What is a Tone of Voice?

It has been a shamefully long time since my last blog, because it’s been pretty busy at HB HQ. Beyond writing content for my lovely clients, I also had the pleasure of exhibiting at the YBC exposition on Friday, which was a really fantastic opportunity for me to get my schmooze on and force-feed individuals my branded cupcakes, in preparation for my one-day eventual transformation into a Jewish buba.

I have also been prepping for my next marketing talk in Reading, which is exciting not least because I will be expanding my reach beyond the London centric market, but also speaking alongside two other fantastic marketers.

However, the time lag is still rather embarrassing given that I spend a great deal of time espousing the benefits of having a proper content strategy. It’s not that I don’t believe this to be true…it’s just I’ve been so busy, my own business development has gotten a little lost. Don’t worry I am currently sat in a poorly lit coffee shop, hanging my head in shame – I don’t even deserve a chai latte.

So, I got my thinking hat on, set aside some time and decided to devote this blog to Tone of Voice and why it’s so ruddy important. So let’s get cracking…first things first  -“what is a tone of voice?” I hear you ask. Well, a tone of voice is the style in which you communicate with your internal and external stakeholders. Take me…for example, I use a colloquial, informal, chatty style because even though most of my clients are property and financial services based, I reckon they could all do with a good laugh (and a moment of not thinking about Brexit.)

But a tone of voice could be formal, professional, warm, friendly, passionate, intelligent…the list of adjectives is exhaustive. The important thing is deciding on one and sticking to it – so your communication is consistent and clear across all your channels. For some cracking Tone of Voice examples, check out Innocent Smoothies, Pret a Manger, or indeed my very own website Helena Baker.

Of course, naturally the next follow on question is: how do you create a Tone of Voice? Well you need to have a serious think about your branding, most particularly your:

  • Mission statement

One, simple sentence that perfectly encapsulates your motivation, it should help drive the rest of your branding forward, eg…

“I aim to provide a high level of content whilst maintaining a premium level of service…”

What’s really beautiful about this exercise is that by condensing your messaging into one or two sentences you are able to be specific about how you add value…

  • USPs

What are those selling points that make you unique? Aim to have 2 or 3, and again be really specific so if it’s a high level of service be clear about how that actually works. Again, using myself as an example (sorry) it means I include three drafts and any necessary follow up meetings in all my quotes. This is far more useful than just the generic “I’m really good” which whilst true isn’t terribly compelling or convincing.

  • Target Demographic

When I do this exercise with clients I generally encourage them to create 3-4 user avatars including as much detail as possible. Really spend some time considering the political views, age, motivation, inspiration etc. The more information the better – then you can ascertain their emotional needs – do they want to be reassured, accepted, educated? And obviously it goes without saying that the tone you would use for the 18-25 demographic is widely different to that of the 50-60 bracket.

  • Core Values

This one should be pretty self-explanatory – what does your business stand for? Honesty? Integrity? Joie d’espirit? Just something to keep in mind really.

  • Future Objectives

These are tremendously important when writing a Tone of Voice document. If you have grand ambitions to grow your one-man band working out of your dad’s shed in Slough to a rip-roaring success in Canary Wharf with a litany of employees, you won’t want to be using pronouns like “I” or “Myself,” but rather making yourself sound far bigger and developed.

  • Brand Personality

This one is a little cringe-y for my liking, but undoubtedly of tremendous importance.  If your brand was a person what would he/she be – mellow, creative, sincere, friendly, pretentious…


Alongside this inward analysis you may also want to consider external factors, such as cultural insight, current challenges and even do a competitor analysis if you feel so inclined. I have to admit, the final one is not something I have done at all for my business, or for too many of my clients as I fear it can make you feel a little lost, but different strokes for different folks is what I say.

Once you have collated all this information you can then use it to inform your style and tone – which then becomes your very own Tone of Voice.

And I will leave you with the fantastic quote by Maya Angelou, “people will forget what you said…and what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

If you have any questions about Tone of Voice or would like your very own beautifully created Tone of Voice document, please feel free to drop me an email on Helena@helenabaker.com or give me a call on 0208 629 6465.