Say WHAT? Using Tone and Turn-of-phrase to Tune Into Your Audience

There’s a lot of talk in the marketing communications field about establishing a brand voice. Some companies even go so far as to codify their brand “personality” in their style or identity guide. Tone, personality, voice, mood…these are all terms that essentially describe the same simple concept: how you communicate with your potential and existing customers. To some extent, it’s a chicken/egg process: your brand personality will determine your base demographics as much as your target demographics will determine how you craft said personality. Put simply, you want to know whom you’re talking to and have a solid communications strategy, but you also want your overall tone to be agile enough to shift with changing markets and consumer identities. So, in my humble opinion (well, not so humble—I am the writer, after all), this is the point where this paragraph should bid the reader adieu, and we should quickly board the next train of thought. Time for a tried-and-true transition sentence! Let’s take a look at four options below:

1) Now, let’s take this conversation out of industry-speak and into regular degular plain ol’ English.

2) Now, let’s take a look at some concrete examples of the ideas discussed above. 

3) Blah-di-blah-di-blah…salesly business-speak gobbledygook. Wondering what any of the above means in real life? You’re not alone.

4) Conversations about marketing communications can teeter dangerously on the brink of navel-gazing, so let’s take these concepts out of the PowerPoint presentation and into the real world.

Four transition sentences that serve the exact same purpose: communicate to the reader that we will now be shifting gears from a traditional, industry-based discussion of brand voice to practical, real-life examples of how a solid communications strategy can benefit your business. But, while these four statements all “say” the same thing, reading them indicates the audiences they are speaking to is anything but similar. None of them are wrong…but none of them are right, either. 

A good first step in identifying which sentence you would choose to speak to your particular audience is to consider which statement would resonate the most with you. Especially when looking at smaller scale or more boutique companies, it’s rare an audience would be miles and miles out of the general scope and demographics of the organizational leaders themselves. So, do a gut-check. What speaks to you? 

For my (very boutique, very small) freelance business, I would go with option number four. I like people to know that I’m able to poke fun at both my profession and myself, that I’m a relaxed and easy-going person to work with, and that I have a penchant for the metaphorical. If I was in the business of attracting clients primarily for technical or grant writing, I would go with the more dry, just-the-facts-ma’am approach of option number two—letting my target customer know that I can get to the point and not muck around.

So, it’s not rocket science, brain surgery, or any of the other professions we associate with the epitome of toil and difficulty. What marketing communications is is a guiding principle for effectively speaking to the people you most want to reach.

Dewi L. Faulkner

Marketing Writer & Editor