• Sara Brown-Rigoli

Master the Art of the Tone Guide

Important question: have you taken the time to create a tone guide for your brand? If not, what are you waiting for? Not sure what exactly a tone guide is or why it’s so important for your brand to have? Don’t worry, the answers to these questions are coming your way.

What is a Tone Guide and Why is it Necessary?

Let’s start here; what exactly is a tone guide? A tone guide is a blueprint for your company when it comes to writing copy and content in your brand’s voice. This may sound like an obvious tool most companies would create to have as a guide for any and everyone who will write in the voice of the brand at some point. However, you’d be surprised at the amount of companies that completely skip this step and just begin the process of copy and content creation.

When asked to describe their brand voice, the answers can vary based on who you ask in the company, which is exactly why a tone guide is so crucial to creating uniformity across the board. And trust me, when it comes to your brand voice, uniformity is a good thing as it absolutely helps you build trust with your audience. Remember - uniformity doesn’t mean boring! It simply means the voice and tone are consistent in each and every communication you have with your clients.

How to Begin Creating Your Tone Guide

In order to create a tone guide, there are some easy and simple steps you can take to get you started and on your way. If your company is already established and has been producing copy and content, do an assessment of the current voice and tone that is used throughout your marketing materials. Depending on how old your company is and how long you’ve been around, this step could take a bit of time. If your company is fairly new, or you’re still in the process of getting your company up and running, take the time now to establish a tone guide for your brand so it’s not something you have to circle back to later. Getting your ducks in a row here now will be a huge benefit in multiple ways moving forward.

Once you have done the assessment of your company’s current voice and tone, decide what elements fit with your branding and which ones need to be removed and replaced. Believe me, if there hasn’t been an established tone guide, there will definitely be elements you will not want to use for your brand voice. This is an important step because this is where you are laying the foundation to creating a consistent voice for your brand across all channels. Consistency is key, especially when it comes to messaging, as it can lead to a 23% revenue increase for brands.

Other Elements to Consider for Your Tone Guide

Now think about attributes that describe your company. An attribute is a quality or characteristic given to a person or thing; in this case, your brand’s voice. Best practice is to choose the top 3 attributes that represent your company best. These attributes could literally be anything: ambitious, balanced, generous, modest, proactive, sincere, understanding, and so on. There is no right or wrong choice for attributes, but it is important to be intentional with these choices. Remember, the goal is to build consistency in your brand, which builds trust with your audience, which leads to more sales.

The attributes have been determined, so now the focus moves to word choice. This can be the most tedious part of creating your tone guide because it requires a lot of detailed research and intentional thought behind the choices. You should be able to explain the intention of why you use one word over another. This is also where all syntax rules (i.e. sentence structure, language considerations, no passive voice, etc.) should be noted, as well. It is important to note that it is not necessary to adhere to any specific type of grammar rules or formatting, such as AP or Chicago style. What is necessary here is ensuring there is a cohesive style for your companies syntax rules across the board.

Determining the word choice for your brand helps with the next step; establishing brand language. These are things like your elevator pitch, USP (unique selling point), slogan, or any other set branding used for the company. If you already have these elements, do they fit within the tone guide you have created? Do they need to be reworked? Do they need to be thrown out completely and made from scratch? These should ultimately be the ideal examples of the tone and voice for your brand.

Do You Need a Copywriter to Create Your Tone Guide?

Can you create a tone guide by yourself with the help of a copywriter? Absolutely. Which is great news, as not every company may have the resources to hire a copywriter off the bat. This is the type of project that can be done in as little as an hour if you really need it on the fly. However, in order to have a properly detailed and thoughtful tone guide that is a reflection of your business, dedicating several hours to this project is a more realistic timeline. The real question you need to ask yourself is if you have the time, or even want to spend that time, on creating a tone guide for your brand.

Copywriters are paid experts at connecting businesses with people. They are masters of tone and word choice. Let them use their skills to do the research and writing. Spending the necessary amount of time on a project like a tone guide is what copywriters are literally paid to do for work. Paying an expert to delegate certain projects allows you the opportunity to spend that time focused on the areas of your business no one but you can do. Take advantage of a copywriter’s skills today and get that tone guide done.

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