Just as you can expect a letter from the bank to read very differently to one from an old friend, a business should clearly set out the way it speaks to existing and prospective customers using what’s called tone of voice. Having your own distinct tone of voice is one of the ways you can effectively engage with your customers, and is the surest way to communicate your core values and beliefs.
Whether it’s through the messaging on your posters or the cheeky descriptions of your meals on the menu, a good tone of voice is the result of having a firm understanding of your audience.
From language and sentence structure to grammar and personality, you need a consistent and recognisable written ‘voice’. Not only will it make it easier when it comes to customising and personalising your marketing material, but it will make your products and services much more professional, credible and trustworthy.
Here we bring you a step-by-step guide on how to create a tone of voice.
1. Carry out a content audit
It’s easy to say you need a tone of voice, but how do you develop the right one? Your stakeholders (customers, employees and other interest groups) will be able to help you. Draw up a simple survey, asking them what words and associations they think reflects your brand and its products or services.
If you have already created content, whether that be for a website, social media or offline promotional literature such as your business card and flyers, take a more critical look –
- Do you consistently use the same ‘voice’ and language across all mediums?
- What does, and what does not work?
- Are there any anomalies you would like to remove as they no longer ‘fit’?
2. Define where you’ve been and where you’re going
You need a brand identity, so make sure your company has a clearly defined and agreed vision for the future. You will need to create a:
- Mission statement
- Vision for the future
- Strong set of core values
Consider these alongside your logo, website, products and services and check that the tone and messaging is reflective of who you are, who you want to be, and where you want to go.
3. Question your personality
Not yours personally, but your company’s. Ask yourself – what would my brand be like if it was a person?
First, draw up three broad-brush characteristics or values, for example:
- A building society – reliable, honest and professional
- A wine merchant – knowledgeable, established and sophisticated
- A children’s charity – caring, informative and trustworthy
Now consider where on the scale of extreme styles set out below, you want your company to be:
- Traditional or Contemporary
- Professional or Casual
- Informative or Conversational
- Cool or Warm
- Serious or Fun
- Relaxed or Energetic
4. Pinpoint your style
The characteristics and personality of your brand should influence your writing style consistently across all products and stationery, such as the language you use, which even in its simplest form will be formal or informal. Consider the wording used here, the first word being more informal than the second:
- Find out or Discover
- Enjoy or Experience
- Join or Sign up
- Needed or Required
- Allow or Enable
- Book or Reserve
Whichever style and language you choose, just remember to keep your tone of voice simple as at the end of the day you want your message to be clear.
5. Set your tone
The length of the sentences and words you use will create different degrees of tone and pace. In simplistic terms, punchier language combined with shorter sentences appear chatty and lively, while more elaborate word usage and longer sentences sound more formal and relaxed.
Be careful though, if you get this wrong you could come across as blunt and aggressive or rambling and directionless.
6. Make a decision on ‘which grammar?’
When it comes to marketing material, such as an advertising campaign, brochure or personalised posters, your content needs to be free from mistakes. However you might want to relax the rules when it comes to grammar, depending how you want your brand to come across. Here are some points to consider:
- If you want livelier sentences, try starting them with conjunctions such as ‘And’ or ‘But’, or prepositions such as ‘For’ or ‘With’
- Try removing the word ‘that’ as it often adds nothing to the meaning, only clutter
- Forget the rule, never use a preposition to end a sentence ‘with’, otherwise you will end up writing like this: ‘Never use a preposition with which to end a sentence’
7. Be consistent
The choices you make on all elements of your tone of voice guide will be with you for as long as your brand is, so make sure you’re happy with your decision.
Consider ahead of time, and ask yourself – will this choice of grammar or style suit my brand down the line? Will it allow me expand and grow?
Outline your general tone of voice in a style guide, such as:
- Company Name and Job Titles to be capped up, or write everything but people and place names in lower case
- Drop the www from websites, such as instantprint.co.uk
- Never use semi-colons where commas will do
- Anglicised foreign words such as cafe do not need accents when writing for an English-speaking website
Whatever you decide to do, the trick is to stick with it.
“In this country, what we need is more intellectual input into design.” – Jonathan Barnbrook, one of the UK’s most active graphic designers
They might be small, but well-designed business cards can make a big impression. The trick is to know what, and what not to include in terms of written content and design. After all you have limited space in which to get your message across, so you’ll need to use it wisely.
From the weight of the card and finish – matt, gloss or velvet, laminated– to the font type and size, the look and feel is key to making that first impression. For those who do not have a design in mind, our artwork and graphic designers can help you with a great looking design.
Here, we explore the essential components of a successful business card.
- What to Include
You have little room, so be concise. All you need to include is your name, company name, website and one or two ways to contact you.Your aim is to provide enough information so your new contact can find out more about your business and arrange to speak or meet with you again.Always include a direct dial landline number where possible, as it earns trust. Adding a mobile number makes you available and open to further contact. Only include a work email address – it might have been funny 5 years ago, but an address such as James007@email.com will see your card being placed in the nearest bin.
- What not to include
It may be tempting, but do not try to fill every inch of a business card.A full postal address is rarely needed so, if you can, leave it off. Only add social channels if it is relevant to you and your brand.Anything that can be found on your website or by asking you, such as your company values or your product prices, do not need to be included here.
- White Space
Leaving white space is just as important for your design as the paper you choose. Also known as negative space, it gives definition and emphasis to visuals, and improves the structure and layout of content.
You want your business card to look good and suggest quality. This is determined by the thickness or stock of the paper you choose. A thick business card will feel more professional, but be careful as the paper can be more expensive.All our classic business cards are printed on high quality 450gsm stock as standard.
We offer various finishes across our classic, premium, luxury and un-laminated business cards. Three popular finishes you might be interested in are matt, velvet and gloss.Matt is the most popular, giving an understated and non-glare finish. It works best on lighter background colours.Velvet has the deepest, richest and most vibrant of the finishes, and feels silky soft too.Gloss will bring the colours of your card to life, with a shiny finish.
- One Side or Two
Ultimately, whether you decide to use one or both sides of your business card is personal preference.The back of the card gives you space for additional information while it can also give you room to show some personality, whether using your company logo, an eye-catching visual design, an inspirational quote or a simple ‘hello’. However, printing on both sides can add to the cost – especially if printing in full colour – so make sure you are aware of this before placing an order.
Creating a visually arresting and professional custom business card does not have to come at a cost. For those without a design in mind, there are many quality templates available that can take you through the process step-by-step and save you money.
We have various business card categories and hundreds of card templates for you to personalise.