Voice and tone are basic tenets of writing. But can you actually explain the difference between voice and tone? Can you use them to inform the style and function of your content?
While most people have heard of voice and tone as tools for creating effective content, few people know how to distinguish between the two. Understanding voice and tone — and how to apply them — can make the difference between presenting a unified brand or an inconsistent company image.
Use your voice
Voice is your brand’s personality — and it’s always the same. Your voice is the unique way you present your brand to the world. It’s your personality, the type of language you use, and the way you use that language.
For example, the Two Rivers Marketing voice is conversational, clever, and helpful. That means every piece of content we create should provide useful information using informal but bright language.
Tone it down
If voice is your personality, then tone is how you express that personality. And it can change depending on context.
Think of it this way: you’re always “you” (voice), but you express yourself differently throughout the day (tone).
Tone allows you to communicate on-brand but with the nuance necessary for the context. Adjusting your tone to fit the needs of the content you’re creating increases the relevance and meaningfulness of that content. It shows that you understand what your audience is going through — all while staying on-brand.
In short, modulating your tone creates better experiences for your audience.
For example, a recent Undercurrent blog on the agency’s newest culture award uses an animated, conversational tone, while a blog explaining how to optimize your content for voice search uses a more informative, expert tone. Both pieces still maintain the clever and helpful Two Rivers voice.
Voice and tone in practice
Every piece of content your brand creates should maintain a consistent voice. Whether your voice is simple, straightforward, and human like Facebook or clear, friendly, and concise like Mailchimp, all of your content should be written in that voice.
When writing, consider the context of how someone will be engaging with your content. How receptive will they be to the tone you’re using? Is it in line with the context of the piece?
A talented content strategist can shift the content using tone to allow the brand to communicate effectively to its audience. This can be subjective, but developing a tone framework for your brand can help writers maintain your brand voice while inflecting it with the tone called for in a specific context.
So, now let’s try this again: Can you define the difference between voice and tone?
Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how a brand or messaging workshop can help your brand find its voice.