A bit of blue sky thinking

by Stratton Craig

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I’m going to put a stake in the ground here… I’m a big fan of the Twitter hashtag #thingsyouhearinagencies. It provides me with a constant stream of remarkably accurate phrases that I too-often find I’m guilty of dabbling in myself. Not to mention that it’s a great feed of ironic hilarity too.
I’ve come to use feeds like this as my verbal blacklist. It’s important to me that I try to steer away from these overused phrases for many reasons. Ultimately, for the sake of the business I work in. I’d guess that a good 95% of the brand bibles out there will tell you that differentiation is the equivalent of brand heaven. Companies really do need to make sure they don’t sound ‘just like everyone else’ if they want to get ahead of the curve – and that extends to each of the individuals in the team too. It’s time to think outside the box.
Taking care of the nuts and bolts
So what should I sound like when I write on behalf of the company? That’s where your linguistic game plan comes into play – a clearly defined tone of voice and easy-to-use practical guidelines. I’ve seen some seriously impressive tone of voice guidance in the past few years, and I’ve seen some quite nonsensical stuff too.
Guidelines are just that – guidance. Tone of voice is fluid, and to some extent I think each person should be able to adapt things slightly – especially with so many brands guiding their employees to write in a ‘natural’ way. But I also think that some steadfast values and clear communications principles are a must in order to keep your ducks in a row. You might want to consider including:

  • An introduction to your tone of voice
  • Some overarching principles that all communications should adhere to (try including some questions that an employee could ask themselves when reviewing their written work)
  • Some examples of copy (before and after shots can be really insightful)
  • Practical writing tips or dos / don’ts

So you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?
Implementing the guidelines is often the most challenging stage, but also the most important going forward – getting internal buy-in and understanding is the only way to ensure your new tone of voice comes across in every place that it should. Depending on the size of the company, this can be quite a long process – but when you look at some of the most distinctive brands today (Apple, John Lewis, Innocent Drinks and First Direct) we’re sure you’ll agree that a strong tone of voice is worth the wait.
After all, if your brochures, website, emails and newsletters are full of unbearable jargon or vague and meaningless statements, there’s every chance that daily conversations within your business will be plagued with the same problems. As such, your half-hearted approach embeds itself even more with your customers and clients. Shall we monetise that? Ok, the real icing on the cake of a defined tone of voice is a healthier bottom line.
Some of the best tone of voice guidelines I’ve seen have come from smaller companies – at the end of the day, if there’s more than one person writing on behalf of your brand, you’ll never be too small for a bit of solid guidance to ensure you’re all sailing in the same boat. So why not take the bull by the horns and reach out to Stratton Craig today? We, honestly, look forward to touching base.

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