Defining your brand tone of voice is no easy feat. 

You need to conduct industry research, identify your brand values, use them to guide your tone of voice guidelines, and then systematically roll that out across your enterprise. We know this can be daunting. But we’re here to make it easier for you!

First, we’ve put together this awesome quick start guide to help your brand define and maintain your tone of voice across all company content. This is the best place to start if you either don’t know your brand’s tone of voice or you want to refresh it. We’ll guide you through different exercises and highlight important things to consider when defining tone of voice. 

Second, we’ll show you the benefits of using technology, such as a content improvement platform. Through guiding your content teams to write consistently in your brand tone of voice, maintaining your tone across all enterprise content will never have been easier! What’s more, a content improvement platform combines content insights at the point of content creation, which results in more effective content that resonates with your audience.

So, what are we waiting for? Let’s dive straight in! 

Conduct Industry Research 

Before you define your tone of voice, you’ll have to ask a few questions. Like:

  • What industry are you in?
  • What three values or qualities must all companies in your industry have?
  • What other values are projected by some companies in your industry?
  • What values aren’t being used by any companies, or by very few?

This will give you a sense of which tones are used by other brands in your industry. You’ll discover which tones are industry-specific, and which tones you could use to differentiate your brand. 

Next, use this worksheet to help you dive into the specifics of how your competitors use tone of voice. In essence, you need to run a competitor analysis to better understand how competitor brands use language:

Competitor Analysis Worksheet
Company 1Company 2Company 3
Reference CompaniesExample: Microsoft
Reference Materials (Optional)
What did you base your analysis on?
Website copy, blog posts, support documentation, social media, etc.
Brand Positioning
How does each brand position and differentiate itself?
As the market leader and a brand customers can count on.
Use of Language
How does each brand use language to communicate?
To share big ideas in short and simple sentences – “Less head, more heart.”
Type of Tone
How would you describe this brand’s tone of voice?
Relaxed, clear, and helpful.

With the global pandemic accelerating the number of online customer experiences, it’s challenging for brands to stand out in crowded digital marketplaces, where everyone is fighting for attention. But providing exceptional experiences for your customers gives you a competitive edge! Bad content, that lacks a consistent tone of voice, ruins customer experiences daily. 

Often overlooked, content plays a massive role in CX. So, make sure when you’re defining and documenting your tone of voice that you keep customer experience in mind. Check out The Content Guide to Better CX for more tips on how to create a content operation that helps you deliver great CX. 

Identifying Brand Values

Knowing your brand identity and values is fundamental to developing your tone of voice. Start with answering this questionnaire. We wrote a more in-depth blog about this process, which you can check out if you want more detail. Alternatively, if you already have three one-word values to define your brand, jump to the next section.

Brand Values Questionnaire 
Who you areDescribe your company in one simple sentence.
What you doExplain what you do in one simple sentence.
USPs and differentiatorsWhat makes you special or unique? List three points.
MessagesWhat are the most important things you want your audience to know? List three messages.
PresentationHow do you present yourself to customers? List three values/attributes you aim to project, and say why/how in each case.
PerceptionsWhat do customers think of your company? List three quotes or sentiments from actual customers.
PersonalityIf your brand were a person, what would they be like? How would they speak? List three personality traits and explain each one. 
ValuesBased on your answers, choose the core values that describe your brand. List three values and explain exactly what you mean by each one. 

Your brand values are what make you distinct, but there are some values that are universal. Regardless of industry, you need to have inclusivity at the heart of your brand. It’s vital to use inclusive language when communicating to your customers, employees, and partners. For more details The Acrolinx Inclusive Language Guide shows you how to bring inclusivity into your content strategy. And remember, inclusive language is about more than just avoiding offensive words — it aligns your intention with impact. 

Developing Your Tone of Voice

Now it’s time to get into the specifics of your tone. This part of the process builds a bridge from your brand values to your tone of voice. And remember, you aren’t trying to find the perfect tone, but the right tone for your brand and industry. Use this worksheet to help translate your values into tone:

Tone of Voice Worksheet
Value 1Value 2Value 3
Brand Values
Enter your three one-word brand values.
Example: Rigorous 
How do your values sound?
Give a brief description of how each value sounds when “it speaks.”
Clear and concise when specifying projects or explaining ideas. Always give concrete details and don’t generalize. Stick to shorter sentences, etc. 
Types of tone
Using some of the types listed below, enter some that are appropriate for your values.
Punchy, concise, practical, etc.
Elements of tone
Start thinking about how that will affect your content and how to put your tone to work.
Word length, sentence length, less jargon, etc. 

To help you with thinking about the types of different tones your company could use, here’s a few examples of the tone types you could pick:

Formal InformalInspirationalPractical

Increasingly, brands are shifting their tone of voice to show more compassion, empathy, and authenticity. Regardless of the industry, many enterprises want to resonate with their audience in a competitive online marketplace. We’ve written about the importance of empathy in business communication before, but it all starts with consistency of brand voice. And as empathy in content is such an important topic, we wanted to go into greater detail. In case you do too, check out our guide Empathy in the Workplace: Humanizing Content for a Better World

Roll Out Strategy

Once you define your tone of voice, you then have to strategize about how to roll out and maintain that tone across your enterprise content. Use this table to think about how to implement your tone definition into your content workflow. Here are some ideas for how to get started:

Roll Out Strategy Worksheet
How/where will your tone of voice guidelines be published?Such as a tone of voice guide, page on internal website, PDF, automated content platform, etc.
How will your tone of voice be shared?Will you have internal communications, training, etc.
What techniques will you use to maintain your tone of voice?Will you be self-monitoring, using an automated platform, getting documents approved by supervisors, etc. 
Who is in charge of maintaining and monitoring tone of voice?List individuals or managers of the relevant teams. 
Which individuals/teams are involved in creating content, and who will monitor tone?
This could include teams or departments. Content creators could also be responsible for monitoring their own tone.
Content creators:
Tone monitors:
Outline the process you’ll use for creating/approving content.Consider stages such as content strategy, content planning, writing, submission, feedback, edits, final approval, publication, revision, etc.
How will tone of voice be integrated into your content creation process?
Which pieces of content will you work on first?
Which content can be left until later?

This part of the process is where technology comes in. Maintaining your tone of voice across all enterprise content is a lot of work. And to do it efficiently, you need to harness the power of AI and automation. 

A centralized content improvement platform should guide your writers to create content in your brand tone of voice. This means that large teams, with different language skills, across different locations, can be guided to meet your content strategy and goals. Automation carries the burden of time-consuming editing for quality control, and integrates into your content creation process to deliver automatic alignment.

How Acrolinx Can Help!

Now that you’ve spent the time developing and defining your tone of voice, it’s time to roll it out and maintain it across all your enterprise content. 

Acrolinx is an AI-powered platform that improves the quality and effectiveness of enterprise content. By giving your writers immediate in-depth feedback on the clarity and style of their writing, you can create content that’s on-brand, consistent, and resonates with your audience from the first draft! If you want to know more about how Acrolinx can help you maintain and improve your tone of voice, let’s talk.