Survey Says: The Results of Our Survey on Content Style and Tone

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Earlier this year we surveyed more than 1000 marketers around the world about their companies’ content. Our goal was to see what insights we could gain by asking marketers about their content’s style, consistency, and tone of voice. In this post, we’re sharing some of the raw data that our survey yielded, along with our own impressions of what it means and why it’s important.

To kick off the survey, we wanted to get a sense of how marketers would characterize their content’s personality.

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While most people said it was either warm and friendly or proper and polished, it’s important to remember that these results reflect their own opinions. If you were to look at their companies — and particularly their content — you might get a very different impression.

Next, we wanted to know how consistent their customer-facing content is in terms of its tone and voice. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll know just how important we think consistency is on this front. And, not just in terms of marketing content, but rather all of the different types of content that companies create.

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Here again the results are interesting, though whether or not they’re an accurate reflection of reality is another question. The issue is that we only surveyed marketers, and marketers are often only responsible for marketing content. Since big corporations have lots of different people creating content, many of whom sit outside of marketing, these impressions might not reflect the reality for their entire company. Whether or not our respondents were taking all of those folks’ content into consideration is questionable. All the more so when you consider the results of our next couple of questions.

When we asked marketers how important they think style and tone are in terms of content effectiveness, 95.57 percent of them said it was either important or very important. Yet as the next chart shows, less than half of respondents had comprehensive brand guidelines for their messaging, language, and tone.

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This really is the most eye-opening finding of our survey because it reveals a pretty significant gap. Virtually all of the marketers we surveyed think that style and tone are important, yet 56 percent of them don’t have comprehensive guidelines in place that document what they should be.

Interestingly, among the companies that do have documented guidelines, only 32 percent of them indicated that everyone follows the guidelines across departments and geographies. Do the math and you’ll discover that means that only 14 percent of all of the marketers we surveyed have guidelines in place that are consistently being used. For anyone whose trying to create consistent at scale, that’s a problem.

The takeaway from all of this is simple: Style and tone matter, but most people aren’t giving it the attention it deserves. The question is, are you?