5 Tips to Enhance Your Tone of Voice

A guest post written by: Jack Miles, Insight Director at Chime Insight & Engagement

The digital revolution has provided brands with more tools to communicate to their audience than ever before. However, mass-digitisation has brought communication challenges as well. Today, there are numerous cultural segments within an audience, and knowing their nuances and how to communicate to them authentically is challenging for brands.

One of the most effective ways of solving the communication challenges posed by the modern, technology governed world lies in one of the most traditional tools a marketer has – the written word. More specifically, it lies in how we deploy our words – our tone of voice. However, this is not a simple practice – so here are five tips to help develop your tone of voice to match the culture of your audience:

Communication Challenge: Time poor audiences

Tone of Voice Solution: Be loud and clear

Brands now operate in a world of ‘skimmers’ not ‘readers’. Therefore, your tone should be focused on what ‘really’ matters to your audience: what is the value you can provide them and how? There is no time for a tone of voice that waffles – your audience will be too time poor to stay engaged. Use a tone that is to the point and cares about the audience as opposed to a tone that focuses on how great your brand promise might be.

Communication Challenge: Marketing weary audiences

Tone of Voice Solution: Market without marketing

Brand audiences are now targeted at every possible point of the customer journey. Resultantly, they are becoming a) tired of being sold to and b) smart enough to know when they are being sold to. This means that salesy tones of voice are an absolute no-go. Audiences are more likely to resonate with tones that appear to care more about their needs, interests, and passions than their owner’s bottom line. Your tone of voice and content must provide value to the reader.

Communication Challenge: Mainstream jargon

Tone of Voice Solution: Speak the language of the audience

Words that were once considered jargon have made their way into the consumer-facing lexicon. Some words may mean something to marketers, but to their audience, they are at best meaningless. At worst, they are an attempt to overpower them with business-babble. Avoid this by understanding how your audience speaks and communicate with them in a comparable tone.

Communication Challenge: Being too smart

Tone of Voice Solution: Talk out loud

People who work in marketing are both smart and creative. It is a great combination until they combine to create a tone of voice that tries to be too clever, but in fact, just confuses the reader. The simple solution to this is read your message out loud in the tone of voice you are trying to put on your communications. If you cannot imagine yourself speaking to your audience face-to-face in that tone, think about changing it. Unfortunately, this adage preached by Claude Hopkins in 1923, is too often forgotten by the modern marketer.

Communication Challenge: Increasingly complex audiences

Tone of Voice Solution: Prioritise audience profiling

One of the golden rules of copywriting is to know your audience. As audiences get more complex they present greater profiling problems. This has ramifications for how you develop your tone of voice going forwards. Don’t develop a tone of voice on a whim without consulting your audience and understanding the various interest-based communities and cultural segments found within it. Spend time with them and understand the words and language that will resonate and what needs to be avoided.

We may live in an age of programmatic and digital hyperbole, but one of the marketer’s best tools remains the written word. Byron Sharp of Ehrenberg-Bass talks about ‘brand assets’ – sensory, unbranded cues that help you stay top of mind. Follow these steps and develop your tone in a way that makes it a valuable marketing tool – not meaningless words on a website or pack design.


About the author:

Jack Miles is an Insight Director at Chime Insight & Engagement. Jack is also the guest editor at RW Connect, by ESOMAR, a platform that shares all topics related to the fields of opinion, social and market research.