Business communications can be tricky. You want your brand and messages to stand out and be memorable and respectful and not offend (or bore) anyone. Is it okay to be witty, or should a serious business always play it straight? Can you mix it up sometimes, or is it best to pick a style and stick to it?

Let’s explore how you should think about your company’s tone of voice and how to develop the right communication style for your small business.

What Is Tone of Voice?

At its most basic, tone of voice is defined as the way someone speaks to you, whether in person or written (think business emails, your website content, social media updates, etc.). But it’s not always as simple as it sounds.

An irate man yelling into a phone

For example, the words you choose when you speak and write can convey many emotions to your audiences: humour, concern, trust, empathy, excitement, confidence, support, optimism, anger, and mistrust.

Tone of voice can be conveyed through things like:

  • Sound (loud, soft, cadence, alliteration)
  • Syntax (the arrangement of words, the structure of phrases – are they detailed or punchy?)
  • Case, punctuation, and font choices (in written messages)
  • Voice (active vs passive)
  • Point of view (first person vs third person)
  • Style (conversational vs formal)

Why Does Tone of Voice Matter in Business Communications?

Words matter – everyone knows that! But it is not just what you say, but how you say it and how consistent you are with your tone.

Would you trust a boss who yelled at you one minute and then tried to be your buddy the next day? It’s hard to trust a tone that keeps shifting or is misused. You may try to be witty but end up offending someone. And too often, the problem is your tone of voice may evoke different emotions than you meant to convey.

Do you want to engage in conversation with quick, to-the-point messages or provide esoteric academic research? Think of a time you received a text in all caps, for example, or the last serious note written in Comic Sans font and how it made you feel about the message or the sender.

What Are the Benefits of Developing a Tone of Voice?

Your tone of voice can engender trust by consistently showing your brand values. If your audience has similar values, they will feel more warmth and loyalty toward your brand. It can help your brand stand out and appear genuine and human.

When done well, people can respond to an effective tone of voice as if the brand is a person they like and would want to do business with or get to know better. Customers tend to be more emotionally connected to a brand that seems authentic and uses a positive tone of voice and are more likely to be loyal to that brand and its products once they feel connected. That leads to brand loyalty, which is difficult to attain and translates to more significant sales and higher revenues.

How to Decide on the Right Tone of Voice for Your Business

Think about your brand values, mission statement, and target audience. What types of communication styles do they use or are used to seeing from others? Start there and let that guide you. Consider how you want your brand to be perceived and explore ways in which you can stand out without alienating your core audience.

Imagine your brand as if it were a person sitting across from you. What kind of personality would you want it to have? Conversational style in business communication is crucial to pinpoint. Do you want to appear friendly? Empowering? A bit silly? Compassionate? Authoritative? No matter which tone you choose, there are a few universal guidelines:

  • Be conversational – even the most corporate of brands should sound human
  • Be consistent across channels (don’t be super witty on Instagram but corporate on Twitter)
  • Stay away from jargon
  • Develop a business communication style guide

In What Types of Communications Do You Use Tone of Voice?

Tone of voice is most effective when it is consistent across all channels, including places you may not immediately think of, such as day-to-day interactions with partners, sales calls, job postings and product descriptions on your website.

The more consistent you can be, the more authentic your brand’s personality and the more trustworthy and genuine it will seem to your audience. Some of the places you should think about tone of voice include:

  • Voicemail greetings
  • Email marketing, campaigns, and communications
  • Advertising (online and offline)
  • Social media profiles and messages
  • Website and corporate materials
  • Human resources and recruiting
  • Press releases and quotes in the media
  • Public speaking engagements and presentations

Protecting Your Business Is About More Than Saying the Right Things

Any time you interact with the public, no matter how sound your business communications plan is, it can make you susceptible to risk, potential lawsuits and specific insurance claims. For example, you might end up in hot water if you published unflattering remarks about a competitor, and they are not well received. Or you could be sued for giving bad advice online or if a product you sell ends up hurting someone.

Always protect your business with an insurance policy that’s custom-built for you. Fill out an online application to get a free quote from Zensurance, or talk to us to learn more.

Related Posts

Share This Story:

About the Author: Gail Balfour

Gail Balfour is a writer, editor, and senior content designer with more than 20 years of experience covering areas of business, finance, insurance, technology, and health care. A former editor of ComputerWorld Canada, she has worked with several organizations and publications, including Backbone Magazine, PwC Canada, and RBC Canada