One of the biggest challenges facing clients and agencies is how to keep a brand’s tone of voice alive on day 1000, not just day 01.
So you’ve jumped the first hurdle. You’re a business that appreciates the commercial value a strong brand identity can bring.
Next you go to a creative agency. Good looking folk in trendy clothes present a 200-page PowerPoint, craft you a slick logo and build great website. Now you’re getting somewhere.
Then, you hit a wall.
Six months or a year later you go to write a customer email, or a tweet, or a brochure. You write a HR memo or a staff induction. You start to try and bring your brand to life yourself - and it just doesn’t click.
It’s a story playing out across the marketing world. ‘Tone of Voice’ - how your business speaks, sounds and comes across - is hard. Really hard.
At some point in any relationship between a branding agency and a client, the stabilizers get removed. The protective filter of a creative director or copywriter gets pulled back, and you - the marketer - need to take over.
And slowly that polished and rounded brand from the 200-page PowerPoint starts to fray.
So, you return back to the creative agency again to help you out. Like a drug, you get hooked on the good stuff. Great messaging, art directed imagery and agency-curated brand comms. Great for the agency, but all costing you a very pretty penny.
The frustrating thing is – tone of voice is worth it. People respond to personalities, not corporations. Talk consistently, and it lays the foundations for customers to build a relationship with you – long term.
So how can brands talk the talk a little more easily? Below are five tips we’ve picked up along the way.
1. Focus on personality, not grammar. Agencies can get fixated on punctuation, grammar and writing styles. Short sentences. Flowing, romantic and always effective ‘power-of-three’ lists… The truth is, strong brands tend to be better built on intangible personalities. So pretend the business is a person. Give it a face even. Then ask, would they say this? Would they write like this?
2. Tone is visual, not just verbal. A picture tells a thousand words. Nowadays, potential customers are more likely to look at your Instagram to understand you than read a brand story. So don’t just focus on text. Give time to getting the imagery to match too.
3. To go global, work regional. If you’re a business that works globally, then it won’t matter how crafted your brand voice is in English - it’s going to have to translate. For this, there are limits to what your London or New York office can ever do. You need writers in-market to help bring that tone to life.
4. Invest in training, business-wide. Don’t just drill the brand into the marketing team. For the personality to filter through a company, it has to live business-wide. Sales, HR, recruitment, facilities… everyone needs to get it. The deeper it’s embedded, the better it will stick.
5. Invest in writing talent. At the end of the day, writing is hard. It’s a skill. Very talented people get paid very well to do it. You wouldn’t ask a cleaner to sort your accounts, or a marketer to use Photoshop. Whether you use agencies, PR or in-house resource, you need to think about writing as a distinct and valuable talent, worth investing in.