8 Steps for Developing your Tone of Voice

In an earlier post, I shared 5 reasons why you need a tone of voice for your business. Today, I’m going to take you through the 8 steps for developing your tone of voice.

8 Steps for Developing your Tone of Voice

1. Define your Company Values – your Why

The first step in developing your tone of voice is to define your company values. What does your brand stand for?

But please don’t just list words like passionate, committed or expert.

This doesn’t cut it if you want your brand to stand out among your competitors.

We need to delve deeper. We need to understand your purpose.

As Simon Sinek explains in Start with Why:

“The goal of business should not be to do business with anyone who simply wants what you have. It should be to focus on the people who believe what you believe. When we are selective about doing business only with those who believe in our WHY, trust emerges.”

It’s this trust which is going to help increase your sales.

2. Review your existing content

Once you have defined your company values, gather a wide sample of existing content from your company. Include examples of videos, blog posts, sales letters, social media – everything!

Be honest – could any of this content have been written by your competitors? If so, remove it.

You should be left with content that strongly reflects your brand.

3. Find your brand voice

Take the pieces of content you have left and group them into 3-5 themes.

Look at each of the themes and identify the characteristics

4. Review what your customers say

Next, take a look at what customers are saying about your brand.

The purpose of your tone of voice is to help you to appeal to your target audience, so let’s get an understanding of how they talk about your products. What language do they use?

How many of the characteristics in Step 3 match the language your customers use? Discard those that don’t match up with what your customers are saying.

5. Define your brand guidelines

Now we have researched the our brand voice, we need to make this information useful.

This chart below helps to illustrate each of your brand characteristics. Use a new table for each characteristic.

Characteristics grid - developing your tone of voice

  1. Put your brand characteristic in the yellow box
  2. Write a positive sentence using your new brand voice in the green box.
  3. Write a negative sentence that doesn’t fit your new brand voice in the red box
  4. Explain the reasoning why in the blue box.

Once you have completed this for each of your brand voice characteristics, you’ll have a set of guidelines to share with your colleagues and any agencies you work with.

6. Train your writers

By now you should feel confident enough to start training your writers in your new brand.

Feel free to talk them through the stages, and how the new brand voice has been developed. It’s important that your writers trust the new direction your tone of voice will give take, so this process can take as long as it needs.

7. Review and approve

At this point we will start implementing our new tone of voice across the organisation. To ensure that our writing is consistent, one person should be responsible for reviewing all new content against the new tone of voice guidelines. It’s a benefit if this person has been involved in the development of the brand voice to date.

In my experience, this stage should take at least 3 months or until you are confident that your team can write to the new guidelines.

8. Evolve

Tone of voice guidelines are meant to be living documents. This is a crucial part of developing your tone of voice. It means they should continually evolve over time.

Your audience will change over time, and so will the products you sell. New technologies also come to the fore.

It’s best practice to maintain your tone of voice guidelines, updating them as things change.

Neal Brown

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