Don’t use that tone with them! How to strike the right tone in your communications

By Simon Iatrou,

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once produced what he described as a “dirge” on noise.

“The superabundant display of vitality, which takes the form of knocking, hammering and tumbling things about, has proved a daily torment to me all my life long,” he wrote in 1851.

Quite what he would have made of 2018 is difficult to imagine.

The average adult now makes up to 35,000 decisions daily, while we collectively produce some 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.

Meanwhile, the web is turning writing and comms into a data science. Search engines like Google guarantee businesses audience engagement if they stick to a certain algorithmic formula.

But PR professionals should be cautious of repetitive and colourless SEO-focused content. Only an authentic tone of voice will cut through the noise online. Here’s how to find yours.

REMEMBER YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE

We know that a customer’s location, culture and demands can dictate their interaction with a brand, and we often use semi-fictional characteristics to create a ‘buyer persona’ or target audience when creating campaigns.

However, too few brands use this persona to create their tone of voice. The consumer should inspire the language used in all messaging.

AVOID CONTENT FATIGUE

If you’re in an agency, there’s a strong chance you’ll be writing about broadly similar topics for a range of clients.

To a certain extent, this is unavoidable. Take big data – it’s a newsworthy and popular topic. Therefore, the likelihood is that your business isn’t saying anything new with its content. Don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons and keep up to speed with what your competitors or customer’s competitors are doing to avoid repetition.

FIGURE OUT WHO YOU’RE SPEAKING FOR

As an agency or in-house practitioner, you’ll be writing from the perspective of different people in any one business.

Depending on which sector you are targeting, this could be the CEO, marketing director or chief information officer. Each will require a different tone of voice. A CEO will want to connect with other business leaders, so anything written from their point of view must inform strategy.

Meanwhile, an IT expert will only appear authentic if they can speak in technical language that resonates with their peers.

BE CONSISTENT

Consistency is key. It’s important to establish a set of rules, which may mean developing templates, briefing documents or even a more in-depth house-style document. Sit down with your customers or colleagues and tackle the points above.

“A great intellect sinks to the level of an ordinary one, as soon as it is interrupted and disturbed, its attention distracted and drawn off from the matter in hand; for its superiority depends upon its power of concentration,” wrote Schopenhauer.

Formulate a plan, stick to that plan and, soon enough, an authentic, effective tone of voice will emerge.

Simon Iatrou is content manager at Magenta Associates.


This article was originally published in Influence magazine, Q4 2018.

Image courtesy of Max Pixel via CC2.0

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