Tone of voice. It’s not just something your mom scolds you for using improperly.
Your business has a tone of voice, and, just like when talking to your mother, you need to be aware of how you’re using it and whether it’s conveying your message appropriately.
Everything about your business from advertising to website content to outgoing voicemail messages should reflect your business’ tone of voice. Even internal communications – the way your employees perceive the company, the style of internal memos, company culture – every instance of communication inside and out is an opportunity to convey your business’ heart, soul, vision, and message to everyone in contact with the business.
It means making sure that, across the board, the same tone is used for every point of contact so your company’s persona is consistent. It may sound daunting or a little vague, but it’s really a simple principle.
Just make sure that the tone you use, meaning the style of language or writing (informal, business-like, humorous, to-the-point), is the same across all possible channels of communication. This includes internal perception and communication between employees as well as any contact with customers, be it written or verbal.
Here’s the twist: you can’t just pick a tone of voice and run with it. It has to match your business, who you are, and who your customers should perceive you to be.
Here’s an example. Think about Firefox, the web browser by Mozilla. When something goes wrong and it can’t load your page, you get the cheerful, humorous, almost cheeky message, “Well, this is embarrassing…” You feel good about this – Firefox has acknowledged their mistake, more or less apologized for it, and humanized what is typically a very cold, impersonal Internet experience. They’re forgiven and you feel good that they took responsibility for the error.
Now think about another tech company – same industry, but a very different company – Microsoft. What if Microsoft made a mistake and then said something along the lines of “this is embarrassing” like Firefox did? You might feel like they were being too flippant, like they are not taking themselves or you, their customer, seriously.
Why? It’s simple – tone of voice. The funny, casual style does not match who they are as a company. It works for Firefox, because that’s who they are and who they have put themselves out in the public to be from the get-go. Microsoft can’t just turn on the edgy, fun tone of voice now even if they wanted to because that’s not how people perceive them. People see them as a stiffer or more traditional big company. They’ve been around too long to change their voice so dramatically now, and it could really work against them. It would take a long and gradual shift to get to where Firefox already is.
Tone of voice is an important aspect of your business, but trying to be something you’re not could really hurt you. Just like mother said, you need to watch your tone of voice.
Take the time to think about what your business is trying to communicate, who you’re trying to communicate it to, and how your tone of voice fits your company’s personality.