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Know your market: how tone of voice sets you apart

leonie waldron
Leonie Waldron
Head Strategist


  • Tone of voice isn’t what you say, it’s how you say it. It’s the words, style and approach you use in all your communications. 
  • When you present a clear and consistent message, it enhances trust with your customers.
  • Identifying your brand’s tone of voice involves taking a look at where your company’s values and your customer’s values intersect, and developing clear guidelines based on common communication characteristics.

What is tone of voice in branding?

Tone of voice is simply a fancy marketing term to describe how you speak to your customers, both verbally and in writing.

Tone of voice isn’t what you say, it’s how you say it.

Tone of voice can be something that is quite natural and intuitive to your team and your business, especially in smaller businesses that are closely aligned and have a clear vision.

However, often as companies grow, become more complex, and begin to outsource a range of marketing tasks to different suppliers and contractors, their tone of voice can become diluted and lose its clarity.

Why is having a clear tone of voice in copywriting important?

Tailoring the way you speak to suit your audience helps to ensure you are constantly reinforcing your brand in the minds of your customers.

Communicating with purpose helps differentiate your messages and reflects your brand’s unique personality, helping you to stand out from the crowd.

Plus, when you present a clear and consistent message, it enhances trust and prevents your brand from appearing muddled or unclear. Unclear communication is a red flag for customers, making your brand look untrustworthy and instilling doubt in the minds of customers.

So how do you actually identify your tone of voice and share this insight with your team?

wireframe for website

Identifying your brand’s tone of voice

Usually a company will use a communications strategist to help them develop a tone of voice (*raises hand* we can help you with that!).

If you’re going the DIY route, really understanding your audience is a great starting point. Then you’ll need to take a look at your core values and your mission, and identify the overlap where your company’s mission and values and your customer’s wants and desires meet. This is the sweet spot that will help your create messages that stick.

So, it’s time to break out the butcher’s paper – here’s how to write your own tone of voice brand guidelines.

How to define your company’s tone of voice in 6 simple steps

Here’s how:

  1. Create a clear idea of your ideal customer
  2. Review your mission, your core values and the problems that you solve for customers
  3. Map out where your values and your customer’s values intersect
  4. Write out the communication characteristics that fit naturally with these common values
  5. Develop a clear way to share your new tone of voice guidelines with your team
  6. Review periodically and revise as needed

Step 1: Know your market

“Psychology tells us that to build trust and credibility with fellow humans, we have to be empathetic.”


Understanding your ideal customer is the most important part of developing a tone of voice.

The easiest way to do this for businesses is to create a persona, which is an imaginary profile of your ideal customer. You can get as detailed as you want here, by noting down this person’s age, gender, likes, where they hang out online, what they struggle with and how they like to consume information. There are a lot of great data-driven ways to do this, for example digging into your Google Analytics.

But the best way to gain absolute clarity around your ideal customer is to choose a real person – either a current customer of your business or anyone you’ve worked with in the past.

Step 2: Get clear on your mission and values

It’s likely that you already have your mission, vision and values defined – these are usually pretty unwavering for most companies. They take a while to create, but once in place they act as the foundation of your organisation, and they should reverberate through everything you do.

If you drill down into your mission statement and your company values, you’ll find some common themes that you can focus on – things that matter to your customers.

Step 3: Find the common ground

Now you’ve had a fresh look at your mission and values, you can tease out the elements that overlap with what your customers want. For example, one of our values is ‘we deliver on promises and you’ll never have to chase us.’ This means we’re efficient at creating content, but don’t rush through things at the expense of accuracy or clarity.

From a customer point of view, our customers are after good quality writing with a fairly quick turnaround, so there is a lot of overlap here.

This can be summed up as:

‘We provide efficient, accurate and high-quality writing in a time frame that maintains the momentum in your business.’

And our customers ‘want relevant content that’s accurate and not full of errors, so we can avoid wasting time going back and forth making corrections.’

two colleagues in a meeting

Step 4: Define the characteristics of your voice

This is the fun part.

Continuing with the above example, how we work can be summarised using a few descriptive characteristics:

  • Confident
  • Expert
  • Understanding – ‘we get you’
  • Helpful

Working through the areas where your brand and your customer’s needs overlap will leave you with a long list of descriptive terms like this. Jotting them all down gives you an anchor to check your writing against, ensuring whatever content you’re creating fits comfortably in these parameters and projects a consistent tone.

And as mentioned earlier, defining your tone of voice becomes more important as you gain more people working on or within your brand.

Step 5: Share with everyone involved

A simple way to share your tone of voice guidelines with your internal team or with external contractors is to use a matrix.

This shows how to actually put into practice the voice characteristics you’ve identified.

This can include simple do’s and don’ts that people at all levels of your business can understand. (And having this actually down on paper is incredibly helpful for any external marketing consultants you work with too!).

For example, if authenticity is one of your values, and something your customers crave, you can convey this by speaking honestly and directly, owning up to mistakes and honouring promises.

On the flipside, using misleading words, unsubstantiated claims, spammy headlines or complex language will erode your authenticity, so it’s important to note what not to do in your tone of voice guidelines too.

Step 6: Review and update regularly!

Like all parts of your brand, your tone of voice is constantly evolving and changing with your customers. So, make sure you review it often!

Brand guidelines are living, fluid documents, so ensure that you set aside some time to review them – once a year is usually a good interval for manufacturing and construction companies.

Need help with defining your tone of voice?

If you’re not keen on working through this on your own, get in touch for a fully mapped out done-for-you communications strategy.

This includes your tone of voice plus a range of other key concepts to ensure you’re communicating to your customers with consistency and clarity.

Chameleon Marketing Collective is a digital marketing agency in Western Sydney. We work with industrial companies around the world, so send us a message if you’d like to get the ball rolling.

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