What is voice and tone, and why is it so important for your writing?
THIS is why using a consistent brand voice and tone is important.
I received a Facebook message from someone interested in purchasing my original wedding dress I am selling on Facebook Marketplace. They asked me if it’s available and I said yes.
“Are you interested?” I asked, crossing my fingers, half expecting to be ghosted like every other Facebook Marketplace interaction.
“It’s for my kid sister! It’s exactly what she wants,” they told me. “I hope it’s in good condition.”
“Great! It’s in perfect condition. I’m sure she will love it.”
“That’s awesome! I’d love it.”
“Great. I can meet you later today if you’d like.” I was thrilled someone was interested, as I was losing hope anyone was going to buy this dress.
“I’m not available today, but I can have my son meet you. I’ll send you the money now so it’s all set.”
“Perfect, sounds great.”
After some “technical difficulties”, they confirmed that the money was sent.
“Hello, the payment was successfully made and Venmo notified me that you should receive a confirmation regarding the transaction in your emails.”
I paused. Now it sounded like a whole new person. What? Suspicion started bubbling in my gut.
“Hello? Are you there?” they asked.
“Yes, I didn’t receive an email.” I had a feeling there was nothing.
“It’s my pleasure to tell you that the payment was made and I received an alert that an email was sent to your email inbox. Please check your mail box to confirm.”
I checked again…nothing.
“You should have received an email already. Check again.”
“Omg it should have sent already, that’s why I said check again. Probably in spam.”
My patience was dwindling.
But lo and behold, an email DID send…to my spam folder…with a fake email address…asking for a runaround of requesting more money from the sender and somehow I would receive an extra $50.
I decided to just be straight. “Is this fake?”
“Nothing is fake.”
“You sound way different than how you were talking before.”
“What would I gain from lying to you?” They pressed. “My money is out of my account.”
“Sorry, I’m going to have to back out of this. Thanks anyway,” I wrote.
“What about my money? You have this all wrong!”
Now, there’s a difference between moods (tones) changing if something is annoying someone (like when they saw I was catching on to them) and a complete change in voice.
As soon as I received, “It’s my pleasure to tell you that the payment was made…” I was 99% sure this was a scammer since this voice didn’t match the voice at the beginning of the conversation. It sounded like a completely different person.
What happens if a brand’s voice and tone aren’t consistent is that the brand becomes less believable, like the scammer who I was interacting with. A brand is supposed to be one brand and one entity, not multiple. Once it starts sounding like more than one “person”, it confuses the audience. Clearly, my scammer buddy didn’t understand this either.
Before we dive in, you’ll also want a bangin’ portfolio to show off your voice and tone skills! Whether you need to start from scratch or give it a boost, my free guide will lead the way. Access the guide below.
Voice and tone defined
So, what’s voice and tone anyway? A lot of people may interchange the two terms, but they are actually quite different.
Voice is what stays consistent no matter the situation. Think of this like your personality.
Tone is what changes depending on the situation, but stays true to the voice (personality) of the brand, like the brand’s attitude. Think of this like when you’re reacting to happy news vs. sad news. Your personality remains consistent but you’re reacting to two different things.
The challenge of remaining consistent with voice and tone is most prevalent when more than one person is writing for one brand. We may all have our own style of writing, but we have to learn the brand voice and tone to make sure that no matter who is writing, it always sounds the same. It’s tricky but very important!
For example, it would be strange if you saw these two social posts for the same company:
Come on down for our summer sale! All sundresses are now 70% off and you can enter to win a raffle prize for a shopping spree with two of your friends! Yeah, we can’t believe it either. What a way to start a new season.
Hello. We are closed today, August 1. Thanks.
Those two posts have a completely different feel to them, right? They don’t really feel like they could be coming from the same entity. So how would we fix that? We may rewrite the second post to:
We are closing for the day on August 1st, but don’t worry—shopping continues on August 2nd.
A little better, right? You can feel their personality coming through more with the revision and the tone is more consistent with the first.
One great example of how voice and tone are defined for a brand is seen in Mailchimp’s content style guide. They clearly state how the brand should sound and feel like, assigning it a personality and attitude. When a new writer joins the team, they will read this and have a strong understanding of how to write for them.
If you’re working with clients, be sure to ask them about what they’d like their voice and tone to be since they may want to refresh their brand or remain consistent. Some clients may not even understand what voice and tone means, so now you can explain it to them and why it’s so important!
If you’re working within a marketing department of an organization, the voice and tone of your brand may have been discussed, but be sure it is well established and understood among anyone who is writing for the brand and clearly stated within a style guide (like what Mailchimp did) or some other document that anyone can access just so everyone is on the same page.
I’m rooting for you!
P.S. Anyone looking for a wedding dress? Haha….