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Should Business Writing Reflect Brand Voice and Tone?

Photo of a young woman in a bright yellow blazer with iPad in hand, smiling and looking stylish.
Are brand voice and tone always necessary? Learn how and when to use them across popular types of business writing. (Photo: Alex Starnes)

Imagine you’re buying something from an online business with a consistently playful, funny, or otherwise strong brand voice. The advertisements, website, and payment portal all have this voice, which makes you feel like the business is unified and professional.

Then, once you complete the purchase, a confirmation email arrives in your inbox. Compared with the rest of your interactions with the brand, the email is strikingly robotic—there’s no flavor or character, and everything’s in plain text, without graphics or photos.

“What happened?” you think. “Was this a mistake? Is this a scammer pretending to be the company?”

The Importance of Brand Voice and Tone

Maintaining a consistent and appropriate brand voice and tone is crucial to conveying the right message to your audience and creating a cohesive customer experience.

Think of brand voice and tone as the personality of your business—they are how your business communicates with the world, and they should be reflected in everything you do.

However, does “everything” really mean everything?

While marketers spend a lot of time emphasizing the importance of building buyer personas and having a unified brand voice and tone for your company across external materials, like advertisements and website copy, too little attention is placed on behind-the-scenes materials, like automated emails, technical documents, and onboarding guides.

Does brand voice really matter there? And if it does, do you need the same brand voice and tone on a white paper as you do on an advertisement?

The answer is complicated …

Photo of a laptop screen with the Mailchimp Content Style Guide page open to the "Voice and Tone" section. The text starts by explaining," One way we write empowering content is by being aware of our voice and our tone. This section explains the difference between voice and tone, and lays out the elements of each as they apply to Mailchimp. What’s the difference between voice and tone? Think of it this way: You have the same voice all the time, but your tone changes. You might use one tone when you're out to dinner with your closest friends, and a different tone when you're in a meeting with your boss."
The Mailchimp Content Style Guide is terrific. It includes a section on brand voice and tone—and even explains the difference between voice and tone.

In a rush? Get this article as a PDF guide so you won’t miss these tips!

When and How to Use Brand Voice and Tone

In general, it’s important to maintain brand voice across all your business’s documents and communications, no matter what they’re for or whom they’re directed toward.

However, the tone of your writing can shift a bit depending on the context. Here’s a breakdown of how your voice and tone should vary across common types of business writing.

Direct Advertisements

Out of all the materials your business creates, your brand voice and tone should be loudest in advertisements. This is one of the few places you should be overtly salesy, so take advantage of it!

Your tone should reflect your brand’s overall personality, but more important, it needs to capture attention and persuade people to take action. Advertisements are the time to be bold, persuasive, and emotion-driven in your writing—with very few limits.

Blogs and Social Media

Your brand’s voice and tone on social media, blog posts, and other forms of content marketing should be more casual than in direct advertisements, but they should still reflect your company’s personality.

This is a place to have some fun with your brand voice—experiment a little and see what resonates with your audience. Just make sure you remain true to your brand’s core values and keep the tone relatively relaxed.

Emails

In general, your brand voice in emails should be similar to what you use on social media and blogs—present but with a casual, relaxed tone.

However, because email communications are generally more formal than social media posts, you may want to err on the side of a slightly more professional tone. This is especially true for communications with vendors or other businesses.

The only exception to this is if you’re writing marketing emails that are meant to function as direct advertisements. In this situation, you can be a bit bolder and more salesy.

And if you ever need help determining what version of your brand voice and tone is appropriate for an email, it’s always best to get a second opinion from a skilled copy editor.

Super Copy Editors can help you strengthen and refine your brand voice and give you guidance on how it should come through in different materials. Learn more about our comprehensive proofreading services for marketing teams.

Photo of a laptop opened up to a page of the Emory University Strategy Guidelines. The text talks about six key tone words for Emory University: Noble, Magnetic, Passionate, Caring, Purposeful, and Curious.
Emory University’s Strategy Guidelines break down which of its six key “tone words” should be emphasized more (or less) for various audience segments.

Website Copy

Your website is usually the first place potential customers (and potential employees and business partners) will encounter your brand, so it’s important to make a good impression.

Your website copy should reflect your brand voice and tone in their purest form. This is your opportunity to craft an individual voice that isn’t hedged by needing to be persuasive, relaxed, professional, or altered in any way.

