The Importance of Tone in Content Marketing

Katherine Stott    By under Brand Messaging.

The Importance of Tone of VoiceWe often misunderstand the importance of tone in content marketing, but perhaps it's because we actually take it for granted. To put it in perspective, think about how much you learn from a face to face conversation, simply from the pitch of people's voices, tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. When you take the conversation online, you lose all the telltale indicators that your senses bring to light and all you're left with is tone.

Defining the Right Tone for your Brand or Business

If you look at a number of well known brands and how they convey their online presence, you get a feel for what exactly tone does for your content. Here are a few excerpts from the websites of some well known brands:

BMW North America: "The all-new BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe stops at nothing in its quest for perfection. The sleek contours combine elegance with agile dynamics and trendsetting design. The third brake light extends across the top of the entire rear window, accentuating the wide stance of the Gran Coupe, while the planed proportions, long hood and sunken passenger area form a captivating silhouette that exudes elegance and individuality."

Elizabeth Arden: "As a business person, beauty advisor, and woman's advocate, Elizabeth Arden was an inspiration to women all over the world. That's as true today as it was 100 years ago."

Dreamworks Animation: "Kung fu, fighting animals, terrific sets and scenery, a wholly created world...and a message, too? Just what do the filmmakers hope the audience takes from the experience when "Kung Fu Panda" opens in theaters?"

Each one conveys a very distinct message and gives you an overall "feeling" that relates to what their brand is about. BMW is all about sleek elegance and cutting edge technology, whereas Elizabeth Arden appeals to their market using the personality of a great and pioneering woman. Dreamworks speaks about imagination and they garner that energy in us through the words they use and the manner in which they use them.

You can completely alter the audience's reaction to the brand, simply by changing the tone. If you were to bring humor or a comical stance into the BMW advertising, you'd immediately drop the status of the brand at least a few notches. Same with Dreamworks if the stance you took were more formal and corporate; it would prevent people's imaginations from letting loose.

So How Do you Find the Right Tone?

There are a few things to consider when trying to determine what the right tone is for your brand or business.

  • You need to know your audience and you need to understand how they relate to your business. Perhaps you could conduct a few audience polls or questionnaires to cast more light on how your audience sees your brand as well as to determine what they'd like the receive from it
  • Speak to the people behind the business. What were there visions when setting up the company and how did they hope the world would perceive them?
  • Conduct a brand audit to unveil the different layers of marketing, strategy and content

Finding Out More About the Audience

Getting the right feedback from your audience is important, which makes asking the right questions imperative. Here are a few examples of the direction you should take:

  • Determine the demographics - age, sex, marital status, number of children - if any, occupation, pastimes etc.
  • How do they feel about your business / brand?
  • How does your business / brand provide value to them?
  • What could be done better?
  • How do they prefer to be approached?

Once you've gathered the information, you need to draw insight from it in order to benefit from it. You'll be able to isolate different target groups from this feedback, which in turn will help you determine the tone you'd use in order to communicate with them.

How You See Your Business

Before delving into other people's opinions of your business or brand, outline what it is that you feel needs to be conveyed through your company's tone of voice. Rally the troops and have a brainstorm session to get individual input that will collectively classify your tone. Ask a few questions to get the ball rolling, these can be anything along the lines of the following:

  • How would you describe the brand / business using descriptive adjectives?
  • What is the personality of the brand?
  • How do you want people to feel when interacting with the brand?
  • How do you want the brand to appear to the public?

The Nitty Gritty - Brand Guidelines

Once you've nailed down the personality, the way you want the brand to appear and how you want people to resonate with your business, you need to get to the finer details of tone. Define a set of brand guidelines to carry the tone across all platforms in the same way. Every single person working on any content marketing should refer to these guidelines first, in order to ensure that consistency is carried across the board. Some of the elements that need to be considered:

  • Define the personality in words
  • Illustrate how you want people to interact with the brand and how it should make them "feel"
  • Find a few adjectives to describe the tone - is it formal? Informal with a dash of slang? Professional yet casual?
  • Are these adjectives relative to the brand and the personality?
  • Do you want to use passive voice versus active voice?
  • Contractions - will you use do not or don't?

Each of the above is an important ingredient in ensuring the consistency of your content marketing through an unchanging tone of voice.

Now all you need to do is ensure that the correct tone is drawn into every call to action and across feedback forms and contact pages. As we've seen with BMW, Elizabeth Arden and Dreamworks, it's the vital essence of your brand that allows people to identify with you. It makes people "feel" what your brand is about and that's an association they'll always apply.

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