Voice And Tone Guide: It's a Game Changer


Oftentimes, executives want to find value in marketing strategies, which is difficult to boil down into dollars and cents. Throughout this post, you’ll discover three reasons to help convince you—and everyone else—why investing in a solid Voice & Tone Guide can yield value, and have more loyal customers knocking on your door.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it twice: What’s the value of spending time crafting a Voice and Tone (or even Brand Style Guide) for my business or my employer?

Everyone wants to know what the bottomline is. What’s the return-on-invest, or ROI, of such time-consuming, strategic discussions? And these are valid questions!

The point of this post is show you three convincing reasons why crafting a brand that knows: how it speaks, why it speaks, and what it says, is extremely valuable to your brand’s long-term success. But first things first: let’s make sure we are all on the same page and discuss what a Voice and Tone Guide actually is.


According to our friends at Moz, and myself included, Voice is what a brand has to say, while Tone is how you say it.

For instance, using Voice and Tone as your only metrics, if you stripped your favorite brand of all of its design, logos and image-based mediums, and you could only read the words that the brand speaks: could you identify that favorite brand?

That’s the goal of your brand’s Voice and Tone Guide: to give your brand a stellar personality.

Another way to look at comes from the content experts at Buffer, when they write: “Voice is a mission statement. Tone is the application of that mission.” Buffer also suggests another method, called the four-part formula suggested by Stephanie Schwab at Social Media Explorer. This methodology, according to Schwab, breaks down voice and tone into subcategories: tone, character, language, and purpose.

Whichever method one uses to tackle Voice and Tone creation isn’t important, per se—what is important is the outcome, which leads us to our no. 1 reason why a Voice and Tone Guide is essential...


This is the top reason why all brands should create a Voice and Tone Guide. Think about your personal favorite brands. For instance, maybe you’re brand evangelist to Nike. Think about how Nike “talks” to us. Nike’s iconic “Just Do It” slogan is the epitome of their voice and tone.

Image Courtesy of Nike.com

Image Courtesy of Nike.com

Nike is inspirational, competitive, driven. Take a peek at their recent online e-campaign messaging below: “Get out. Run out. Bliss out. Our favorite running gear for zero distractions.”

This is the type of bold messaging that not only keeps customers loyal to Nike’s ethos, but also encourages potential buyers who, we assume, at this point understand the power of Nike products and the company’s dedication to not only innovation, but sportsmanship—to buy. A call-to-action that speaks loudly is offered by every piece of marketing Nike creates.  But back to customer loyalty. How does consistent messaging—with a strong personality—translate to dollars and sense? Our friends at Gather Content offered a succinct explanation:

“Consistency is memorable. As you aim to deliver great experiences for your customers, giving them a consistent encounter can help build loyalty. Think of the microtext you loved on the original Flickr, or why you get a kick out of MailChimp. They didn’t just pick default text, they created a voice to fit their brand and culture. And they made this ubiquitous.”

The reason this phenomenon is so impactful is that it creates a personality that your customers can respect. As consumers, we don’t just fall in love with the products or services our favorite brands sell, we fall in love with how they sell it to us. Consumers build a relationship with brands based on how they communicate. When your brand is transparent, or honest, or focused on community-building, etc., these types of company traits can be used to build a brand that creates loyalty which, as we know, translates to sales.


Loyalty is an interesting reaction by your customers to a brand it knows and values. Trust, on the other hand, is more mercurial.

How do you gain trust?

In the past, I’ve recommended transparency as a good technique to emulate in order to attract and sustain trusting customers. But how do you use Voice and Tone to create customer trust?

Let’s look at the brand Everlane, for instance. Mike O’Toole, via Forbes talks about it extensively in his 2016 article, “At Everlane, Transparent is the New Black.”

Image Courtesy of Everlane.com

Image Courtesy of Everlane.com

When viewing a $30 cardigan on everlane.com, you’ll discover in the product description the exact cost breakdown. Which validates the oftentimes above-market-value of their products. A basic tee runs around $20 on the site but Everlane shares its fair trade details down to the dime, giving its consumers an unfiltered view of Everlane’s bottom-line costs. This makes the sell a lot easier on the soul which apparently could care less what the wallet’s up to.

One more interesting experiment in transparency can be found on Everlane’s sales page, which offers this fascinating offer…

O’Toole writes, “I talked with founder Michael Preysman on The Unconventionals, and much of our conversation focused on the company’s philosophy of ‘radical transparency.’ Pricing transparency has earned Everlane a lot attention in an industry famous for shrouding the connection between what it costs and what you’ll pay.”

If we think about Everlane’s mission: Radical Transparency; and if we translate that mission into a tone, a voice—it becomes like a person. It is clear when you view and read all sections of Everlane’s site, they adhere to a strong, forthright tone; an understated honesty that isn’t over-the-top. It’s factual yet relaxed.

It’s important to maintain this for Everlane, as I am certain they would lose traction with their customers if they all of sudden ceased offering their pricing ledgers. This all said, if your company is beginning to feel humanized, that’s a good sign that you’re on the right track.


Persuasion is one of my favorite topics. As a longtime lover of rhetorical techniques, twists and tricks, I can tell you from personal experience that persuasion is one of your most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. That being said, persuading your customers and potential buyers is entirely more simple when they trust you. And if they’re already loyal brand evangelists—even better.

But how do you propel this strategy forward and create a trifecta of loyal, trusting customers that are easily convinced of your awesomeness?

I like to recommend business owners or marketers begin with customer support content. One of the best ways to make a lasting impression on a customer is how you handle their support experience—and voice and tone is a big part of achieving this. Whether they’re placing a first-time order, filing a formal complaint or making a return, how you handle these support moments is critical to your success in loyalty, trust and/or persuasion. One smart little study from Software Advice has always stuck with me. They concluded, in their longitudinal survey results, the following:

Image Courtesy of SoftwareAdvice.com

Image Courtesy of SoftwareAdvice.com

“With most people generally preferring a casual tone, Customer Service Agents may want to consider using pleasant, informal language when answering tickets or writing macros to address neutral situations. When responding to an informational query, for example, you might end with a phrase such as “Hope that helped!” However, in more stressful circumstances, agents should be especially conscious of how the customer may be feeling, and consider adopting a more reserved, straightforward tone in order to avoid sounding unconcerned or insulting. In particular, they should be careful about potential triggers such as emoticons or colloquialisms.”

Voice and tone played a huge part in customer success, as we can see by its conclusion. With a solid, dialed-in Voice and Tone Guide, this process can become effortless. One can create a guide that is divided into support categories with answers created in advance. This is where your FAQ section on your site will become indispensable. Check the analytics on FAQs that score the most clicks or the highest read-through rate. You’ll have a good starting point to begin crafting e-responses or automated messages for varied support issues that can now be crafted to your customer’s benefit.


If this series was intriguing to you and you’d like to learn all the ins-and-outs to crafting your own Voice and Tone Guide for your business, your clients or your employer—sign-up for Portfolio Studio’s March 8th Voice & Tone Boot Camp. You’ll learn how to use a company mission and collateral, as well as buyer personas, to craft a stellar Voice and Tone Guide that you can use again and again. 

Lauren Ventura is a geeky content creator and marketer with 10 years of experience in copywriting, storytelling, brand-building and inbound know-how. She has developed integrated email-social campaigns, helped use blogs to capture leads, and defined internal and external style, voice and tone guides for the likes of Petco, Road Runner Sports, Competitor Group, Arctic Zero, ChicMoto.com, Digital Telepathy and many others.