pret shopFollowing on from last week’s post on using your brand values and messaging, I thought I’d share Padua Communication’s top 3 tips for getting the correct tone in your copy.

When we start working with a client, we do a lot of research. We read the client’s existing material, the website, we do some competitor analysis and generally ask a lot of questions. Quite often, there isn’t one designated person that is responsible for writing all of the copy within a company, so a product sheet might be written by a product manager, sales emails might be written by the sales and marketing team and the website copy might have been written by the web company on a separate brief. This can sometimes lead to mixed tones and different styles within the copy.  Does this sound familiar?

One of our first jobs is finding a company’s voice and defining what words will be used in any marketing material to ensure that the tone is pitched correctly for the target audience. This is where the research comes in handy. There are several issues with lots of people writing different bits of copy. These include:

– the copy being too focused on technology

– the copy using acronyms with no explanation, so assumed knowledge

– the copy being too long and wordy rather than being clear and easy to read

– no consistent style (which is not good when it comes to building brand loyalty)

– too much focus on features rather than benefits

In fact, quite often the copy written and content produced is not bad but it fails in exactly what it has been created to do – answer questions the target audience might have.

So here are our 3 top tips for reviewing content to ensure you get the tone right.

  1. Write down the top 6 questions your customers ask (all the time) and answer them.

  2. Now look at your answer. Does it make sense? If you had spoken those words in a face to face situation, would your customer get it? Or would they ask another question to clarify a point? If they would, you need to reword it to make this clear. Continue doing this until you think the customer would have all the information they need.

  3. Look at the words you have used. With both B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) markets, there is a different tone and language used. There’s quite a lot of talk of dumbing down copy, where you use language that is more simplistic to get a point across. Don’t be swayed to include words or language that you think will get you bonus points if it will lose your customer. Instead speak their language to engage them. Even if this language is simpler or shorter than you think it should be, if you are answering your target customer’s questions in way that encourages a conversation, you are on the right lines.

As you digest content and language over the next week, bear this in mind and see which brands are doing this well and which aren’t – I guarantee that this will make you think about branding and marketing in a different way…and we’d love to know your good and bad examples.

Our picks:

Two of our favourites are Prét a Manger for consumer work and Simply Business for business. Prét for good all round customer understanding and brand identity and Simply Business for recognising that business owners are normal people and using plain English most of the time.

For their social media activity we like Nike Women. (Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nikewomen and Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nikewomen)

The language they use is smart, bold and punchy short sentences, e.g.: ‘This is Nike Women. Join the team. Get inspired.’ 

Their choice of words goes beyond aspirational, it’s empowering and inclusive: ‘If you have a body, you are an athlete’ and ‘Every woman can be a Nike woman.’ The tone is always professional and never patronising.

They rarely mention Nike products, rather they focus on building a Nike community through events such as 10k night runs across London. As such, Nike has become more a way of life than a brand.