How to Find Your Brand’s Tone of Voice (for Content Marketing)

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Updated August 15, 2018
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Tone of Voice In Content Strategy

How to Find Your Brand’s Tone of Voice (for Content Marketing)


Bryce Boyle Hoban

Bryce is a SEO Specialist and Content Strategist with Hook Agency – focused on creating content that attracts ideal customers for our clients websites.

Your brand’s tone of voice is what sets you apart from the competition and can propel you in front of the clutter of content your consumers see everyday.

Essentially, the tone is how your content is written. It should illustrate how you feel about the subject being written, as well as how you want your readers to feel. For example, you could want them to be informed or maybe inspired, or you could want them to laugh or be entertained.  Your tone of voice you use shouldn’t be so much about what your business does, but who you are and the values you stand by. The tone will also allow for easy collaboration between teams that will ensure cohesive content even when it is written by different people.

While this can sound a little difficult, it’s really quite simple as long as you understand your business and your consumers.

So, when it comes to your content marketing, don’t be tone deaf.

Define Your Brand’s Personality

The personality your of your brand is what will really set the tone when it comes to writing content.

Basically, it’s how you’re consumers perceive you in terms of human characteristics and how they relate to your brand. Marketing is all about making connections with your target audience and carefully cultivating your brand personality is a big part in that. Your content marketing is an extension of your brand, meaning it should be in-line with the personality you’ve created.

An exercise to help you define your brand personality word association. In a group setting, think of personality traits and adjectives that you believe are associated with your company. Are you reliable, efficient, or innovative? Serious or funny? Think of as many words as possible and then pick 5-10 keywords that define your brand. Incorporate these personalities into your content.

For example, think about content a law firm may create. They probably won’t want to be posting memes and making jokes because they won’t be taken seriously. Instead, they would work towards generating insightful, helpful, and formally written content that positions them as a professionally run set of lawyers who you can trust. This is because their brand personality is reliable, professional, and all business.

What about if your brand personality is a something a little more laid back? Or, what if your offering is literally all about laying back? Eno Hammocks runs a blog that does a good job at being informal because hammocks are a fun offering. They have photo contests, outdoor adventure suggestions and gear guides. They use exclamation points and words like ‘shenanigans’ and they don’t take themselves too seriously. Everything and more you would expect from a business whose offering is a fun product.

eno-content-marketing
Eno’s blog is curates fun, helpful content revolved around their brand personality

Another exercise to try is ‘always-never’. With a group of in-house content creators, come up with a list of words that describe what your brand always is (examples: progressive, thought-provoking, driven, simple, concise). Then, come up with words that you don’t want your brand to be compared to (slow, inefficient, overwhelming, complicated, dull). This team activity will ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the brand personality you want your content to convey.

Comparing your company to businesses in other industries can also help you define your personality as well. Assign everyone a different industry and have them choose a company that is analogous to your own and have them write down and explain why. Then, have them do the same thing for a competitor of that business. Go around the room and have everyone talk about who they chose and why. This exercise will help you discover what makes you stand out amongst your competitor sand give you some ideas on how to refine your brand personality to set yourself apart.

Speak to Your Audience

Another option for helping you discover your tone is to think about how your employees who work directly with consumers interact with them.

For example, if the interactions are informal, say with a beer in hand and light conversation, then your content should be the same. Laid back, fun, and not too heavy.

What about a B2B business that offers content to higher-ups of their prospect companies? Obviously, you’re going to want to be take a more serious, professional approach for your content if that is the case.

In a previous article, titled, “How to Identify Content Ideal Customers Want”, we talked about the importance of creating audience personas, brief summaries of a specific type of customer outlining their wants and needs and other buying factors,  to help decipher what it is your consumers care about seeing when it comes to the subject matter of the content they receive.

Audience personas can also influence the voice you use in your content as well. If one of your audience personas is of a younger demographic, you may use a less informal voice. While if another customer profile is older, you may be a little more formal. Little realizations like this can help you generate content that has a lasting impact on those who view it.

Create a Style Guide

If you don’t have a style guide for your brand, then listen closely. If you do, check-off these characteristics that you need to incorporate if you haven’t already.

A style guide is a great way to keep your content consistent between writers, but to also help establish your tone of voice.

style-guide-content-marketing
Courtesy of 99Designs

Your style guide should basically summarize your brand’s personality and image and break it down in terms of your values and mission statement, logo, color palette, images, typography, and of course, the overall voice of your brand. All these factors are essential for creating an awesome content marketing strategy.

When it comes to outlining your voice and tonality, decide which of these descriptions best fits what you’re gunning for:

-Fun and entertaining: Use for product and service offerings that aren’t serious and are used for hobbies, passing time and, of course, having fun.

-Serious and authoritative: Use when the perception of your offering from your consumers is of a serious connotation. Think about a company that works in debt consolidation. Their content probably shouldn’t feature any light hearted memes, jokes, etc.

-Insightful: This is a great tone to take when you’re offering can be a bit confusing or overwhelming to your consumers. Ecolab’s Media Center is a great example of this style of content that helps them understand what it is they do and how they can help other businesses.

-Inspiring and creative: If you’re in the tech business, this is the tone for you. You want to push the notion that you’re an innovator and writing original, industry-leading content is the way to do it.

Brainstorm Content Ideas Around Your Tone

Your tone of voice should also dictate what topics to write about. Here are some group exercises you can implement when it comes to brainstorming content ideas.

Mind Mapping – To start this exercise off, think of one central idea. Let’s say you’re a software company whose tone of voice falls within the ‘inspiring and creative’ category, so your central word might be ‘innovative technologies’ Next, start creating different branches that relate to your central idea that are related to your company and industry. This is a very unstructured exercise, so write down everything that is said. After 15-20 minutes, see which topics and ideas are worth writing about. Creating a mind map is a great way to get the juices flowing

Customer Service Interactions – Keeping track of why customers are reaching out to your company touchpoints and what questions they have is a great way to generate insightful, relevant, and helpful content. If you receive multiple inquiries about one specific issue, write an article addressing it because odds are, other customers and potential prospects have the same questions. Beat them to the punch before they call in.

Content Idea Generators – Sometimes you’ll just have trouble coming up with ideas. Hubspot, Portent, and Content Row all have idea generators that can help you find your next content topic.

Be Detail-Oriented

If you truly want to develop strong content marketing strategies, then you need to take the time to do the little things. Working on details like the right tone will help you create a successful content marketing strategy that will thrive long term and will help set you apart from your competition.

After all, the person who said, “the devil is in the details,” was obviously referring to content marketing.

If you need helping perfecting your content marketing, reach out today and set up a meeting. With over 5 years experience in helping our clients with their digital marketing needs, we’ll work with you to help optimize your content.

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Bryce Boyle Hoban

Bryce is a SEO Specialist and Content Strategist with Hook Agency – focused on creating content that attracts ideal customers for our clients websites.

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