Yesterday, as I walked my daughter to school on a bright chilly morning, we stopped to listen to birdsong across the street. It was quite beautiful but, not being an ornithologist, I have no idea what the chorus meant.
I did, however, get a sense that these birds were quite irate. There was something in the volume and staccato which reminded me of an encounter between the Sharks and the Jets in West Side Story. Rival gangs of the bird world in our village, perhaps.
What can you tell from the tone?
In conversation, it’s normal to react to the tone with which someone is speaking, as well as the words. How often have you heard someone say, or said yourself, “I’m fine” while not really meaning it?
We can often recognise an argument happening in another language, or a disagreement although it’s being whispered and the words are unheard. Like my neighbourhood birds, there’s something in the tone and rhythm of the words which broadcasts its aggression or frustration. This is the tone.
But how does tone work on paper?
This isn’t an easy thing to describe, but it is something we recognise.
If we receive an email or message from a friend we can sometimes tell they’re distracted or unhappy although the words aren’t stated. Again, it’s the choice of language and the rhythm of the words which direct your understanding of the writer’s tone.
Maybe an email from your boss is particularly unfriendly, even combative, whether this is deliberate or not the tone will impact on your response.
Similarly, you’ll have read marketing materials which are pushy, arrogant or pretentious – your reaction to those pieces is unlikely to be positive.
Why is tone important for your brand?
Within business, it’s essential to have consistency.
One of the reasons a logo is important is in its use to stamp your brand. Once people recognise your logo, they’ll have a picture of what they expect from the marketing materials, text or website, based on what they know of your brand.
For small businesses, where communication is largely done by one person, the tone will often be that of the individual communicating. The language used in client correspondence will reflect the language used in conversations – you’ll present your communication as you present yourself, as a professional.
And this works. Often until you need to share the job of communication. Whether you share it within your business or engage a professional copywriter, you want to be sure that the text created is recognisably yours.
Consider how often, and where, you communicate with your customer – website, blog, social media, flyers, catalogue, email, newsletter. Are you confident that a reader would recognise the writer of those messages as you?
Finding the tone of voice for your brand is about understanding your aims, the mission and passion. It’s also about knowing your customer, ensuring you’re speaking in a voice they’ll relate to. Finding the focus of your message and understanding how you wish to communicate that to your reader, will help you find your voice.
I’m not going to ask you to define your brand’s Tone of Voice guidelines – although this can be a worthwhile exercise. But, I will ask you to consider how consistent your language and tone is in your communications.
If this is something you want to find out more about, get in touch and I’ll be happy to help.
Do you have any favourite examples of a brands tone of voice?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I like Dictionary.com, which brands do you like reading?