What is tone of voice (TOV)?


What is tone of voice (TOV)?

May 2018
Copestone blog about tone of voice

Tone of voice (TOV) is about how you say something rather than what you are saying. In business, TOV covers both the spoken and the written word, but, largely, it relates to the content a company produces – for face-to-face, online and offline. Content such as videos, podcasts, presentations and their scripts and storyboards are also included.

TOV is concerned with how you express your company’s values, for example, you might be a retailer of children’s clothes but you are really selling your practicality, style and value.

Copestone’s approach to TOV

Many of our clients work in the business-to-business space, where services, solutions, products and major capital projects are the proposition. Through our strategic development and writing process, we help to shape and clarify the TOV.

A financial services client might look for our help in producing collateral to sell its offshore domiciliation services, but what it is really offering clients is expertise, reliability, security and convenience. And, in this context, probably discretion as well.

Similarly, a construction company, on the face of it, is all about heavy machinery or bricks and mortar. But the content it publishes needs to convey the planning, creativity, safety, time-saving and technical expertise that supports every project.

Interweaving your TOV into your copy is usually a seamless process, of which you, the client, may not be overly aware. From our existing sector and brand experience and expertise, then through interviewing your people, reading existing company information and researching the sector, our editorial team will create your TOV so that it really ‘says’ who you are.  

Why is a consistent TOV important?

As the saying goes: it’s not what you do, but how you do it. For a good TOV, best practice dictates that, whatever your product or service, your tone of voice needs to communicate what you do and why you do it, consistently, and in such a way that your audience connects instantly with your values and culture.

A consistent tone of voice builds trust with the audience. Having the same TOV across all touchpoints that your audience has with your brand reinforces your reliability; the familiarity of what they read and see makes them feel at ease as they know what to expect from you.

TOV also needs to be unique

Brand consistency is essential. Yet, your tone of voice must also be distinctive, recognisable and unique. Construction industry buyers will purchase bricks from Heidelberg Cement Group subsidiary, Hanson UK because they are buying good quality building materials from a company with a strong heritage – Hanson acquired the long-established London Brick Company in 1984. The value proposition sets Hanson apart and is likely to be a strong factor when the decision is made to buy its bricks in preference to another, possibly cheaper, competitor’s product.

Innocent smoothie is more than a fruit juice; it represents a healthy food experience in a bottle. Innocent’s cheeky, yet authentic, TOV helped turn the company into a multi-million-pound business. Innocent has its own YouTube channel which keeps customers, who are conversed with as friends, up to date with all things Innocent.

Tech products have TOV too

Mail Chimp has a cute name and logo but, to most of us, it’s not the most exciting of services: it’s an email platform. What sells Mail Chimp is its personality, which it conveys through a chatty TOV in social media that reinforces its friendly brand.

Don’t be fooled by the seemingly frivolous exterior, however; underlying the informal tone is a serious business offering. Mail Chimp sends out colossal amounts of emails all day, every day. Handling high volumes of personal data is a big responsibility and Mail Chimp’s chirpy TOV shows that it does, in fact, take this very seriously.

At the click of one button with a shaky finger, a Mail Chimp user is making the – if you were to stop and think about it – unnerving decision to hand all their business or personal contact data across to Mail Chimp.

But, by providing a string of reassuring and informal instructions along the way, the company subtly uses its TOV to takes you painlessly through the (in reality very complex) system and reassures you that it understands your feelings of trepidation.

Get in touch

If you haven’t yet thought about the message your TOV is sending to your audiences, then contact us. We can review your existing TOV or help you develop a unique TOV for your organisation that leaves your audiences in no doubt about what you do and why you do it.

What can we do for you?

For a no obligation discussion about how we can help you meet your marketing and communication objectives call or email us.

+61 (03) 9863 7463 mail@copestone.com.au

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