Tone of voice seems a funny sort of concept when considering something written rather than spoken and yet it’s something that has to be right for the subject. Every brand we might be promoting has its own associated tone of voice. As a freelance copywriter I express that tone by the words I use and the style of writing.
For example, where the brand relates to a product whose sole purpose is to be used for fun we might well employ a jolly, bouncy and humorous style to jolly the reader along to the call to action. If the brand is something like a life assurance policy designed to pay for one’s funeral that tone of voice would be rather less appropriate.
For that brand we would employ a serious, professional and caring sort of style. Here it is important to inspire confidence and the more sombre tone aims to focus the reader’s mind on his or her own mortality and on considering the cost of a dignified departure from this world.
These are fairly extreme examples from opposite ends of the tone of voice scale. For most brands or types of service the right tone will lie somewhere in between. The skill of the copywriter lies in finding it. This is where the initial conversation between writer and client is so important. It doesn’t matter whether that conversation takes place face to face, by telephone or by email. It is the writer’s opportunity to listen or study the text and from that pick up a sense of the tone of voice required.
Just by asking questions and paying attention to the answers a picture begins to form in the mind of a B2B copywriter. On occasion the client can be even more helpful. On a couple of occasions a client has actually provided guidelines to follow to ensure that the tone of voice reflects the desired brand image. One actually supplied two lists, one of words to avoid using and the other of their preferred alternatives. Some seemed a little odd but they knew what they were doing!
So, get the tone of voice right and the right brand image will be conveyed. Get that right and the job’s half done. Well, nearly!