Language is perhaps the most effective way to shape people’s perception of your brand. Your tone of voice is an expression of your vision and values, and the way you make an impression on everyone who consumes your contentt\. It’s the way we add colour and interest to the content we write so that people will be endeared, engaged, and invested.
In other words? It’s a pretty damn important part of what we do for our clients.
When we’re managing a client, it’s really important that the content we’re putting out into the world is top quality and true to brand, so spending some time on developing and elevating the tone of voice is a really important step in the onboarding process.
Some clients have a really clear, well-established brand tone of voice and vibe to slip in and emulate, while others might be in the start-up stages or a little uncertain about how they want to look and sound. Regardless of where a new client is in their brand journey, we have some onboarding steps mapped out to ensure that what we write for them hits the nail on the head.
First, we hold an exploration session with the client and ask them some questions.
An in-person [ or lately, on Zoom] chat is the best way to get a feel for a berand and the people behind it. While it’s possible for you to send off a questionnaire for your client to fill out, asking the questions in person allows you to get a feel for who your client is, and why they’ve been motivated to build their particular product or brand. An in person chat and the nuances that accompany it give a much clearer picture of who our clients are than dot points on a form. Some of the questions we like to ask:
Are you happy with your current tone of voice?
What are your business values? How do you commit to doing business in a way that is true to them?
Give us 3 words to describe how you’d like people to perceive you and your brand.
Do you have any brands you consider aspirational in terms of the way you’d like your brand to sound?
Serious or fun?
Formal or informal?
Regular mom or cool mom?
You get the gist!
Then we’ll go and put together a little document that builds on the information that they’ve given us, including words to use, words to stay away from, whose perspective we write from, and any other notes that we’ve made during the session.
Stylistic consistency is key.
For clients who want to maintain their current feel or tone, it’s the little details that can make all the difference, so we’ll hunt through the client’s prior activity [if it exists] and look for the following
- style or product names- do they have a consistent structure?
- em dash or hyphen?
- is the use of contractions consistent?
- What emojis do they use regularly?
- What are the names and terms of endearment they use to address their followers?
Basically, we have a proper ol’ stalk and make note of any stylistic choices to ensure the changeover is as seamless as possible.
Hemingway that shit
When we actually get down to the writing itself, It always takes some time to settle into a groove when writing for a new brand, and my tendency is to over-explain things that we ourselves don’t understand all that well – it’s human nature. Often for that reason i find first drafts for new clients often feel a bit wordier than I’d like, and Hemingway Editor is a tool I really love for breaking down paragraphs and removing superfluous words and phrases to let the ideas really shine.
Simply copy and paste your caption or paragraph into the editor window, and it will tear you to shreds [seriously, if you’re prone to hurt feelings, give this one a miss]. Seriously though, it’ll highlight parts of your content that are hard to read, cut through your excess word count [adverbs? Who needs ‘em?] and help you write with better clarity whilst still maintaining the integrity of your tone.
Ultimately, this process will differ a little bit depending on the client, but we find it really helpful to have as much information as we can gather when we’re writing from a new perspective. Sometimes it takes some edits to get it looking and feeling polished and true to tone, but we pride ourselves on collaborative relationships with our clients and taking feedback well, and when we see those little ‘approved’ messages [and sometimes even a little love note in the doc!] it’s fist-bumps all round our [virtual] office.