How to build a communication strategy and develop a tone of voice – the main steps

How to build a communication strategy and develop a tone of voice - the main steps

If once a person was flattered that a whole solid brand was talking to him, now this model has become boring, and the audience wants to talk to someone more lively. This does not mean that any brand with an age-old history must be turned into a personal brand – you just need to develop a communication strategy and give the company its own voice.

Where to start shaping a communications strategy

  • Portraits of the audience
  • Brand DNA
  • Tone of voice. What it is and how it affects promotion
  • Why do we need a tone of voice?
  • Tone of voice: it’s not that simple.
  • How brands do it: examples
  • Metrics for tracking the effectiveness of a communication strategy
  • Table of contents:
  • Where to start forming a communication strategy
  • Portraits of the audience
  • Brand DNA
  • Tone of voice. What it is and how it affects promotion
  • Why do we need a tone of voice?
  • Tone of voice: it’s not that simple.
  • How brands do it: examples
  • Metrics for tracking the effectiveness of a communication strategy
  • Where to start in creating a communication strategy
  • You need to rely on two things: portraits of the target audience and the DNA of the brand.

Portraits of the audience.

Here everything is not so easy – rare brand has a monolithic audience, usually it is possible to separate some segments. For example, our online university TeachLine has three main audience portraits:

  • Yesterday’s students who graduated from a state university, but somehow were not inspired by the profession or realized that it is outdated – and need to learn something new;
  • Freelancers or even full-time employees who work in a particular area of marketing, but want to improve their skills, and without a mentor they find it difficult to do so;
  • Adults who have worked in the profession for a number of years, but suddenly realize that they need to change the field of activity, or at least introduce something radically new to it. For example, to bring the company online.
  • They are all people of different sex, age, education, positions and specialties, and, importantly for us, they all have a different way of communicating. And from the interlocutor, even if in this case it is a brand, they expect an appropriate tone.

After the analysis, we have to do the reverse work – synthesis. We divide the audience into segments in order to better understand who we are addressing, but after that we still bring them to some kind of an average, because you can’t create all the posts in a different tone. In the case of TeachLine, the key definition of audience would be “People who want to learn something new and (important!) relevant.”

I highly discourage skipping the segmentation step because there’s a chance of getting that very average wrong.

Brand DNA.

These are the values of the company. Yes, the internal goal of any business is sales, but every company goes towards it by giving consumers different benefits. Try to think of a brand as a person. What does it do? Who is his audience? What does he work for?

Almost all businesses have some sort of global goal. For example:

  • Pampers makes life easier for parents of a young child. The main values of the brand are family and children.
  • Snikers actively pursues the theme of activity (“Don’t Slow Down, Snickers!”, “If You’re Hungry, That’s the Way Out”, “Peanut Energy!”, “Crush Hunger”), and so on.

Usually this very goal and even such a serious concept as values and mission fit into one sentence.

Let’s fantasize a little (this game will help us a lot in building a communication strategy!). Imagine your brand as a real person – and you’ll understand what’s in his head.

  • What does he look like?
  • What’s his character like?
  • What are his habits?
  • What are his hobbies?
  • What is he interested in (what he reads and watches)?
  • What are his values, what can and cannot he come to terms with?
  • Where does he spend his free time?
  • What is his social circle?
  • How does he communicate, what voice, what words does he use?
  • The last question is the key question, and the previous ones help us answer it. And that answer will be the first draft of our tone of voice.

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Tone of voice. What it is and how it affects promotion
It is the tone to which a brand adheres. The literal translation (which, however, is used less frequently than the English term) is “brand voice.

If we talk about communication strategy, almost any brand acts as a collective image of a character. Just as each person has a specific way of speaking, words, and intonation, so does a brand give its voice certain characteristics.

Why you need a tone of voice

Makes a brand recognizable. Even if we don’t talk about such glaring cases as Burger King’s tone of voice, you still intuitively know what “recognizable tone” means. If a company publishes a post with an inappropriate style (think of a mimi in the Russian government’s account – they’ve obviously been broken!), you’ll catch sight of it in the feed.

And it’s not certain that you’ll like this change.

It communicates the company’s values not only through the content, but also through the presentation. For example, if the same Pampers, whose values we defined above (family and children) used inappropriate extreme jokes, it would be strange and not very pleasant for the audience. That’s why the company’s tone of communication is always soft and affectionate.

It helps to tune out the competition. Such detuning is a big complex work, and one tone of voice is not enough here. After all, you and your competitors have plus or minus one niche and a very similar audience, which means that to some extent their values are the same. Here you have to rely on the company’s own selling proposition.

It helps to maintain an emotional contact with the audience. When building a communication strategy, we always take into account the vocabulary that the audience uses, and for the most part exclude those that are alien to it. For example, young people actively use slang, and youth brands do the same. This will not work with bankers, you have to immerse yourself in the specifics of business and use… slang too, but professional. This may include professional jokes, but this is a godsend communication strategy.

Such fine-tuning of voice is necessary not only to avoid looking silly – but also to get results.

Tone of voice needs to be traceable across all channels of the company’s presence. It’s not just texts on the site and on social media, but brand communication with consumers – including in comments and personal messages. Of course, adjustments need to be made to the site itself and the personal/public as well, but a certain red thread should still be apparent. If the site will be dry wording a la “we do serious business here,” and when you go to the personal brand is suddenly “his own board,” and somewhere on the verge of pannibalism, the customer will be surprised. And it’s good if he’s pleasantly surprised…
Tone of communication: not everything is simple
In theory, it is possible to identify the “pure” types of tones. I picked up a few examples, but you can easily complete them – I highly recommend, by the way, to do it for training:

  • authoritative;
  • caring;
  • enthusiastic;
  • rude;
  • conservative;
  • colloquial;
  • dry;
  • harsh;
  • enthusiastic;;
  • formal;
  • frank; frank;
  • friendly;
  • hilarious;
  • comical;
  • informative;
  • business;
  • nostalgic;
  • playful;
  • provocative;;
  • sarcastic; sarcastic;
  • respectful;
  • trustful;
  • romantic;
  • serious;
  • picky;
  • sympathetic;
  • irreconcilable;
  • positive.

The trick is that you can’t base your entire communication strategy on endless sarcasm or positivity, so you have to set some boundaries. Here are four examples of such boundaries in tone (you can think of more – and in the process, you might find your ideal communication strategy!)

Confident, but not brash.

Bold, but not provocative.

Expert, but not nerdy.

Hilarious, but not buffoonish.

For example, almost all car brands can boast a strong and confident brand-message: it is always some kind of story about courage, openness to new things, ease on the rise. But they do not cross the border of boldness, as Burger King does. That is, the concept of boldness is a defining one for all these strategies, but the implementation is different. It is precisely because of these very boundaries.

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