Tone of Voice — Language as Corporate Strategy

Blog post from Jan 30, 2018

Have you ever thought about your company's linguistic identity? Corporate design as a visual part of the corporate identity has been in use for more than 100 years. However, the idea of corporate language — of a tone of voice — is still rather new in some countries, e.g. in Germany. Actually, a custom-tailored brand language has numerous advantages. For example, it can cut costs and boost income, establish an identity, make the company unmistakable, and make it more creative and innovative.

Brief Definition: What Is the Tone of Voice?

In simple terms, the tone of voice is what your organization sounds like and what style it uses for its verbal and written communication. In particular, it answers three key questions:

What do we (not) talk about? Do we stay close to our products and services, or do we address a broader spectrum? Do we talk only about ourselves, or do we also talk about our competitors and about our industry? Do we also include general social subjects? Do we have a public opinion on political subjects? Or do we expressly refrain from touching on such matters?

How do we structure the subjects that we talk about? This ranges from the type of texts we want to use (white papers, articles, blog posts, social media, ...) to the structure of the individual texts (e.g. many or few paragraphs). Do we use subheadings? Do we want our texts to sound more like essays, or should their structure resemble that of press releases?

In what tone do we talk? How formal or how informal is our writing style? Do we only convey information, or do we also relate anecdotes? How direct are we? Are our texts straightforward or are frills allowed at times? Are we always dead serious or do we allow room for some humor?

A clear tone of voice that is understood and embraced by the authors will ensure the consistency of your texts. This can be limited to a particular department or include your entire company. It may be limited to the external communication or include the internal communication as well.

Easier to understand, clearer, and more interesting texts are the least that you can expect from a tone of voice. In view of today's flood of information, you should not underestimate the advantage of sounding more interesting, clearer, and easier to understand than your competitors.

Ultimately, your texts will hopefully be as unmistakable as your logo. 

Cut to the Chase: Why Introduce a Tone of Voice?

Even the minimum result — easier to understand, clearer, and more interesting texts — can have a major effect:

Boost income. If your offering is clearer and easier to understand, you will have better chances of securing orders or contracts.

Cut costs. Clear product descriptions and well-designed call center scripts save support time. Better communication also reduces internal friction losses.

Increase trust. If you make sure that the wording of your contracts, GTC, and sales pages is comprehensible, your customers will feel more comfortable with you.

Enhance products. If you are an agency or a consultancy, and concepts and reports are your key "products", your products will automatically become better.

Boost creativity. How we speak and write greatly influences how we think. Therefore, fresh language can also liven up entrenched, rigid thinking patterns.

If you adopt a brand language that truly suits your enterprise and its values, the above-mentioned benefits will stand out even more prominently. And last but not least, you will gain something very important:

Establish identity. If your language and your style suit you and your values, this will make you more unique and unmistakable. And is that not what a brand is actually meant for?

Which Texts Does a Tone of Voice Cover?

If you want to give your enterprise a tone of voice, you should consider which types of texts you want to cover. Usually, brand language comprises three text categories:

Names. Does the naming of your products, services, or even meeting rooms follow a consistent concept? Can a customer distinguish basic and premium products from the name?

Core phrases. These are short texts, sentences, or sentence fragments that you use over and over again. For example, this might be your slogan. Or it might be the way how you sign your e-mails: At Ben & Jerry's, for example, mails are always signed with "Peace, Love & Ice Cream".

Texts. This is what we usually think of when we talk about writing: articles, blog posts, webpages, reports, offers, ads, white papers, manuals, text messages, e-mails, and social media contributions — simply everything that is written in internal and external communication and that does not belong to the first two categories.

Tone of Voice or Not, That Is the Question

The question whether you need a custom-tailored brand language on the basis of your values and your brand personality is a question only you can answer.

Regardless of your answer, however, you should at least consider introducing a simple, basic tone of voice that will help you and your company to sound more comprehensible and interesting.

If you decide to adopt a tone of voice, the Congree solutions can assist you in your editorial work. 

tl;dr

Have you ever thought about your company's linguistic identity? Corporate design as a visual part of the corporate identity has been in use for more than 100 years. However, the idea of corporate language — of a tone of voice — is still rather new in some countries, e.g. in Germany. Actually, a custom-tailored brand language has numerous advantages. For example, it can cut costs and boost income, provide an identity, make the company unmistakable, and even make it more creative and innovative.