Illustration of a typewriter with a sheet of paper in it. The paper has the words "Why your tone matters..." written on it.

Why Setting The Right Tone Matters If You Want Great Copywriting

Ever had one of those days where all it takes is one person saying the wrong thing to totally push you over the edge?  What about the reverse, where a kind word turns your mood around completely?  The tone we take with others – and they with us – has a far greater impact than we might think.  But what about your organisation’s tone of voice?

What Did You Just Say?!

When we take on new copywriting clients, a question we keep in mind is: if your brand had a voice, how would it talk?  If that’s not a question you’ve considered before, it might be time to get that thinking cap on…

When we meet a new person, we have all kinds of cues to help us in a conversation.  Their body language, vocal inflection and facial expression can all affect how we interact with them and what we take away from that encounter.  When we’re reading text, however, we have to do without those extra clues.  Suddenly, every word counts.

We’ve touched on the importance of finding the right tone of voice for your organisation in a previous blog post, but today, we want to get into the nitty-gritty of what it is and why it matters…

What Is Tone Of Voice?

When you’re listening to someone speak, their tone of voice can describe anything from how upbeat or down-in-the-dumps they sound, to whether what they’re telling you is public info or a closely guarded secret.  In writing, tone describes the way in which you or your organisation communicates with its audience, be that through the copy on your website or the social media content you post.  Tone of voice also refers to the way in which you represent your organisation’s personality and values. It’s about more than just the words you use; it’s the meaning behind the words you’ve chosen and how you structure them in a sentence.  Over time, a clear and consistent “brand voice” will give your organisation an identity that your audience comes to recognise and trust, making it pretty important that you get the tone right!
image of a typewriter and notebook, representing copywriting by Little Bird Creative

Who Are You Trying To Appeal To?

An illustration of a little girl reading. A thought bubble reads "who's reading and why?" to illustrate a blog post explaining what is tone of voice

When you’re settling on the tone you want to use for your organisation or brand, you need to ask two questions: “Who are we?” and “Who do we want to appeal to?”

The first question is about working out your values.  Is it important to you to be helpful, funny or engaged in social issues?  Are you going to speak in a formal or informal voice?  Just like a person, a business or brand can have multiple sides to their personality.  Taking the time to think about who you are and what makes you different to your competitors can be crucial when figuring out how to present yourself through your writing.

The second question is pretty simple: who needs to sit up and take notice of what you’re saying?  The answer may be different, even for organisations in the same sector.  If you’re running a prestigious accountancy firm with a long history of taking on wealthy members of the political world, for example, you’re probably going to have a different target audience than a very modern, easy-to-use accounting software company might.  That means that the tone of voice you use is likely to be different, too.  So, think hard about who you are and who you’re trying to reach with your words.

Immerse Yourself...

If you’re struggling to find the right tone of voice, be it on your website, in social content or press articles, one of the best things you can do is immerse yourself in the audience you’re trying to speak to.  In other words, if you’re a beauty brand, search for beauty bloggers and read their posts.  Look up trending beauty topics or products on social media and make note of how people are communicating with one another.

We’re not saying copy other people – finding your own, unique voice is crucial, remember – but looking into the language being used by your target audience and the way that your competitors speak to that audience will give you a really strong insight into the things you do and don’t want to do in your writing.  After all, you might be a manufacturer of energy drinks, in direct competition with a brand that’s gone all out on zany, caffeine-high text.  If the vibe you’re looking for is totally different, that’s perfectly okay!  Again, it all comes back to knowing exactly what your values are and precisely who your audience is.

What Outcome Do You Want?

Another key element that will influence the tone you use is the result that you’re actually looking for.  Say, for example, you’re running a tourist attraction and you’re trying to write copy for your website.  In most cases, what you want is for people to come and visit your attraction, right?  So, your tone of voice is going to be upbeat, aimed at whetting appetites and making sure tourists don’t go home from their holiday without heading your way, first.  Think more “We’ve got everything you need for a great, family day out!” and less “Here is a lengthy description of the building we’re housed in, complete with notes on our newly installed triple-glazed windows.”  If it’s not relevant, don’t say it!

Thinking of the outcome you want from anything you write is a good way to stop yourself from veering off-topic or losing the voice you’ve come to be known for.  For example, if you’re running a charitable organisation and you’re hoping that people might donate to your cause, you’re going to want to speak with integrity to build up trust with your audience.  Your brand voice might still be witty, warm and informal, but if one of your values is “trustworthiness” then you can’t go too far with the witticisms, or people might not take you seriously and could end up donating their hard-earned cash elsewhere.

Think of what you want to get out of a piece of writing and work backwards!

Once You've Found Your Tone OF Voice, Be Consistent!

An orange square with text boxes reading "so... what now?" and large question marks

The goal of copy and content writing is to develop a brand identity.  If that sounds a bit jargon-y, what we’re trying to say is: people need to instantly know it’s you, whether they’re browsing your website, scrolling through socials or watching an advert on TV.  If the tone you’ve chosen is relaxed, informal and fun, people are going to raise their eyebrows if you suddenly put out a blog that’s stilted, stuffy and serious.

That’s not to say that you can never release a heartfelt message, or engage with subjects you’re passionate about.  Just try to remember to make it sound like you.  One of the best things you can do is read your writing aloud: does it sound like you’re talking to a friend or a customer?  If so, you’ve probably nailed it!

Of course, if you’re struggling to find your brand voice, there’s never any shame in calling in the experts.  We’re thrilled to have written content for all manner of clients, from museums and heritage groups to small – and large – businesses.  If we can help you strike the right tone, get in touch!

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