The personality factor: Six steps to build your brand tone

October 16, 2015Uncategorized

By Laura Stansfeld, Content Strategist & Editor

It can easily slip off an ever-growing to-do list, but creating a brand tone is a key step in your content marketing efforts.

First off, a disclaimer. I’m a brand personality nerd. It’s the task I get most excited about when creating a content strategy, and I’m the person who looks at a website and thinks ‘oh, they’ve really thought about how their brand should sound’.

But it’s not just people like me who should be getting excited creating a brand tone. Every brand that produces any form of content – think blogs, website copy, videos, emails – should be taking the time to create a documented brand personality.

Your brand tone differentiates you from your competitors and creates a consistent experience for your customers.

Think of it this way: when you talk to your best friend, you know what they’re going to sound like, what their reaction will be, what they’ll look like. If they started talking in different voices, you’d be confused and a bit thrown. A brand is the same – if it sounds different in each interaction, it’s off-putting. Familiarity and consistency build trust – which is, after all, what we’re after in our relationships with our audience.

So now I’ve (hopefully) convinced you of the value of a brand tone, here are six easy steps to build one.

1. Do your research

Before you start thinking about your own brand tone, have a look at what other brands are doing. Snoop around websites, check out style guides, think about what works and what doesn’t.

Mailchimp is famously successful at incorporating its colloquial, slightly cheeky tone into every aspect of its brand communication, but closer to home Little Creatures has done a great job at creating an immediately identifiable personality; its casual, your-best-mate-who-is-obsessed-with-beer vibe is a perfect fit for its brand.

2. Get to know your brand

Now start thinking about your own brand. What’s its purpose? What are its values? Is it creative and cheeky? Authoritative and honest? What makes it unique? This understanding will form the basis of your brand tone.

If your company has brand guidelines, these are a good place to start. Your colleagues can also be a great resource – try asking them to give you three words that describe the brand.

3. Create your brand tone ‘mission statement’

Once you have a handle on your brand, try to answer the question ‘what is your brand tone?’  Think about communication style, language and tone, your brand’s relationship to its audience and the response the tone should evoke. This will become your brand tone ‘mission statement’.

4. Get into the detail

Now you have the what, it’s time to start thinking about the how. Adjectives and descriptions can be subjective – one person’s ‘casual and conversational’ and another’s ‘stilted and formal’ – so it’s important to give your writers and content producers the tools to help them produce the tone you’re after.

A few techniques may be useful at this point. The first is finding the celebrity that embodies your brand’s personality and tone – for example, Waleed Aly could be the representative for a brand that’s journalistic and authoritative but also snappy and conversational. Imagining this celebrity can help your producers shape their phrasing and writing style.

The second is creating ‘is/but not’ statements – for example, King Content is knowledgeable, but not patronising. These provide boundaries for your writers and help them understand where they should be pitching their tone.

The third is simply providing examples of the kind of writing that reflects your brand personality – and the writing you want to avoid. An easy way to do this is to find an existing piece of text and tweak it so it reflects the tone you want; next, rework the same piece of writing so it reflects the tone you don’t want. Explain why it does/doesn’t reflect your brand tone. Again, this gives your writers a reference point.

5. Get further into the detail

If your brand doesn’t have a style guide, now is a good time to create one, as this will help you create a consistent experience across your brand communication.

Put on your editor hat and think about the finer points of language, grammar and punctuation. Do you want your writers to use contractions?  How should people be referred to – by their first names or last names? How will you capitalise headings?

Make sure you’re explicit: do you care about minor grammatical mistakes or would you rather your writers write as they speak – minor errors and all?

6. Document, document, document

You’re done! But there’s no point having a brand tone if no-one uses it, so make sure you spend the time to document and disseminate your work.

Building a brand tone isn’t a quick task. But it’s creative, satisfying – and should have a noticeable impact on your content. Let’s get started.

Have any questions? Ask our strategists here.