As a B2B content commissioner, a prime part of your role is to make sure internally and externally produced content speaks with your brand’s tone of voice – but what does that mean in practice?
All too often, corporate brand guidelines focus on a list of aspirational statements and are light on detail – the specifics of what you should be looking for when you review blog posts, whitepapers, brochures and eBooks. Vague, subjective pointers like ‘be inspirational’ aren’t always the type of practical guidance you need.
We’ve been interpreting and implementing global organisations’ tone of voice guidelines for over 16 years now, so here’s a brief rundown of our top tips…
1. Look beyond the aspirational aims
Use any tone descriptors to give you a flavour of how a brand aims to sound, but don’t get too hung up on trying to interpret them into concrete examples. They’re usually included to paint a word picture, rather than to provide hard-and-fast rules. Remember, too, that these descriptors are highly subjective: what’s ‘visionary’ for one person could well be exaggeration for another.
2. Take your guidance from the examples
Good tone of voice guidelines will include plenty of examples, usually demonstrating before and after scenarios. This is where you can really get to grips with the mechanics of tone, seeing it in action and understanding how it varies between different content types. Often you learn as much from what the brand team doesn’t want than from what it does.
3. Remember the constants of any brand voice
The brand voice may go through many updates, but the fundamentals of tone will remain the same:
- communicate clearly and directly, leading with the benefits for the target audience
- get to the point – take out any sentences that don’t add value
- cut the jargon
- beware of over claiming – it’ll devalue your message
- use an appropriate level of explanation – don’t assume and don’t patronise
- be led by your audience – the tonal shade that works for CEOs might not be right for colleague communications.
4. Get a second pair of eyes on it
Particularly in the early days of a brand voice update, it’s often useful to get a marketing colleague to review the tone of a piece of content. This way your team will quickly build up a shared view how your brand voice should be brought to life and will be ready to give constructive feedback to content creators.
5. Connect with your brand team
Your brand team have invested huge amounts of time into developing the tone of voice guidelines and they know them better than anyone else, so use your brand colleagues. It’s never helpful when marketing departments see brand as a hindrance to getting content out. Instead, see the brand team as a resource you can tap into for clarification and guidance. Bringing brand in on your first few content reviews, or on any tricky issues, is always a good idea and will deepen your tonal knowledge for the future.
We are experts at creating B2B content in your brand voice. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more about working together.