An introduction to content marketing tone and style
Here at Castleford, we have a few key questions that we like to run through every time we start a relationship with a new client. One of the most important is “how would you describe your business’s tone and style?”
Sure, it sounds like a simple question with a simple answer, but you’d be surprised how many companies aren’t sure what their ‘voice’ is. Maybe there’s confusion or disagreement amongst an organisation’s leadership on how best to define their collective tone and style. Perhaps it’s simply not a topic that’s ever been given much thought. In a lot of cases, business leaders without experience in marketing don’t even know what tone and style are!
What are tone and style?
Contrary to what a lot of people believe, style and tone are absolutely not the same thing. The simplest way to put the difference is to say that style is the way something is written or said, while tone is the attitude being conveyed.
Style could be the use of lots of short snappy sentences, while tone is the expert, authoritative feeling created by a writer who really knows their stuff. Of course, style and tone don’t exist independently of each other. They combine to create a certain voice.
For example, using a lot of jargon or abbreviations in a blog post is a stylistic choice, but will have an impact on the tone of the piece as well – perhaps giving an audience the impression that the source is very knowledgeable in a certain sector (although maybe a tad dull). With this in mind, tone is the element that businesses should be looking to define, as it’s what their content will convey. Here’s how the Content Marketing Institute breaks it down:
“Tone of voice is the content within your content. It carries all of the implicit messages about who you are, who your company is, and what your brand is all about.”
So, does tone of voice matter? Absolutely! And getting it right has far more important benefits that simply making your articles more engaging.
The benefits of a consistent, engaging brand voice
These two words are the bedrock of why having a clearly defined tone and style is so important in content marketing. Engagement may seem like an intangible, but the more readable and interesting your content is, the more likely it will drive your audience to convert in whichever way you want them to. This could be signing up to an email or even making a purchase, but either way, you’ll be reaping the benefits of giving your content a proper personality.
Consistency is a more practical consideration when defining your company’s voice. It’s never a good look to have various pieces of content on your site that sound as if they were written by different people at different companies. Clearly defining a tone and style from the outside makes sure that this doesn’t happen, while also conveying a sense of reliability to your audience.
Together, engagement and consistency across your content help showcase the ‘people behind the business’ by giving your organisation a personality. In turn, this lets potential customers feel as though they’re interacting with other people, rather than a faceless company.
And if you’re still sceptical about the benefits of spending some time thinking about your brand’s voice, consider some of the organisations who take their style and tone seriously. A few companies that the Content Marketing Institute identifies as recognising that “crafting their content with its own distinct and recognisable voice helps differentiate their brands from their competitors” include:
A recent HubSpot article managed to collect the internal ‘style guides’ from a few different organisations, and it’s clear to see just how seriously the topic of tone and style is taken by these successful brands. For example, the Fresh Retail Adventures Jamie Oliver guidelines state very clearly that “our tone of voice is a purposeful passion,” before going on to define key characteristics such as “straight-talking and being energetic.” Everything has been taken into account, all the way down to clear instructions on limiting the use of adverbs and adjectives to keep content simple.
It’s important to remember that most businesses don’t operate on the scale of Jamie Oliver’s many ventures. Even so, while a style guidebook may not be required, it’s still a good idea to work with a defined voice, and we have a few top tips to make sure that happens.
Making your brand voice work: Three top tips
- Pick your voice, and stick with it: One of the most common problems that brands encounter with their brand voice is an inability to stick with it. This could be due to too many cooks in upper management who can’t agree, or a simple lack of editorial consistency between different writers. However, it’s vital that you stick with your brand voice once it’s been decided upon, to build trust and loyalty amongst your audience.
- Be different: “We want to be professional, but friendly.” This is without a doubt the most common way businesses describe their desired style and tone, and it’s not hard to see why. Professional, friendly, what’s not to like! The problem is that everyone wants to be professional but friendly, which results in a whole lot of brands sounding exactly like each other. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith with your brand’s voice. You don’t have to be snarky – although Wendy’s would disagree – but aiming for something slightly quirky can have a huge effect, setting your business apart from the pack.
Use it everywhere: Finally, don’t feel as though your freshly defined brand voice has to be limited to blogs and landing pages. Sprinkle your tone and style through internal and external communications as well, to ensure that every representation of your business reflects how you want it to be portrayed. After all, it’s what Jamie Oliver would do!