Internet of Things Brand Basics Blog Series: Tone of Voice

Bruce Leith

Blog by: Bruce Leith - 29 / Aug / 2017

In today’s blog, we’re back with our ‘brand basics’ series, which is exploring some of the fundamental building blocks of branding for new IoT businesses. The first in the series looked at the questions to answer before you begin – click here to read it. Next, we turned to the question of look and feel, and how you can best work with designers to define elements like logos, colours and fonts – you can explore that blog here.

So let's turn to an element of branding that is often ignored by new business directors – and indeed, is often neglected when thinking about branding overall. Tone of voice.

What is tone of voice?

Okay, so we all know what tone of voice means in everyday life. We can explain how a public speaker sounds authoritative or weak, serious or playful, quirky or staid. We can describe how particular writers have a distinctive style and vocabulary – how, once established, their anonymous articles can be picked out of a line-up purely by virtue of how they sound.

But what does it mean when it comes to a brand?

Businesses may not be able to speak or write themselves – but that doesn’t mean that they are voiceless. In fact, a huge amount of language can be attributed to a typical business, from the obvious – the copy on its website, the descriptions on its social media profiles, the text in its marketing collateral – to the not so obvious – the way its employees speak at networking events, and the language used by the staff in its all centre.

All these different sets of language add up to create a business’s voice. It’s a complex and multi-layered thing – and it’s a crucial part of the organisation’s overall brand.

Creating a tone of voice

Now, if you’ve followed the advice in our previous IoT brand basics blogs, you should already have a very clear image of your brand. You should know its audience(s), its unique sell and its look and feel. From there, understanding what a matching tone of voice sounds like should be fairly straightforward.

The tricky bit is concretising that tone of voice – creating a set of guidelines that you can refer back to each time you write a new piece of copy or send a member of staff to a new speaking event. Unlike visual elements of branding like logos or how your website looks, tone of voice is something that every member of staff has a stake in, even if it’s a small one, so it is always useful to have a physical tone of voice guide that you can give to designers, copywriters, PR partners and – of course – new staff members.

Here are some steps that might help:

  • Write down a list of adjectives that describe how your IoT business should sound. Come up with as many as you can – and then whittle them down to the four or five that are most important and distinctive.
  • Write a short sentence to explain why each adjective is important for your business’s tone of voice. For example: ‘We sound OPTIMISTIC, because we are a forward-thinking company that focuses on instilling confidence in our customers’.
  • Keeping these adjectives front of mind, write a description of your business, and its products or services. Leave it for a while, go back and read it again, keeping those adjectives in mind. Edit accordingly, until you are confident it lives each of those adjectives.
  • Read that description to a third party. Ask them to consider it in light of those adjectives. Does it marry up? Why? Why not?
  • Pairs of words can work well to explain that your business says X not Y, and to keep your vocabulary focused. For example: ‘We say USE, not UTILISE’.

The era of all businesses having to sound – well, business-like – is over. There’s no reason why your IoT business can’t sound playful and quirky – provided this is in keeping with the rest of the brand.

Topics: marketing, entrepreneur, sme, branding

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