Your tone of voice isn’t just what you say,
but how you say it.
It is, of course, the words you choose, but it’s also the personality you project, and the character and the attitude you present.
Many companies set their tone of voice for their external customers. It makes up part of their brand and helps to define how they are perceived in their marketplace. Companies that do it well stand out from the crowd with a tone of voice that matches their products or services.
But not as many give as much thought to the tone of voice for their internal comms. And that matters just as much.
"People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel."
- Maya Angelou (American author)
Your tone of voice will be as bespoke as your business. It should match your vision, values and culture. It should inspire and encourage your desired behaviours. It should be recognisable by your people and yet almost unnoticeable.
When your tone of voice is familiar to your people, it is reassuring. When received as expected, the tone of voice will go unnoticed but, almost subconsciously, nurture feelings of reliability, dependability, and stability.
The truth is that the process for setting tone of voice is slightly different for every company, depending on their needs and starting point. The common goal is to help you to discover and establish the tone of voice that’s right for you and your employees.
Outlined here is a fairly typical scenario…
Take me to your leader
The first step is to talk to your leaders. This may well include HR and any comms people you have. We need to understand whether you have an existing tone of voice that isn’t quite working or if you are wanting to set one up from scratch.
We also want to understand your company’s vision, values and culture, and how you think you should come across.
We're all ears
We normally then run quick workshops (remote usually works just fine for minimum disruption and expense) with people from every corner of your business. This helps us to understand what is currently working for them, what turns them off, and how they would like to hear from you.
We use different interactive activities to get quantifiable data for you on preferences for the different characteristics within tone of voice.
Look at what we found
From those sessions, we will compile an initial report to illustrate our findings.
Typically, this includes analysis of how well your comms currently reflect your culture, vision and values, and comparisons between how your employees perceive their current comms and how they’d like them to sound.
Find your voice
Once you’ve mulled that over and given us the green light, we’ll produce a first draft Tone of Voice guide for you. This will start with three or four words that best outline your approach, defining and explaining each, with examples, in the context of your business.
We’ll include guidance on how to adapt your tone as and when required, and how to plan and develop your messaging. We’ll even include some in-house style, good grammar, and plain English guides.
Once we have your leaders’ feedback on that draft, we’ll make any tweaks you may have to make it a perfect fit. Then we’ll send you the final guide so that you can make your comms appropriate, authentic and consistent.
You’ll have a more engaged, committed and trusting workforce for it.