By Interactive Strategies
Apr 02, 2015

A Guide To Discovering Your Brand’s Voice and Tone

What comes to mind when you hear the words “voice” and “tone?”



If you instantly picture Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, you watch too much TV. If you think of marketing or copywriting, you win! What’s the winning prize? It’s a lesson that will transform the way you think about your brand and tell its story.

As a copywriter, “voice” and “tone” top the list of my daily vocabulary. But the truth is, clients and fellow marketers (myself included) often confuse the two terms – and it’s time to set the record straight:


VOICE

TONE

Voice is your brand’s personality, style or point of view. It’s a critical component of your brand identity that should remain consistent throughout your website and all of your marketing materials.

Tone is your brand’s attitude or mood, which will vary depending on the audience you’re talking to or the particular channel you’re using to engage. When it comes to tone, context is key and ever changing.


An easy way to distinguish a brand’s voice from its tone is to picture an actual human being. Let’s think about a working mother named Teresa.


TERESA’S VOICE

TERESA’S TONE

Teresa’s voice (or personality) is outgoing and optimistic. No matter whom she’s talking to – or what communication tactic she’s using to talk to them – Teresa’s outgoing nature and optimism will shine through.

Meanwhile, Teresa is a doctor who treats patients and a mother who cares for young children. Because of this, Teresa’s tone (or attitude) will be professional, formal and serious with her patients – yet playful, humorous and loving with her children.


Once you understand the fundamental difference between voice and tone, it’s time to discover your brand’s voice and tone. But how?

Below is a questionnaire I use when interviewing clients. In fact, clients’ answers to these questions lay the groundwork for the messaging I develop and the content I write – and they’ll help you do the same.


Here are the questions to ask your brand’s key stakeholders to uncover your voice:


  • How would you describe your brand’s personality? Please list 5 – 10 adjectives.
  • How would your audience describe your brand’s current personality (based on your existing website and/or marketing materials)? Please list 5 – 10 adjectives.
    • If you have multiple audiences, do this for each subset.
  • When your audience visits your new website or marketing materials, what words do you want them to use to describe your new personality? Please list 5 – 10 adjectives.
    • If you have multiple audiences, do this for each subset.
  • If your brand were a public figure, who would you be?
  • I dislike brand voices that sound ___________.
    • Examples: arrogant, buttoned-up, authoritative
  • I like brand voices that sound ___________.
    • Examples: clever, honest, fun
  • Please list 5 – 10 key buzzwords that should be used in your marketing or website content.
  • Are there any companies or organizations that have a voice or personality similar to the voice you want? If so, who are they?


Here are the questions to ask your brand’s key stakeholders to uncover your tone:


  • I want my brand to make my audience feel _______________. (If you have multiple audiences, do this for each subset.)

    • Examples: empowered, valued, inspired

  • My brand’s website or marketing material should come across as _______________. (If you have multiple audiences, do this for each subset.)

    • Friendly VS Formal

    • Serious VS Humorous

    • Authoritative VS Educational

    • Inspiring VS Professional

    • Optimistic VS Realistic

    • Helpful VS Informative

  • My brand should be perceived as_______________. If your brand were a person, what would be the relationship with its audiences? (If you have multiple audiences, do this for each subset.) Examples include: 

    • A mentor

    • A coach

    • A friend

    • A teacher

    • A peer

    • A leader

    • An advisor

Once you have the answers to these questions, you will be able to develop a voice and tone that represents your brand and tells its story in a meaningful way – a way that resonates with your audiences and motivates action.

Good luck!

(202) 223-8656