Blog | Walsworth

How to Set the Right Tone to Reach Your Audience

Written by Christoph Sisson | March 10, 2015

What you have to say is important, but how you say it can be just as vital. Developing a distinct and consistent tone of voice can help your company stand out among others while developing familiarity and trust among your audience.

Your selected voice should effectively communicate your company's values in ways that resonate with your readers. Your tone of voice should illustrate personality and core values through consistent communication that builds trust through familiarity.

This tone should be utilized across all platforms that reach customers or potential customers, such as your website, social media sites, blog posts, emails, letters and company literature.

Hone Your Tone
Craft a tone that feels like it specifically fits your company. Incorporate favorite expressions and word choices; employ themes that fit your values (such as being yourself, helping others, following dreams, etc.); make notable image choices (lots of tight shots, or bright bursts of color, for example); communicate emotions in ways that resonate with people.

What words or phrases communicate the values you want to impart? Is your company smart, visionary, techy, warm, helpful? Do you want to help people make life easier, learn more, beautify their surroundings?

Carefully choose your words to avoid awkwardness or ambiguity. Short, carefully worded sentences help keep your message clear and avoid misinterpretation.

Part of developing your voice is letting it flow. Try to relax and let the words come naturally, and then go back and edit, reading your copy out loud. It's an excellent way to make sure your tone rings true.

Consider Your Audience
Who do you want to reach? Think about how best to reach your audience as much as you think about your values and what you want to communicate. Your message has to resonate with these people, so your tone should take into consideration whether you're addressing parents, sports enthusiasts or teachers.

Formal vs. informal
An important question when setting tone is where you want to be in terms of formal vs. informal. You can be too stiff, but you can also be too casual. Where you fall on that spectrum should depend on your publication's subject, focus and values, and your audience, but you should generally strive for some degree of conversational tone, which humanizes your company.

Many companies write in second person much of the time, which creates a more personal connection and shows interest in customers' needs and desires.

Look for punchy phrases that you can make your own. Nike adopted its "Just Do It" slogan long ago, a short and simple phrase that communicates a positive message of encouragement. What works for your company?

What About Humor?
Is humor appropriate for your communication? Perhaps, but how much and the type of humor depends on the overall message you wish to convey. Your publication may lend itself to a laugh-out-loud-funny blog post, advertisement or social media post, or it may be more appropriate to make subtly clever statements that bring a smile rather than a laugh.

Take care not to be offensive; even an innocent but poorly worded phrase can do major damage.

Storytelling Magic
Storytelling is an art that can capture the heart of the reader. It's an excellent way to communicate the human side of your business and invite readers to relate to you, and you can do this in multiple ways, including the “About Us” section on your website, blog posts, and social media.

The roots of your company probably have some interesting stories. Dairy Queen started because a man and his son had a recipe for soft-serve ice cream that they took to a friend's ice cream shop. It was such a hit that the three of them opened up the first Dairy Queen. History like that calls for storytelling magic that reaches readers.

Be Consistent Yet Flexible
Create a style guide for those who create content. Update it as necessary, follow it consistently but flexibly, and have consistent editing and proofreading. Recognize that tone will sometimes need to shift depending on the context and the medium. An announcement of an award needs to have a different tone than a letter of apology, for example.

Grow Your Tone
To help expand your audience reach, leave room for growth in your tone, and be open to feedback from colleagues, customers and others with whom you interact. Some of your best practice can be done on social media, where your messages are likely to receive relatively swift feedback in comparison with a blog or newsletter.