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Seven Tips for Creating a Distinct Tone of Voice for Your Brand

Dec 17. 2018

It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. More and more brands position themselves with a distinctive tone of voice. We were asked to share our thoughts on the rising trend of making brands more human and relatable with a branded voice.

Read the full article in Danish here or simply follow our seven tips to create your own unique tone of voice.

1 – Stand for something

A brand with a cause is the best place to start when you’re creating a voice. The clearer your opinions, the sharper your voice. If you’re struggling, begin by defining what you are not. Having an opposition can help make your voice clearer.

Oatly is defined by what it is not. Like milk, but not milk.

2 – Use people your team can relate to

In the process of giving your brand a more human voice, real humans are, not so surprisingly, helpful. Brainstorm with your team to find someone to model your voice from, and feel free to construct a brand personality using opposites. Anyone from Alfie Atkins to Winston Churchill and Beyonce can work as long as they are distinct enough to give you a clear idea of your direction.

3 – Polyphonic brand portfolio?

If you are working with multiple brands in your portfolio, make sure your basic principles are in place and distinguishable from one another.

4 – Practice makes perfect

Your new tone of voice won’t be magically apparent in everything from day one. Organise workshops with your team so you can practice your new style, and keep it relevant with updates and adjustments to your guidelines. Make sure you have a small, but dedicated team to handle updates and training. Everyone can become better writers, and a great place to start is to accept that it takes practice. Writing well is 90% rewriting, as the good people at Slack would say.

5 – Sharpen your voice with do’s and don’ts and key vocabulary

With your new tone of voice comes lots of definite do’s and don’ts. If you’re an unemployment agency there’s a big difference in using words like career or work life, or unemployed, looking for a job, or in-between jobs. Do’s and don’ts are also a great tool to make your principles tangible and easy to understand for your team. One great example is NEST Pension’s extensive phrasebook that helps everyone at Nest communicate clearly about pension.

6 – Find the right balance

Brand personality quickly becomes too much personality. Your brand’s voice should never get in the way of sense and clarity. Also, now that we’re at it, pay attention to the fine line between being authentic and artificial. Authenticity is a bit like being cool or funny. The more you try, the less you are.

7 – Know your context

Are you writing for your website, annual report, journalists or your colleagues? The core of your tone of voice should shine through, but all good communication takes into account context and audience, so your tone should also come with a sense of occasion.

Last, but not least - be inspired by others

Mailchimp’s tone of voice is widely admired

Slack has some great advice on how to give your bot personality (without giving it too much)

Finally, check out the work we did for Specsavers’ employer brand voice