With the launch of our new training guide on the very same topic just around the corner, Head of Content Strategy Adria Saracino talks us through the process of developing a brand tone of voice and how this can help build trust. And wordles.
You can read the full video transcript here.
Over to you, dear reader
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Hello. My name is Adria Saracino and I’m the head of Content Strategy here at Distilled. In a few days we’re going to be launching a new content piece about tone-of-voice. How to create it, what it is, and how you can apply it to your brand. So today, as a precursor to that content launch, I want to talk a little bit about exactly what tone-of-voice is and how you can go about developing it for your brand.
What is tone-of-voice and why is it important? Essentially, tone-of-voice isn’t only what you say, but how you say it. So it includes not only the words that you use, but it includes the order of those words, the rhythm, and the pace. It applies to written content. So this includes anything like websites, packaging, your email campaign, social media. So, in marketing we’re talking about written content when we talk about tone-of-voice.
Now that we know what tone-of-voice is, let’s talk about why it’s important. There’s three main ways that it’s important. First, it allows you to differentiate your brands. Marketing professor Phillip Kotler says it really well in that if you don’t have a brand, you have a commodity and if you’re a commodity all you’re doing is competing on price. So, if you want to stand out from your competitors, you want to build a brand, and tone-of-voice is a great vehicle in which to do this.
Second, tone-of-voice can really help you build trust with your customers. Word-of-mouth, it might have been digitized with social media, but it’s still very important to people’s purchasing behaviors. Frankly, people purchase from brands that they trust. So, if you can use tone-of-voice as a way to express the people behind your brand, you can really build trust with consumers.
Lastly, tone-of-voice can be used to persuade. People don’t always remember what you say, but they remember how you make them feel. Tone-of-voice can be a vehicle in which you can make your consumers feel something, and since we’re in business, we’re hoping that we can persuade them to purchase something at the end of the day.
So, now that we know what tone-of-voice is and why it’s important, let’s talk about how to create a tone-of-voice for your brand. Our content launch coming up will talk about this in great detail, outlining everything you need to know about creating a tone-of-voice, but essentially what you want to do is distill your brand’s values.
Remember your tone-of-voice is an expression of the people behind your brand. What you want to do is you want to ask the people that work for you what they think of when they think of your brand. As an exercise, gather people from different departments because you want to get a different perspective on your brand. Basically ask them what words and what phrases they think of when they think of your brand. You want to gather people from sales, marketing, executive team, whoever, and do this exercise.
You might find that when you bring them all together. they might have trouble thinking of unique words that can help differentiate your brand. If they’re running into struggles, try to put some parameters around the exercise. For example, you can say to them to do this exercise without being able to use a few words. For an example, our UK content strategist, Hannah Smith, she did this exercise with a client who is a tech software company. They were really struggling to do this exercise and think of words to describe their brand outside of the words, ‘tech’, ‘innovations’, and ‘software’. So she did this exercise over again and said you can’t use those three words. What that helped them do is open up a little bit and really think of unique words and phrases to describe their brand and the people that work for their company.
Once you gather all the information you’ll have a list of words and phrases and you can put them into a tool like Wordle and it’ll show you a word cloud that weighs the different values and attributes that your team has come up with. So, once you gather all that data, what you really want to do is you want to compile it into a sticky and memorable way so that your content creators can apply your tone-of-voice to the content that they create.
There are many ways to do this, but one great way to do this is using acronyms. Acronyms are often really easy to remember and they can really help your content creators understand your tone-of-voice at a very fundamental level. For example, one of our clients who’s a college they did the acronym model and they decided to use the acronym CHAOS and those five letters talk about the five attributes that describe their tone-of-voice and their brand. So in CHAOS, the ‘C’ stands for career-focused, the ‘H’ is humanistic, ‘A’ is academic, ‘O’ is optimistic, and ‘S’ is supportive.
Those are the five phrases that they want their content creators to remember at a fundamental level in order to represent their tone-of-voice in their content that they create. But, understanding at a fundamental level, while that is great for remembering your tone-of-voice, you really want to also pair it with very concrete and actual ways that they can apply those five attributes in the CHAOS example to the content that they create.
In your editorial guidelines you’ll want to make decisions that make the CHAOS acronym very, very concrete. For example, if you want your content to be humanistic, you might choose to not ever refer to your brand in the third person, but to refer to it in the first or as ‘we’. Because that will really help your brand feel humanistic and remember that can build trust for your brand among your consumers.
For example, if you wanted to make your content supportive and optimistic, what you might do is you will say blanketly [sic] that you cannot use the words ‘can’t’ or ‘don’t’ when you create content.
In the end what you want to do is you want to gather all the values that your people at your company think of when they think of your brand. You want to distill that into a way to come up with a memorable and sticky tone-of-voice for your content creators, because then they can actually apply your tone-of-voice to any content that they create down the road.
So, we talked about what tone-of-voice is, why it’s important, and how to create one for your brand. Remember, a tone-of-voice is essential for your brand because without it you’re a commodity.
In a few days we’re going to be releasing that more comprehensive guide about tone-of-voice. It will include even more details about how to exactly create one for your brand and also have interviews with brands that are doing tone-of-voice really, really well. You can find out more information on our website and sign-up for our newsletter to receive it first.
Until next time, my name is Adria Saracino. I’m the head of Content Strategy here at Distilled and thank you for tuning in to this Distilled Live.