Tone of voice
Verbal identity. Brand voice. Brand language. All the best brands have a tone of voice (even if they don’t all call it that).
Why? Because it’s one of the best ways to bring your brand to life. And because everybody in your business writes. Imagine the power of all your people writing in the right way, day in day out. Brochures, websites, customer comms, internal comms, annual reports; you name it.
But most brands don’t get there. They come up with a great tone of voice and then hide it on page 87 of their brand guidelines. Nobody ever gets to page 87.
We’re different. We know that getting to guidelines is only step one. The real challenge is thinking about your tone of voice as a change programme. If you want people to write differently, you need to do more than tell them how.
Luckily, behavioural science has a lot to say about changing people’s habits:
Make it easy. Most people want to go on doing what they’ve always done. Psychologists call that ‘the status-quo bias’. So you’ve got to get rid of anything that’s stopping them from changing. They might have a boss who expects a certain style, or they might think the new approach will get squashed by legal. And you’ve got to give them all the tools they need to do it, like (good) guidelines, templates and briefs.
Make a splash. You’ve got to make the tone of voice famous. Get up and talk about it at big company events; rewrite your most totemic communications; put it on the intranet; run a Word Week… anything to grab people’s attention. ‘The mere-exposure effect’ says the more familiar something is, the more we like it.
Keep reminding people. Training’s vital, but if you plan it wrong it can be an expensive waste of time. ‘The spacing effect’ tells us how much and how often to do it. And there’s plenty more you can do beyond training: a readability checker, software that gamifies writing in the new tone, awards for good writing, reminders and much more.