Tips, techniques and inspiration for marketing communications from Richard Groom at Peterborough Copywriting Bureau.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Shaping a written 'tone of voice' - part one

There is no shortage of discussion online about the importance of a brand’s tone of voice. Google will bring you some excellent articles and I won't go through all the issues here.

But what strikes me is that some of the branding gurus make it all sound much more complicated than it needs to be. Most of my clients have tackled the issue as they go along, fine-tuning the stuff they write (or I write) when needed to remain consistent and appropriate.

Sometimes however it is important to revisit the style of what’s being written. Lots of things could prompt this. One that springs to mind is that there might be inconsistent styles after a merger of two businesses. Another is a move to a different media (such as an app or new style of advertising), while a move to a new market could also be the driver.

Whatever the case, when a review is needed you can spend hours or even days in workshops talking about the brand’s values and personality. Creative techniques can be used to decide whether your brand is like a grumpy old cat or a funny little puppy. (You know the sort of workshop I mean, right?)

That approach might work really well, and I’m not dismissing it out of hand. But in my experience, and for B2B companies in particular, it doesn’t have to be such a big deal.

A quick and painless way to revisit tone of voice

Recently a client asked me to create content for the company's first app. This was a good time to revisit the tone of voice, both for the business as a whole and specifically for the app content.

I simply took a piece of writing already approved from a messaging and technical accuracy point of view and edited it into three versions. Version one was was the way the organisation usually writes. Version two tried to jazz things up a little. Version three took things a bit further.

This is a B2B company in a fairly straight laced industry, so even version three wasn’t particularly wild. But there were clear differences between each version.

We organised a 30-minute meeting with the marketing manager, marketing communications manager, sales director and managing director. That was all it took for everyone to have their say on which bits of the three versions they felt were suitable for representing the brand.

From there, it was a straightforward matter of creating a single version that now acts as a reference when we write new materials.

As for the specific techniques I used for changing the words and tone of voice…that’s what I’ll look at soon...