Why and How to Write Tone of Voice Guidelines for Your Brand

By Will Hockin,

Presenting a consistent image of your brand extends even to the words you use and how you say them. This might seem obvious, and you may think you’re already doing this, but if you don’t have a clear Tone of Voice (TOV) guideline document then you’re not.

It’s all too easy to slip into clichés and overused phrases when you’re posting on the internet or writing a new blog. But everything that your brand publishes should sound authentic and reflect the brand’s personality and values. If you work for a mortgage advice company, slang language and joking about dogs (puppers, doggos etc) would probably be inappropriate. Equally, if your brand’s personality is light-hearted and friendly (think Innocent Drinks), then memes, jokes and colloquial language are perfect.

The Why: Why Exactly You Need Tone of Voice Guidelines

Unless you’re a very small company or a one-person-band, then the chances are more than one person will be publishing on behalf of your brand. How do you guarantee that all of these posts, blogs and other bits of content consistently represent your company? Are you even confident that if you asked everyone what the brand personality was, they’d come up with the same answers?

If either of those questions leave you feeling a little unsure then you need TOV guidelines. Even if those questions didn’t rattle you at all, we’d still recommend you get some TOV guidelines. You never can be too careful.

Having a thorough document that everyone can refer to when writing a tweet, blog post or new website copy means your brand will be consistent in its messaging. That’s the key to successful branding, by the way. It also means that when you have any new starters or outsource any work to freelancers or agencies, that they can get up to speed instantly – spending more time crafting excellent content.

The How: How to Put Together a Robust Set of Tone of Voice Guidelines

Hopefully, by now, you’ll agree with us that TOV guidelines are a good idea. So how do you go about writing them? If this is the sort of thing you’ve not done before it can be difficult to know where to start. But fear not, we’re here to help.

What Does Your Brand Sound Like?

The first place to start is deciding and codifying what your brand’s voice sounds like. Is it serious, expert and technical, or is it friendly, informal and kind? This is a question only you and your team can answer. Spend some time looking through past content and chatting to your team and customers. Somewhere between three and six traits would be ideal. Any more and it starts to get really confusing.

Prove Your Points

The next thing to do is write some examples of your brand’s personality traits in action. Some real-world examples so everyone knows exactly what you mean by “friendly, expert and chatty”. An example or two per personality trait is plenty. It can also be useful to include some examples of how not to follow the guidelines as well.

Jokes, Emojis and Technical Language

There are a number of other factors you’ll need to consider and put down in writing as well. For example, are you okay to tell jokes? Should your social media posts include emojis? Are you technically focused or more informal? Again, these are all questions only you and your team can answer, so make sure you do.

Consider Splitting it Up

It’s also a good idea to consider writing slightly different guidelines for each type of content. For example, you may well consider using emojis on social media posts but not on emails. Likewise, within social media, your tone on LinkedIn may be different to the one you use on Instagram. All of this is information that needs to go in the document.

A thorough TOV guideline document should mean that anybody could read it and create pieces of content that match your brand exactly. This is the litmus test for how well you’ve put your document together. Your guidelines should cover all aspects of your brand’s voice so that you never have to worry about consistency again.

But bear in mind, just as your brand will evolve over time, so will your TOV. Please don’t write your guidelines and stick them in a folder somewhere never to be seen again – they should be regularly reviewed, updated and shared with your team.

If you need help putting your brand’s TOV guidelines together, why not speak to one of our friendly and expert team? Get in touch with us today or give us a call on 0333 335 0425.