Yep, Your Brand Needs a Tone of Voice
The way you communicate should be directly reflective of your service.By Sophie McComas-Williams
Just as you’ve no doubt carefully considered your logo, your website design, your imagery and your ideal customer, it’s essential before you launch a new brand, open a new venue, or do anything for that matter, that you map out a solid, consistent tone of voice to represent your brand across all your channels. This should be a guide for writing for social, your website, press releases, even promotional posters. Everything you say on behalf of your brand should sound like it’s coming from *insert your brand name here*.
I can hear what you're thinking; "My brand is me! It sounds like me and how I talk! It's easy to do when I'm managing it, and my customers love it that way!" That's ok for now. But when your brand is big enough to grow from you handling everything to you building a team to help you out - you're going to want some solid guidelines to pass on. A tone of voice guide is what takes your business from being your personal project to being a real, multi-dimensional, robust brand, a brand that can stand on its own out in the world (even if it's inspired by you and your personality).
Without a personality, your brand flattens and becomes robotic. The last thing you want to do is confuse or deter the audience you worked so hard to attract in the first place just by using the wrong language. What engaging tone of voice does is hooks in curious customers, appeals to their emotions and connects with your people on a level one notch deeper than the surface.
How to Craft a Tone of Voice for Your Brand
Ok, let’s start with a blank slate. Try to sketch out your brand as a person. Really picture them. Sometimes it’s easier to think of an actual person, someone you know, perhaps a friend who has great taste and always says the right things. How would you want that person to talk about your food or your product? Are they funny? Direct? Authoritative? Suave? Are they self-deprecating, confident, sweet or silly? Write a list of all the characteristics your brand would have if it was a real, living, breathing person you might meet at a party, then cut this list down to the three that ring the most true.
Next step, who isn’t your brand? What would your chosen character never say? It’s important to consider who you’re not, as well as who you are. For example, your brand personality may be confident, but not arrogant. Kind and welcoming, but not boring. Maybe your brand is energetic, but not shrill. Try and get this list down to three solid characteristics.
When you’ve nutted both of these lists out, write down a few example sentences that fall under each category, things your brand would or wouldn't say to illustrate those three characteristics (maybe they’d never swear, never use indulgent or fluffy language when talking about food, never use emojis, or wouldn't be caught dead being soppy and sweet). When you’re writing social copy, or a blog post, cross check your text with these lists.
Reflect Your Brand Values
Your brand’s personality and subsequent tone shouldn’t spring from a void, it should be directly reflective of your brand’s values (this work should be done right in the beginning when you’re thinking about names and your concept in general. Your values should really underscore everything you do). Does your brand value fun over anything else? Or maybe your core value lies in education and awareness about a particular topic? Whatever they are, your tone of voice should spring from these values, and you should constantly sense check if they’re in line.
Products v. Venues
If your brand is in the service industry - say you’re opening a bar - one of the best rules of thumb for considering your tone of voice is to think about the style of service you’ll brief your team to deliver. When your customer steps into your bar, how do you want your team to greet them? How would you farewell them? Be specific. The difference between saying “hello there, sir” and “hey!” is vast. The first is traditional and formal, the latter is fun, approachable and young. The tone of voice you use across your menu, website, social and any other communications copy should reflect real-life service and personality.
For a product, especially one without a physical presence IRL, things get a bit more complicated. You'll have to work a little harder to craft a personality and tone because you probably don’t have real humans connecting with customers on a day-to-day basis in real life. But! The purpose is the same, you're aiming to humanise your product and build trust and connection with your customers and potential customers.
The most important parts in this whole exercise? Be consistent. Consider every word - is it right? Is this something my brand would really say? Next, don't try and copy anyone else. You don't want your customers thinking "hey, these guys sound like that restaurant I love in New York!" You want them thinking about YOU and YOUR venue or brand, that's what'll stick.
Need more assistance with crafting a tone of voice for your brand? We can help with that. Contact us to enquire.
Sign up to the Buffet newsletter for more of The Basics