Developing Your Organization’s Voice and Tone

Drive online engagement with your organization’s personality.

When it comes to engaging your audience, first impressions make all the difference. That’s why it’s crucial that you consider what the tone and voice for your organization will be. The way you communicate with your audience determines what type of relationship you will have with them.

Think about it. We’ve all been to that party or work function where the overbearing personality in the room makes you want to run for the nearest exit. The same goes for the personality of your organization on various social platforms. Voice and tone are key to driving your audiences to action and increasing online engagement.

Voice vs. Tone: How They’re Different

Many people think tone and voice are one and the same. In fact, tone and voice are two distinct elements of communication—and organizations should develop both in order to create consistency when communicating with audiences.

Voice is your style and point of view—think of it as your organization’s personality. Just like your own personality, it won’t change drastically from platform to platform.

Tone, on the other hand, is made up of the words you use, their order, rhythm and pacing. While your personality, or voice, will remain fairly steady, your tone may change based on the setting or platform on which you’re speaking.

Finding Your Voice

So how do you go about finding your voice? A good first step is doing a group exercise. Gather your team together and brainstorm all the attributes or traits that come to mind when you think about your organization. For example, if your organization was a person, would they be fair and patient? Loud and urgent? Compassionate and knowing?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start thinking of content that would help bring the personality of your organization to life.

Developing Your Tone

A good place to start when determining what your organization’s tone will be is to think of what your communication objective is. This may depend on what your issue or platform is. For example, if your issue requires urgent action, your tone will likely reflect that. If you want to establish your organization’s expertise on a particular issue, your tone may be more authoritative. Other times, it may be humorous, serious or snappy.

When finding your tone, ask yourself questions like these: What would best drive my audiences to action? What is the tone my audience is using on each platform we will be engaging with them on? Each platform can have a somewhat different tone based on the user, so make sure whatever you choose matches the space.

Perfecting your Voice and Tone

The most important part of developing your tone and voice is making sure they’re engaging your audience. Your voice may evolve over time, which is why evaluating and testing your content is critical to success. A good best practice is to take a step back after a month or two and evaluate if your voice and tone are working. Do they still feel reflective of your organization? Are your audiences engaging with you? If not, it’s time to re-evaluate and adapt.

Case Study: Our Tomorrow

Recently, our team at Hattaway Communications executed a crowdsourcing campaign called Our Tomorrow to help reimagine the future of the LGBTQ movement. The campaign’s goal is to engage members of the LGBTQ community and hear their hopes, fears and ideas for their future. After speaking with partner organizations, we determined the campaign’s personality would be family friendly and inclusive, and developed a voice reflecting that. The campaign’s tone was informed about the issues LGBTQ people experience in daily life.

After the campaign ran for almost a month, we took a step back and evaluated the engagement level of our audiences. While participation numbers weren’t low, there was room for improvement. We took a step back and reconsidered who our audience was and what tone they would respond to best. (We used audience archetypes as a brainstorming tool in this effort. Learn more about archetypes here.) We ultimately decided to tweak our tone to be more edgy and snappy—and we found our audiences became more engaged.

So, what’s your voice and tone? Remember, this is a process that often requires trial and error to perfect. Keep evaluating and tweaking your approach until you find something that really works with your audience and drives the level of engagement you want!