I’ve been around several blocks. I call it copywriting positivity. In every case, I find agencies pull out a tone of voice blueprint, charge the Earth for it and head for the nearest champagne bar.
What they don’t think about it the different types of content a copywriter will be working on and how the tone of voice changes for each.
Be honest, how many TOV guidelines have you read that read like the one before. And the next one you read will be exactly like the one just read.
The bigger the company, the less differentiation there is between the tone. It normally goes along the lines of:
- Use chatty language
- Be energetic
These are all great principles, but copywriters should be doing this as standard. You don’t need a thousand pound document to tell you that. What you do need is document that tells you how to write for different channels and how to write for different scenarios.
This is down to the brand team hiring an agency who use tried and tested approaches. However, they haven’t taken the time to figure out what channels the business uses and why or different types of communication that may exist.
In a couple of past roles, I’ve ripped up what the agency did and created a sexy diagram to show when to be energetic and when to be empathetic.
You like to think that most copywriters would know how to handle this. However, in a business there are many content producers and not all are trained copywriters. Also, some copywriters just switch to being formal or go OTT with flowery language.
So, sending the heavies round letters end up reading like this:
FINAL DEMAND [this is ok, as everyone knows what this means and block caps grab attention]
Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss Williams [you’ve been using their first name until now, why the switch and only grandmas use ‘dear’]
We are writing to inform you that your last payment has been missed. This has put your account in arrears. If you have already paid, then please discard this letter. However, if you are still to pay, please do so by 24 April. [Did you know you missed paying your last bill? If you already have, then you can ignore this. If you haven’t, and we’re all forgetful sometimes, you’ll need to pay us by 24 April.]
Failure to make a payment will result in loss of your services and closure of your account. [you don’t need to say this, people know you get what you pay for and it’s scary, especially if someone’s just forgotten or something has happened, like illness, redundancy, bereavement, divorce, etc.]
If you are having financial difficulty, do not hesitate to call our Customer Service team. [If you need help paying your bill, get in touch. We’ll talk you through all your options and offer support.]
Kind regards [oh, come on]
The Bailiffs team [this might come from the Loss Recovery team, but you don’t need to say that – a generic Customer Services will do]
How did we do? Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and we strive to make your life easier. Feel free to send us any feedback. We won’t be offended, honest! We just want to be the best we can be for you. [After all the formal, scary language, switching to a footer that’s written in really casual language is inconsistent. And think about what it is you’re saying. You’ve just sent a final demand, so they don’t care or want to interact. It could also be because customer services hasn’t fulfilled any requests or a journey is broken. Don’t always assume they’re Al Capone, it could be your fault.]
You can still say what you need to say in a friendly, supportive way. Even if you are on the verge of sending the bailiffs round, you can still be human about it.
We’ve not had payment from you in 6 months. Unfortunately, this means we’ll be stopping your services and passing this to the Debt Recovery team.
If you want to talk to us, call XXXX or email XXXX. We can help you get your services back up and running.
Customer Service team
Again, all within the TOV principles but dialling it down because you still need to be friendly and empathetic. Also, your brand still needs to be your brand, even during the bad times.