A brand's tone of voice is one of an essential tool in its identity. Along with logos and colours, what a brand sounds like helps turn it from a cold, money-lusting corporate to an old-friend in the mind of the consumer.
There are the basics of tone of voice, which all copywriters can recite in their sleep like show don't tell, lead with the benefit, sound chatty, etc. Basically, be empathetic, friendly and clear. This is a good starting point, if you're dealing with a copy team that's in their infancy.
The first step I took was to take the brand principles. In the case of the AA, this was simple, intuitive, integrated and responsive. After presenting to the team, telling them about the benefit of tone of voice and what good copywriting can do, I asked them to write on Post-It notes what these brand principles meant in terms of how we talk to customers. I took that to develop the next stage of the tone of voice.
Once they were happy with what I had produced, I presented it to the Digital Director and Head of Group Marketing, who both gave it a huge thumbs up.
Once this was instilled in the team, along with gateways for quality assurance. I took around the P&Ls and partner agencies on a roadshow. It wasn't long before I became the first port of call for any written communications and an authority on content.
This also meant jumping on anything I saw that jarred against the tone of voice and let the product owner know it was wrong. And in Vodafone, we held copy clinics so business areas could drop in to get guidance or sign-off for their content.
The final thing I did, was to build a content toolkit of production schedules, content trackers to ensure all content was evergreen, publishing processes, briefing documents and a style guide - all of which were living documents that were owned by the editors and the product area. This was stored in Confluence (collaboration software) where only my team could edit, the link could be accessed by anyone across the business and there was only one version of the truth.
The second phase of the tone of voice is to develop it, not just by testing to see what converts, but to differentiate from all the other brands that have similar principles and the competition. To use the segmentation piece (if you're lucky to have one) to talk to your target market in their language about the things they're interested in.