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The F-word


Written by Peter Vierod, Creative Partner at Friendly, the F-word is a collection of ideas, insights and stories about doing better business through better business writing. Subscribe and we'll deliver the occasional nugget to your inbox. 

May 2019


“Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.”


Emojis have become hugely popular because they’re a simple way of communicating the emotion behind our messages. 


Happy. Angry. Sad. Concerned. Sympathetic. Tipsy. Emojis tell our readers how we’re feeling in no uncertain terms.       


In many ways emojis are a substitute for tone of voice values. But as useful as they are, they probably won’t be appearing in your customer correspondence any time soon.


So how do you ensure that when your organisation writes, the mood of your messages is as distinctive as our little yellow friends?  


Bring your values to life


I’ve worked with dozens of big businesses in recent years and the same tonal values crop up time and again: Empathetic; Human; Expert; Genuine; Straightforward; Empowering; Positive, and so on.


While these might be noble aspirations, individually they won’t distinguish you from your competitors. Nor will they be particularly helpful in guiding your customer service teams and others in your organisation who write to customers every day.


To make your tone of voice useable, you need to bring it to life. And there’s a very simple way to do that.


Instead of Human, Expert, Empathetic and Straightforward, try writing your tone of voice starting with the words “When we write, we want to sound like…”.  


For example:


When we write, we want to sound like a knowledgeable friend - an expert in their field but also a good people person who explains things clearly and helpfully. 


Instead of wondering how to convey four very abstract values, your writers will begin to picture the relationship they want to create with their readers.         


Instead of worrying about how to be empathetic, your writers can concentrate on how they want their readers to feel.


To make it even easier for your writers, support your tone of voice statement with lots of examples, covering a variety of circumstances – from positive to negative.


Then activate your tone of voice with training and regular refresher workshops. 


Make your written tone of voice a part of every new employee’s induction. 


Even better, elevate the importance of writing in your organisation with writing awards that recognise those who do it best. 


Pretty soon your tone of voice will be more than a list of values in a document. 


It will be a deeply embedded aspect of your culture.


And your brand’s written personality will be as unmistakeable and emotive as an emoji. 

Are you striking the right tone?
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