Finding the right tone for your content

By Jay Baylis
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If your business could talk – what would it sound like?

It might seem like a silly question but deciding what tone to use when communicating with your customers is crucial to giving your brand a voice.

Get the tone right and you can quickly build empathy and strike a chord with your target audience. By creating engaging content, you can build lasting relationships with customers who not only understand what your brand is about, but also trust and like what you do.

Get it wrong and customers will switch off. If you are not speaking in their language, are using inappropriate slang, too much jargon or not communicating in a way they would expect you to, your website, tweets or newsletters won’t win customers over.

Who makes up your audience?

Understanding who your target audience is and what information they want to know is the first step in creating effective content. Would they like a chatty, conversational tone that’s easy and fun to read? Or would they prefer something that quickly informs and educates? If you have technical or specialist information, you will need to find the right tone that cuts through the jargon and turn highly detailed material into memorable content.

Nicky Rudd, managing director at Padua Communications says, “Often our clients have mountains of technical information which, at face value can be dry and appeal to only a small industry minority.

“By taking new approaches to common topics, we help businesses find a voice that helps them to stand out from the competition. We do this without losing the integrity of their core message or dumbing down the technical element of the information.

“If you get the tone right and balance relevant technical language with engaging content, you will have created copy that is useful for a wider audience too.”

Every industry will have its own phrases, acronyms and terminology that is unique to its trade. Using too much specialised language can alienate a wider audience while being too casual can hint at a lack of gravitas and expertise. Finding the balance is key.

So what tone of voice would you choose? Here are some examples of clients we have helped:

Expert, friendly tech advisor

Engineering software company NT CADCAM needed a voice that would distinguish itself from its competitors and highlight the expertise of its staff. The client wanted a voice that could convey technical and relevant information to ‘time-poor’ engineers in an easy conversational tone.

“Engineers are hungry for new information that will make their job easier, but often they don’t have the time for heavily marketed material, thick white papers or being out of the office for events. Padua Communications created an easy-to-digest, straight-forward language that got to heart of the matter quickly,” says Nicky.

Content tone: Practical, knowledgeable, friendly.

Warm, lifestyle expert

Garden furniture designer Gaze Burvill embodies the highest levels of craftsmanship in its products. It needed to reflect the same customer aspirations with descriptive imagery and high levels of attention to detail in its communications with customers.

Nicky adds: “Gaze Burvill is selling a lifestyle choice and the content needed to replicate the same values as the product: Sumptuous quality, timeless design and product longevity. We used a tone of voice that played to these standards.”

Content tone: Principled, warm, colourful

Upbeat, modern IT employer

IT skills management company Intequal is one company with two voices: one to employers wanting to participate in the Microsoft Apprenticeship Programme and one to the apprentices themselves. To engage potential apprentices, Intequal needed to use the right language and tone with which younger generation can relate.

“Appealing to a millennial audience requires a different approach,” says Nicky. “Having been bombarded with digital messaging since they were born, a millennial expects you to get to the point quickly. We used storytelling and a lighter tone with punchy, shorter phrasing that gets to the heart of the matter faster.”

Content tone: Clear, casual, economical

Corporate executive

When it comes to expressing the corporate culture of your organisation, whether through a press release or news statement, a more formal tone is required. For many of our clients the audience for their brand can be totally different to the audience who reads their corporate news. There must be no ambiguity or room for misinterpretation.

Corporate content is the unchanging backbone of a company’s identity and relied upon as the official version or statement, so keep it simple and keep it straight.

Content tone: Factual, reliable, economical

Once you have decided on a tone that fits your business, the key is to remain consistent. Often a great way to find your tone is to write the ‘About us’ or ‘Our Story’ section of a website. The process will help you find your business’ personality and don’t be afraid to try something new or think outside the box. Once you have got a tone you like, you can use the same approach for everything you write from blogs and advertising pop-ups to entertaining product descriptions and emails.

Want to find the right voice for your business and the right messages for your customers? Get in touch with Padua Communications and ask about our Brand Messaging Workshop by calling 0203 282 7570 or email us at [email protected]

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