With all the written content being poured into marketing these days, the phrase tone of voice is getting a lot of airplay. If you want to find your tone of voice it helps to know what it is. That means knowing the difference between your voice, which is what you say, and your tone of voice, which is how you say it.
First find your voice
Or send the comms team away for a weekend to workshop a couple of questions:
- Speaking for your brand, who do you think you are?
- What do you really need to say to your customer?
If they can get to grips with those two questions (a harder job than it looks) you might have found your voice.
Finding your tone is much trickier. For that, you need to answer a different kind of question.
The third question
Tone of voice is a phrase that writers have borrowed from speakers, so, let’s be honest, no matter how good a writer you are, no matter how clever or lucid, your tone of voice won’t be communicated as clearly as if I could hear you. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Take a look at this sentence:
You can’t handle the truth.
It looks pretty harmless, doesn’t it, floating innocuously up there in the middle of the page. But now, feel the force of Jack Nicholson’s venom when he growls it from the witness box in A Few Good Men.
Written down, that little sentence isn’t without attitude, but Jack’s pure 100% proof contempt turns it into a classic moment in cinema history. That’s the power of attitude.
The point being, what your tone of voice communicates most of all is your opinion of the person you’re talking to.
Which brings us to the all-important question: how do you feel about your customers?
You don’t have to say you love me just because I’m rich
It’s surprising how much the tone of your voice can be conveyed through the written word. Much of it unintentional: how often have you read a sleazy, feel-good sales pitch from a brand that made you feel as if you’re nothing more to them than a pocket full of cash.
As customers, we know it’s our money you’re after. But we also want you to love us for who we are. We want to know you’ll still respect us when we’ve paid you!
When you read a sentence, a part of your brain is imagining what it would sound like if it was spoken. It hears the rhythm and pace of the sentences and the choice of words they’re made from. It’s a bit like music. It’s the music in your voice that carries its tone. And guiding the composition of that music is your attitude to the listener.
So, if you’re going to spend precious time and money on your brand identity, use some of it figure out your real attitude to your customer.
If you get it right they’ll love you for it.