Mention a Tone of Voice policy to a client and many are caught off guard. What is it, they ask, we have brand guidelines so why do I need one? Thankfully social media experts Ecce Media are on hand to answer these very questions and enlighten us to the importance of such a document.
What is a Tone of Voice policy?
As the name suggests, a Tone of Voice policy establishes the way you communicate with your audience whenever you are using non-verbal communication such as social media and newsletters. It’s a combination of language, personality, punctuation, grammar, vocabulary and communication styles, which combined, give your employees a set format and style for delivering information in a way which reflects the business. In short, it’s not what you say; it’s the way that you say it
Why is it important?
Think of a Tone of Voice policy as the nuts and bolts of your written communications. It’s as important as using the right font, corporate colours, and logo. By establishing a clear Tone of Voice, each and every written piece will be consistent, high quality, and reflective of your business, removing the margin for error and fears commonly associated with giving employees free rein on social media.
What does it include?
A robust Tone of Voice policy will cover all aspects of written communication including:
-When and how to use punctuation – A sentence ending “Help!” vs “Help!!!” has very different connotations
-Use of acronyms and slang –ASAP is fairly well understood but LOL(Laugh Out Loud) or BTW(By the way) might not translate to your audience
-Use of technical language –Communications online should be jargon free, so define limits on the use of technical language
-Checking for correct spelling – Insist that all communications are passed through a SpellCheck system and proofread to eliminate silly errors that reflect badly on your buisness business
-Use of capital letters – Whenever mentioning your business, ensure your company name is displayed correctly e.g Amazon vs amazon vs amaZon
-Consequences of swearing – It’s obvious that swearing is a no-no, but by establishing why and the consequences of doing so, you can pull up anyone that strays from the policy
-Clarifies Do’s and Don’ts– Make it clear how you want employees to use social media, e.g. Do give credit to the sources/websites you’ve used but don’t constantly share other people’s news
-Adapting tone for social media–Outline the specifics relating to the social media platforms you use e.g. how to use hashtags on Twitter, which images to use on Pinterest and so on
-How to react to certain situations – Policies should give solutions to common online communication problems e.g. how to answer contentious messages, what to do about timewasters and so on
-Check list for written content – Every communication should be clear, concise, and reflect your businesses principles/personality. Before sending out, double check your content ticks all the boxes
-Use of Humour – Each policy makes clear what level of humour is acceptable, if deemed acceptable at all
This list is by no means exhaustive, and the end policy should always be completely tailored to each client to reflect their brand guidelines and personality.
Why is it useful?
A Tone of Voice simply clears up and clarifies questions which will naturally arise when using social media, and sets out a clear set of guidelines.
It ensures consistency, which is particularly important when a number of people are responsible for producing written content online. Nobody likes it when a brand stretches their logo or uses different fonts, and the Tone of Voice policy gives uniformity to all written communications. It also provides every reader with the opportunity to understand the business’ stance on its tone, and gives grounds to ensure everyone tows the line.
A Tone of Voice policy establishes positive boundaries which ultimately encourage more employees to get involved. It removes the fear/risk element that prevents many from interacting normally by setting an example for staff to follow.
Much like brand guidelines, a Tone of Voice enables you to differentiate your business from its competitors, establishing a unique character and style that makes you more memorable. It conveys your voice, personality, helping you to stand out from the crowd.
It also clears up bug bears which fussy copywriters will lose sleep over. In the “and” vs “&” debate, our policy insists that you always use “and” unless 1) It’s part of a name e.g. M&S or 2)You are running out of character space.
Your policy won’t be fully-fledged style guide but it will most likely establish which style guide or dictionary your tone of voice is based upon. This allows anyone following the policy to have the correct point of reference when they need to query particular grammar or punctuation.
In conclusion, a Tone of Voice is essential to maintaining and managing a consistent and business focused online presence. As part of their new social media services, Ecce Media create water tight Tone of Voice policies which enable businesses to stand out online. To learn more about this service, and how Ecce Media can help you to create a policy, please get in touch.
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