30 Jul

Don’t You Take That Tone With Me! 4 Ways to Capture Tone and Voice in Writing

By: Erika Turan, APR, Senior Account Executive

My job at a Cincinnati marketing communications agency is a little like being an actress. At least, this is what I tell myself when I’ve got writer’s block and a deadline. To write successfully means that my colleagues and I often need to assume the voice of our client.

That voice and tone give your brand personality. It helps you to connect your brand to key audiences by establishing it as trendy, cool and chic (if you’re marketing a new luxury cocktail lounge) or trustworthy and knowledgeable (if you’re marketing a hospital).

Here are a few tips to help you when you’re faced with this challenge.

Find out the voice and tone you should use.

This seems obvious enough, but to get the direction you need, you have to ask the right questions.  It’s not enough to know whether it should be serious or casual. Ask questions like:

  •  Should the writing be in first person or third person? (Whatever the answer, be consistent.)
  •   Is this a just-the-facts-ma’am reporting style, or a casual conversation?
  •  What kind of relationship are we trying to develop? Are we looking to be buddies with the audience, or do we need to let them know who’s in charge?
  •    Should it be serious or witty and clever?
  •   Are we writing to meet a certain literacy level?
  •  Does the audience understand industry jargon or complex terms, or do we need to define them?
  •  Does a nomenclature guide exist?

If a defined voice and tone don’t exist, now’s the time to flesh it out.

Read past examples.

Read everything you can get your hands on: past marketing collateral, internal communications, blogs and web content great places to start. If you’re finding tone and voice that are all over the board, question the reason. There may be compelling answers, but if you don’t know them, you might inadvertently make the wrong choice.

Personify the voice.

It doesn’t take long to wrap your brain around this little exercise, but if you’re stumped for how to assume the right voice and tone, try imagining a person to go with it. For clever social media, think about how Ellen DeGeneres might write it. For serious reporting of the facts, conjure up your favorite TV doctor or an airline pilot.

Write it two different ways.

Force yourself to write it the “wrong” way, then take a stab at writing it the right way. So if your client asks for casual, clever, first person writing, try writing it in a no-nonsense style first:

#1 Super Serious

“Tonight’s happy hour will begin at a new time, 5 pm. Join The Beer Pub for the premier of Mr. Frizzle’s Lager and the Pub’s special spicy wings.”

#2 Lighthearted

“What?! You don’t have plans for tonight?? Well, you do now! Grab your friends and join us at The Beer Pub for happy hour at an all new time, 5 pm.  We’re tapping Mr. Frizzle’s Lager and giving it its world premier. And if you haven’t tried our special spicy wings, we honestly don’t know how we’re still friends with you.”

Give these tips a try next time you find yourself stumped on voice and tone, and you’ll find you’re better equipped to manage and deliver the brand.

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