To truly work its magic, your brand’s tone of voice needs to be accessible to everyone in your company. Here’s how to define values that work for your whole team.
We’ve blogged before about the value of a great tone of voice, and how to use tone of voice on social media. But what about those building blocks at the heart of your tone of voice, your tonal values? What are they, where do they come from, and how do you find the right ones for your brand?
More importantly, how can you make sure they’re useful enough to become part of your team’s everyday toolkit?
Your tonal values are the ‘personality traits’ that make up your tone of voice. Although there’s technically no maximum or minimum for the number of tonal values you can have, it’s a good idea to stick to 4 or 5 so that you can remember them easily and still get a range of traits to play with in your messaging.
Before you get started, it’s important to know that tonal values describe how you sound, not how you think, feel or behave. This is an important point, as it will set your tonal values apart from your brand values. It also helps make sure your tonal values are as practical and useful as possible.
Think about the kind of words you use to describe someone’s language and personality style. ‘Chatty’, ‘playful’, ‘helpful’ and ‘reassuring’ could all work well as tonal values. So could ‘formal’, ‘respectful’ and ‘straightforward’.
‘Stylish’, ‘aspirational’, ‘edgy’, ‘cool’ and ‘immersive’ are examples of values less suited to tone of voice. Although they could work as tonal values, but they’re a bit less focused and more open to interpretation, which will make them trickier to define.
Part of the reason for having a great brand tone of voice is that it sets you apart from other companies. So when you’re choosing your values, it’s worth having a think about your main competitors. How do they sound? Is there a general trend in your industry for a certain tone? Could you break the mold by sounding a bit different?
Now you’ve got your values, you need to flesh them out and define what they mean to your business. It’s really important to do this because everyone will have their own interpretation of what each value means. If you don’t make the meaning specific, the tone of voice won’t be as unified and clear as you want it to be.
When your tone of voice is brand new, your team should be comfortable and familiar with it, as they will have helped build it. But what about onboarding new staff or refreshing people’s knowledge after some time has passed? Here are a few ways to embed tone of voice in a memorable way.
Flip your tone of voice around by setting new team members the task of writing in the opposite of your tone of voice. For example, with values like ‘helpful’ and ‘positive’, get them to write something that’s deliberately unhelpful and pessimistic. This will help drive home the difference a good tone of voice can make.