It's been two years since my new tone of voice was unleashed onto the world, so I'm
reflecting over it and these are my musings:
1. Many TOVs aren't TOVs, they're basic good writing principles. So when I
briefed this in it was about diversity, flexibility and distinction.
A TOV is a anthropomorphisation of a brand.
2. It's not a frivolous, whimsical, fluffy, meaningless brand play. It's
grounded in behavioural science. This was the most important part in developing
it - do the research, get the insight and choose tools that encourage recall,
loveability and conversion (CRO).
3. It's not just light-hearted marketing. Just like you flex the way you say
things or phrases you use when talking about serious things, while still being
you, the TOV does that. There's no need to revert back to cold, robotic,
corporate speak just because you're writing about death and taxes.
4. TOV doesn't mean you're burying a message or adding confusion. All
copywriting is about bringing something to life so people relate to it. TOV is
a great tool for doing that because I'd rather listen to Alison Hammond talk
about combustion engines than my dad.
5. It doesn't just impact copywriters, content designers and creatives. It
impacts everyone. And if key stakeholders don't get it or actively acting
against it, it won't embed and it'll fail on its objectives. So bring them with
you from the beginning and keep the momentum going on it.
Launching e-learning modules, centralised guidelines, crashing into team
meetings and governance isn't enough, you need to keep beating its drum.
6. Writing is a misunderstood discipline - having been a digital copywriter for ahem years, worked in editorial for a few years and did a stint as a journo, I know that when you're writing words, you are often at the mercy of people who don't understand how to work them. TOV is no different.
And, as it's a brand asset/tool, it falls down when it becomes the role of brand (who never have a copywriting background. Design, maybe. Marketing, yes. Writing, unicorns) to assess what good copy is and if it's on brand TOV.
7. Challenging legal/regulatory/compliance won't go away, even when they're involved in developing and testing the TOV during the prototype stages. They will forever wind their necks out to comment on how "that isn't how people expect things to be written".
Unless they can directly point to what it's in breach of, wind that neck back in. And YOU have to tell them that.
8. A TOV works with SEO, not against it. There's a battle between copywriters and SEO, boring headlines and FAQs are a common bone of contention. But you can build a TOV around keywords in the H1. And does the search term being in the H1 benefit ranking or is putting into the body copy enough?
So, it's been a difficult ride even getting even allies on board with it. Rolling out something that changes how even the most seasoned copywriter writes takes time for it to land. But - and I know I'm biased - it is the most effective and cheapest tool to achieve business objectives of conversion, sentiment and awareness.
Afterall, what catches your eye; an orange juice that says 'Citrus shield' or one that gets lost on the juice aisle as all it says is 'Orange juice. Made from concentrate'.