Let’s just first address the giant bottle of smoothie in the room. Yes, Innocent nailed it and there will never be another. So, no, you can’t just write like them and be a juicy success.
And you know why, right? Because you have to sound like you, and like someone your audience wants to hear from.
What is tone of voice?
Tone of voice is your personality. It’s the way you say something. The words you use, the turn of phrase, the length of your sentences, the colour to your words:
‘Hey Sports Fans!’
All saying hello but in 3 different ways. And there are way more than 3 that’s for sure. So how do you find yours?
You, on a work day
As one adjusts the way they speak to e.g. a child, or to a friend down the pub, we can’t just splurge onto the page as if chatting to a mate and expect to engage our customers (unless that’s your audience!) but we also don’t want to sound overly formal (again, unless that’s your audience).
We want to find the sweet spot between human being and trustworthy business.
When we developed a brand language guide for FarmWorkPlay we used a clear and authoritative tone while reassuring and nurturing, because parents want to trust their childcare setting is professional but they also want to know they’re gentle and caring. In the process of developing that tone we spoke to founders Jo and Vanessa at great length to capture their voices because their ideas and passion are what make the business so unique.
Conversely, writing for organic skincare brand Villa Floriani we had to marry the scientific tone with the family legacy. The tone of voice carried the weight of generations while using language that demonstrated their dedication to cutting edge technologies and processes.
Voices in your head
When we write our Brand Language Guides (more on that later in the series), we start with a section on tone of voice; 3 or 4 headline words that describe the overall vibe of the brand: ‘authoritative’, ‘gentle’, ‘simple’, ‘This gives you a feel for the kind of voice you’re going to settle into.
Getting to those words takes a bit of work – we spend a lot of time thrashing out the values and story of the company, really digging into the who and why of a business in order to find that sweet spot of tone of voice.
To get to the heart of your tone, refer to the exercise you did on ‘finding the words’. Having written, or said out loud your reason for being, your story, you may have found yourself a bank of values, or words that you feel describe you best. What kind of words have you got there? Did you get any juicy words or phrases that really resonated with you?
If not, give it a whirl now. What are your values? Is there something that comes up for you a lot – either in your writing, your emails, your communications to the people you work with? Things you say that you feel reflect the kind of business you are?
Can you distill these words down to just 3 or 4? Do they put you in mind of your brand personality? Do you feel you’ve captured your essence? You might like to have a heading word and a few supporting words to further illustrate the point:
‘Intelligent. Informed // well-read // detailed // academic’
Can you see how having a referral point like this might help you to write in a certain style? You may want to rewrite copy based on this tone direction:
‘There are lots of reasons to go vegan this year!’ to ‘Research has shown a vegan diet to be beneficial in many ways…’
We also include an example sentence like this for each tone heading, it helps demonstrate the point and to get into the writing more.
Considering the voice of your audience is a great way to get some engaging language into your copy. Reflecting the words and phrases of the people you interact with builds recognition and trust. You already know them well by now. Where are they hanging out? What products and services are they already using? Are they leaving comments and reviews? What key words and phrases are they using? What problems do they need solving? How do they talk about it?
A good way to test if your tone of voice is representative of you is to read your copy out loud. Do you feel good saying the words? Do they feel like you? Does it make sense?
Nothing Set in Stone
Remember, you can always take your copy for a test drive and if it doesn’t feel good, tweak it, keep refining until it feels good and people are engaging with it. You can always ask your audience what they think of your site and if they connect with it. Or run a little focus group with a few versions of copy and ask them which they like best.
Do you have a tone of voice? Did it come naturally? Have you had to work at it? Get in touch! x