As I spilt the milk from my cereal I heard my husband saying:
“I was calculating footings and pier sizes with depth and thickness and quantity of rebar…”
I busied myself wiping up the milk.
And he said, “Um hello? Are you listening?”
I looked up, shocked.
I was sure to see him on the phone. Nope, he was talking to me…
I didn’t answer the first time because I didn’t hear anyone talking to me. I heard someone talking to an engineer.
I was not familiar with the language or tone of voice.
People listen when they can relate to what you are saying – and how you are saying it.
Language. Tone. Phrasing. If people can hear a little bit of themselves in your words they will want to engage.
And the same rules apply for brands. The tone of voice in your communication makes the difference between someone walking away or staying to engage with you.
Eeeek. Pretty powerful, right?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. I’m going to give you a rundown of the main types of tone of voice in communication. So your brand is memorable, relatable and gives your customers all the feels.
Common Types of Tone of Voice to Turn Heads (and focus eyes)
The first step to nailing your tone of voice starts with knowing your target audience.
You need to turn the right heads. Let’s face it, either you know the head you are trying to turn, or you aren’t turning any.
Let’s take a look at the different tone of voice types that help you stand out in the noisy sea of competitors.
This page from Half Price Books knows exactly who they are trying to reach. With a word like “bookish” and a made-up word like “coupon-ish”, they aren’t reaching the professional guys in a suit.
But the man in a suit is not the person they are trying to get into Half Price Books.
They are targeting the book worms who are looking for discounts. The tone of voice here tells the target audience that they have found where they belong. They are definitely looking up from their cereal.
The tone of voice here also makes their email list sound less threatening. You are familiar with the internal sigh you feel when a salesperson asks for your email. Just a few words here and they already have me believing this email list is for me. They sound more familiar than the last 20 email lists I was put on.
The biggest gym in the world? I’m in.
This page from REI has all of the adventure seekers turning their heads. Fitness routines can become mundane and boring.
They play off that pain point by talking about “breathing fresh air into your fitness routine” and “making it an adventure”.
That sounds dreamy, right?
We haven’t even looked at any of the products yet but we already like how they make us feel. It is that feeling from their tone of voice in communication that has us wanting to click that shop button.
This is a page from a fashion brand called Burlee Boutique. They know their audience cares about style. So they carry that feeling from their clothes over to the water bottles.
Customers are already on the site wanting to fix up their image. This is a great example of keeping the tone of voice consistent.
Imagine if Burlee approached selling water bottles by talking about the science behind staying hydrated. It is great information but would be inconsistent with the tone of voice that is perfect for their audience.
When the Tone of Voice is Wrong
Now we know that when the tone of voice is wrong, people don’t notice that you’re talking to them. In the world we have today, there are a lot of options so people click on and off faster than ever.
You have to make sure they know that you are talking to them within about two seconds.
The pressure is on, I know.
Let’s look at this page from Cyber Warfighters Group.
On the one hand, you might think, oh this is a professional tone of voice. Did you think they were talking to you though? You probably thought they were talking to some really smart guy that knows about technology.
The problem is if you did understand what they are talking about, would you need their service?
So they are not turning the right heads. They are only connecting with people who use this type of language themselves. I am sure some people do. After all, somebody wrote this.
But if they at least presented their service in a friendlier tone of voice, they could turn more heads.
Now read this.
“Have you found yourself in charge of a big system? Your company’s money and clients’ information feel like they are just hanging out in cyberspace waiting for a hacker to come along and grab it.
Not a good way to sleep at night.”
Now, this might have you nodding your head. You might not have a system that needs protecting, but at least you know what I am talking about. You won’t believe I am talking to someone else on the phone.
A professional tone of voice does not mean boring. It also doesn’t mean way over the average person’s head.
Creating a Unique Tone of Voice
To keep “professional” far from boring, you need unique.
What if your tone of voice sounds like your target audience, but it also sounds like every boring handout they receive at meetings? Yeah, you’re not turning heads.
This is going to be harder than you thought, right? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Here are four tips to nail your tone of voice.
Know Your Brand Personality
Think of your brand as a person. What does this person look like? How do they talk? Who do they hang out with? What do they like to do? You need to know this person like they are your best friend.
Then, when you create your copy for the brand, you need to make sure it always sounds like this person is talking. If you know them as a best friend, then this should be easy.
That is why it is so important to be an expert on your brand personality. Your tone of voice will come out effortlessly if you know exactly who is talking.
The only way to create this person is to know that audience. Have I said it enough? You need to know the audience. I have? Perfect.
Check out our post here to see why it is important to know your competitor’s tone of voice too.
Keep it Conversational
If what you’re writing sounds nothing like what you would say in real life – you’ve got the wrong tone of voice. You don’t want to have the reader believe you are a smart professor that they would take notes for.
You want them to feel like they are talking with a friend who knows them and what they need. If your tone of voice echoes their own thoughts just a little bit then you will get them on board with what you are saying.
You want to have a conversation with their thoughts. This is done easily once you nail that tone of voice in communication.
Shared Values and Goals
If your tone of voice reflects your company’s values and goals, your readers will have something to connect to. One of the best ways to gain someone’s trust is to show them that you share their values.
There you go, echoing their thoughts again, see how this works?
In the REI copy, adventure and freedom are shared with the audience. This gains trust because the reader knows that there is some common ground there. The company might have something that the reader needs to achieve their dream.
The REI customers trust them to always show up with that dream. If some of their content was to paint the adventure picture and then other times crack inappropriate jokes, they would lose that trust.
You need to know your brand personality, values, and goals. Making sure that all of those are aligned with your target audience. Then keep the conversation going. If you have all of these things, consistently, you will nail your tone of voice.
For even more tone of voice inspiration, check out this post from the Copyhackers.
Don’t let any content hang out on the internet with an “um hello, are you listening?” moment. Now go turn some heads. Just remember who you are talking to.