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Content Marketing: Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Voice and Tone

By Stephanie HawkinsApr 8, 2013

content marketing voice and toneVoice and tone are two common buzzwords in the creative writing classroom—just ask a room full of fiction students. As a regular writing workshop participant, I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit pondering whether a character’s voice or an author’s tone “work.” But the application of these concepts doesn’t stop at fiction. Developing your company’s voice and tone is equally important—if not more so—in the context of content marketing.

Before we go too deeply into why your voice and tone is important, let’s back up.

What is “voice,” exactly?

Put quite simply, voice is the personality of the writer. In content marketing, voice is your company’s personality.

To illustrate this point, here are two (slightly exaggerated) examples of differing voices and how they portray a made up company’s personality:

  • Not sure if you’re buzzed up about beekeeping just yet? Come to our weekend BeeMaster class and find out what it’s all about!
  • To fully illustrate our commitment to furthering the art of beekeeping, this weekend’s Elite Bee Society class is currently being offered at a 15 percent discount.

Through these incredibly exaggerated examples of voice, a consumer might discern that the first beekeeping company is fairly casual and the second beekeeping company is more formal.

We can see the casual nature of the first company in its use of a pun (“buzzed”), an exclamation point and the simple sentence construction. On the other end of the spectrum, the second company uses a complex sentence construction and more elevated language (“furthering” and “art of beekeeping”).

And how is that different from “tone”?

Well, this part’s a bit more complicated. Voice and tone are occasionally used interchangeably, but that oversimplifies things. Voice and tone are like the peanut butter and jelly of the writing world—while you could have one without the other, your sandwich certainly wouldn’t be as delicious. Think of it this way: If voice is your company’s personality, tone is your attitude toward your reader. You can have a voice established, but until the tone of that voice is clear to the reader, they won’t know how to interpret it.

How your readers choose to interpret your attitude isn’t always up to you, but you can take steps to lead them in the right direction. Your tone can come across in everything from the point of view your content takes, to the visual organization of a blog post, to how you address your customer.

Take this post, for example. I’ve made some conscious choices to establish my tone: I’ve directly addressed you, the reader, to demonstrate we’re all part of this conversation. I’ve organized this post into sections to demonstrate that Brand & Capture is informative and approachable. I’ve made several (hopefully not too lame) jokes to demonstrate I intend to entertain as well as inform you, but I’ve kept the humor brief to avoid undermining my authority.

Those, at least, were my intentions. Only you, the reader, can tell me if I was successful. The bottom line is, I’ve remained aware of my tone and taken steps to establish it.

What does any of this have to do with inbound marketing and driving sales?

Well, a lot, actually. Voice and tone influence your audience in some incredibly important ways.

  • Positioning: Establishing your company’s voice and tone sets your brand apart from the competition. Elise Anthony of D Custom explains this well: “When voice and tone is an integral part of content strategy, brands stand out because voice and tone reflect the brand’s positioning — the 'secret sauce' of what makes a service or product different.”
  • Power to Attract Prospects: Establishing the right tone of voice will help attract people to your brand and keep them coming back. And getting it right will help you avoid spending money on online ads to make up for getting it wrong.
  • Avoid Alienating Prospects Once You Have Them: If you bore your buyers, you’re effectively alienating them and driving them away from your site. The right tone of voice can ward off boredom and keep buyers interested. Note: Alienating people isn’t the same as offending them. If your tone is offensive, it’s time to hire a new copywriter.

While it might seem intimidating at first to commit to a consistent voice and tone, it can make a real difference in your brand’s relationship with the buyer. Stay tuned for a follow-up post featuring some great examples of how voice and tone are working for some major brands, as well as some tips for finding your own.


stephanie kaperaStephanie Kapera is a freelance writer and the co-founder of Up All Night Creative, a Raleigh-based content marketing agency that helps B2B and B2C companies develop magazine-quality web content. Connect with Up All Night on LinkedIn and Twitter to find out more!


photo credit: Beverly & Pack

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The Author

Stephanie Hawkins

Stephanie is a Strategist at Kuno Creative and writes about content marketing, buyer persona development and inbound marketing strategy for Brand & Capture. She lives and works in Raleigh, NC. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn and Twitter!
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