These days, tone of voice (TOV) is most definitely a thing. Businesses care about how they sound and how they speak, as well as how good they look on the page. We get asked about creating tone of voice guides more than we used to, and we get asked to work with these guides more, too.
It wasn’t always this way. No so long ago, the tone of voice guide was typically a short paragraph in the brand guidelines document, hidden between page after page of pantone references, font rules and logo instructions. It said something like:
“Our tone of voice is professional, confident and positive. It must reflect our corporate mission, which is to enhance customers’ business results by delivering service excellence.”
On reaching this page, copywriters would typically let out a weary sigh. Mostly because they felt that this meaningless paragraph, buried as it was in a weighty, colourful document, somehow reflected the lowly status of their trade. “How are we supposed to work with this?” they flounced.
Still, get over yourselves, B2B copywriters, because today, inspired by successful consumer brands and driven by the need to stand out from the competition, more companies are taking TOV seriously. They are commissioning guidelines that make sense and strengthen their brand’s personality.
One of our clients explained that she sees her company’s brand like an iceberg. The bit you see (logos, design) is just part of a much bigger whole, which includes everything from how you write and how you structure information to how people interact personally with customers. A tone of voice guide – often reinforced with training workshops – can be good way to set this up.
Here’s a one-page case study about how our TOV guide is helping MSM Software Solved to bring in business by making its written communications as powerful as its new visual identity.
In this company’s brand guidelines document, tone of voice gets a whole, proud chapter to itself.