Time for a brand tone of voice refresh?

by Anna Fozzard

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A brand’s tone of voice sets the scene. It lets your clients and colleagues know what you stand for and what to expect from you. After months of working more casually, is it time for communications to tone down too?

Remote work has far-reaching impacts. It’s changing the commercial property market (and, of course, the lunchtime sandwich trade), it’s altering people’s ideas of what they want from work, and it’s enabling more flexibility. But less discussed is how it has shifted the personality of businesses.

Overnight, the curtain was pulled back on people’s lives outside the office. Thanks to video calls, you can see your colleague’s and client’s art preferences, book choices and decor, and every day is dress-down Friday. Home-schooling also meant that children appeared unexpectedly, while cats jumped on laps (and keyboards) and dogs made themselves heard.

These glimpses into each other’s lives have made business more casual and more personal. Now that chats with colleagues and conversations with clients have become dressed down, surely it’s time for internal and customer communications to mirror this more approachable way of doing business.

Giving internal communications the human touch

As face-to-face meetings and coffee-station conversations ended abruptly, many businesses have reached out via collaboration tools to pull teams together (us too!). Instant messaging creates a more casual group conversation (especially when the gifs come out to play), which research suggests is a key part of collaboration and sparking ideas. Similarly, video calls are replacing the boardroom, meaning the background isn’t a pane of glass – it’s a spare bedroom, a living room or a dining area.

Formal internal communications have also adjusted, and, for many, these have focused on highlighting wellbeing support for employees. As we move towards the ‘next normal‘, we expect employee wellbeing to remain central to communication strategies. A company’s tone of voice will need to mirror this change in direction to demonstrate its commitments.

Client conversations go casual

We’re sure we’re not the only business noticing a change in the conversations we have with clients. With everyone going through similar life and work challenges, the line, ‘how are you doing?’, is no longer a standard conversation opener; it’s a genuine question that often brings a detailed response. We’ve also been introduced to new pets, old pets and, sometimes, partners and children. This more intimate way of talking to clients isn’t just a nice way to work with people; it’s also helping to build deeper relationships.

A more casual form of communication lays the groundwork for closer collaboration. Businesses that want this kind of relationship with clients can harness the power of language to demonstrate how they prefer to work.

Communicating with a common touch

We’ve been at the forefront of helping businesses shift to a more human way of communicating for years. However, the past year has been the tipping point that pushed lots more companies to take the leap themselves. To give you a couple of examples, the CEO and founder of clothing brand PrettyLittleThing donated his March salary to small businesses. They announced the news on Instagram Live, rather than more traditional PR platforms. Special mention also goes to Tesco’s communications team. When pubs in the UK reopened on 12 April, it encouraged customers to ‘pop to your local if you can’, which cemented its down-to-earth style.

Communication should always be authentic. And now that lots of businesses have cut ties with corporate behaviours and formal ways of collaborating, the way they write should also follow suit. Adjusting your tone of voice is one of the most effective ways to show your brand values and approach genuinely and seamlessly.

The human threat

As businesses gear up for success in the next normal, we expect many to adjust their communication strategies and brand voice to match their new, more human way of doing business.  Businesses that don’t will be at risk of becoming outdated.

Already, we see some businesses fight against the ‘next normal’ of flexible, more casual business. Goldman Sachs, for instance, has called remote working an ‘aberration’ to ‘correct as soon as possible’. While there are definitely some merits of the office environment (who else misses the office printer?) , many employees do not feel this approach or language aligns with their values.

Businesses that want to build a better link between their employees’ personal goals and life at the company can use their brand tone of voice to give a clearer indication of their employment style. Similarly, businesses can use their brand voice to create a clearer link between how they work with customers and how they talk to them.

Authenticity remains key for brand tone of voice

Whether a business is formal, casual or somewhere in between, its tone of voice should always be an authentic representation of its values, purpose and approach. When anyone – a colleague, an existing client or a new customer – interacts with your business, consistency of language is vital for giving the right impression.

We can help you define your brand tone of voice and speak in a way that shows who you are and what you stand for. Speak to our team about setting up a workshop for you and your team.

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