your brand tone of voice gives you your unique identity and shows, who your company is. It is a statement and part of the personality of your company.

2. It builds up trust

It takes time to build up trust with someone. Trust grows in consistent and coherent environments. If you want to win the trust of your audience, your brand needs to consistently and coherently convey the same values and sense of purpose.

3. It makes you recognisable

When your content as well as the way you bring it across is consistent, you will be recognisable. Just like a powerful visual brand will immediately trigger the association with your company and your products in your audience, so will an established tone of voice.

How to find your tone of voice?

1. What are your values?

What does your company stand for? What do you believe in? What do your employees value in order to fit into your team? When faced with a dilemma, what helps you guide your way? These are your company values.

Don´t look at your mission statement, look at the values your company practices. Define your company values and live up to them in any part of the company (if you don´t, then redefine your values). If you are clear on what your values are you will have no problem finding your tone of voice. In fact, your true values should reflect in all your messages and all channels — inside and outside of the company.

2. What are your key words and phrases?

Look at your website and all those old newsletters, posts and tweets and write down any key words and phrases you can find repeatedly. Also look out for synonyms and ask yourself if you want to use them as such or rather stick to one single word. The benefit of sticking to certain words is, that you can make them your key words and form your audiences´ understanding of those particular words, thus have them associate your company with them.

Further, get rid of the pieces that don’t connect to your brand. Identify the content that truly reflects your values. Then analyse the tone, the personality, the phrases, and words used and create a guideline for future messages.

3. Who is your target group?

Who are you speaking to? Every group of audience communicates differently. Your goal is to identify the language they use, what they value in life, how they would like to be addressed. If your messages are authentic and meaningful plus in line with your target group, then your content will truly reach them and resonate with them.

4. Who can help you?

There are many consultants and agencies out there which specialise in brand development. Ask your network for recommendations and have the finalists pitch for you.

BUT you can save that money, if you simply get your team involved. There are creative and motivated people in every team, who will love the challenge of developing something so profound and long-lasting as your tone of voice.

Organise a brainstorming session and ask each team member to write down three words that they find describe your brand. After compiling all words, try to find a common thread and cluster them into logical areas. When you found the those core words, which you are happy with, break them down some further until you reach the “Wow, that´s us!”-feeling.

5. What is your story?

Who are you? Where do you come from? What is your company´s history and what is its its goal? Your story does not only build character, it also helps others to relate and connect to you.

Don´t say something to make noise, but make noise to say something!

When you found and established your brand tone of voice, it is important to stay true to it and use it in every message and every channel. But most importantly to keep your audience happy and attentive to what you want to get across: Don´t make noise unless you have to say something. Use your voice carefully and purposefully. And when you do have to say something: make noise!

Startup Culture, Corporate Communications, Solution Focused Mindset, Generalist Coaching

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