The voice and tone you use on your website will likely be used as benchmarks for all other materials and communications.

So if you want your brand to have a fun and mischievous feel, make your website fun and mischievous. If you want your brand to feel minimalist and clean, design your website with those parameters in mind. (On the flip side, there’s maximalism.)

This fascinating video from the Nielsen Norman Group talks about the four dimensions of tone of voice:

Internal Communications

When it comes to internal communications, like memos, companywide emails, or even just chatty Slack messages, the important thing is to maintain consistency and keep things clear.

Your voice should be similar to what you use in emails but with a slightly more professional tone, depending on how casual the communication is.

Because internal communications are largely practical, clarity is key here—avoid clichés, jargon, or abbreviations that not everyone in the company will understand.

Likewise, avoid over-the-top expressions of brand voice. If you’d normally say a pun in an advertisement or on your website, consider leaving it out of a company memo.

Remember, you don’t have to impress your employees the same way you have to impress your customers—you just have to help them understand that your company has a unified theme.

Hiring and Onboarding

When you’re hiring new employees, you’re setting the stage for what the rest of their job will look like, so it’s important to make a good impression.

This is also the point at which new employees are getting acclimated to the company culture, and it’s up to you to establish what exactly that company culture will be like.

All hiring, onboarding, and training materials should emphasize brand voice and tone a bit more than regular internal communications, but not as much as your advertisements or website.

Ideally, onboarding materials should serve as a pathway to take new hires from the consumer-facing part of your brand to the employee-facing one.

Materials that walk a fine line between the two in terms of voice and tone and gradually introduce new hires more to the internal brand voice are key. This is also a great time to teach new hires about the brand voice and how it should be used using a brand style guide.

Don’t Miss: The Challenges of Writing an Employee Handbook

Photo of a laptop opened up to the Sprout Social brand voice page. The Sprout brand voice, it says, comes down to three words: Bold, Inspiring, and Authentic. "Of course, just as in your own day-to-day communication, there are nuances we should be careful to observe," the guidelines explain.
Sprout Social’s Voice and Tone Guidelines share which three words describe its voice best (bold, inspiring, and authentic) and then give helpful examples of tones that are “too timid,” “too harsh,” and “just right.”

Technical Documents

Technical documents are the one exception to the rule that brand voice should be present in all company communications—right?

Well, yes and no.

Because they are meant to be purely informative and aren’t trying to sell anything, it’s perfectly fine to keep technical documents relatively straightforward and dry.

However, that doesn’t mean all technical documents should be completely free from your voice and tone. In many cases, it’s best to include a bit of your brand voice but to keep it subtle so it doesn’t interrupt the flow of information.

This may look like keeping sentences relatively short and simple if your brand is known for minimalism. It may also look like using adjectives or words your brand frequently uses on its website or internal documents.

For example, if you have a software product that’s frequently described as “frictionless,” you can opt to use this word rather than a synonym in a technical document.

Although these may sound like trivial details, across an entire document, they can all add up—creating a strong subliminal impression of your brand.

A good rule of thumb is to imagine your technical document being read by someone who knows nothing about your brand. If they can still glean some sense of your company’s personality from the document, you’re doing it right.

Don’t forget! Download “Should Business Writing Reflect Brand Voice and Tone?” to keep it handy and take action on it. Click here to download it now.

Photo of Adobe Spectrum's "tone spectrum" showing the words Motivational, Helpful, Instructive, Reassuring, and Supportive. "The tone spectrum acts as a sliding scale for considering which of our attitudes and expressions are appropriate for different experiences," the page states.
Adobe Spectrum has a tone guide that asks writers to “think of the tone for any given experience as being on a spectrum.”

Perfect Your Brand Voice and Tone With Super Copy Editors

When it comes to nailing down your brand voice and tone, there’s no substitute for working with a professional copy editor.

At Super Copy Editors, our team has extensive experience helping brands optimize their copy, marketing materials, and business writing so their brand voice is loud and clear in a context-appropriate manner.

We’ll work with you to understand your company’s goals, values, and voice to ensure your copy is smooth and clear across all your materials. To learn more about our copy editing and proofreading services or to get clarity on how we can work together, click this link to get your quote now.

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Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than 25 years of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes. At Super Copy Editors, we’re passionate about helping agencies, marketing teams, and education companies refine and polish their text to give them confidence and ensure success. Learn more here.

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