Tonality Considerations while creating content

What is Tonality?

In simple terms, tonality is your brand’s voice and determines how the brand you’re writing for communicates with the audience. The right tonality plays an important role in connecting with the audience on a deeper, more personal level, and ultimately, drive conversions. Think about it: When you talk to people in a language they understand, they’re more inclined to buy what you’re selling.

You must be mindful of tonality regardless of whether you’re creating content for blogs, social media, ebooks, whitepapers, ads, and other marketing collateral.

Determining tonality:

  • Know your audience: Always remember who you’re writing content for – for example, if your audience is primarily millennials, then most brands like to adopt a more quirky, humorous tone, whereas, with a much-older audience, the tone is more professional, straight-forward, and tech/data-heavy.
  • Consistency: Once you’ve established a certain tone, it’s important to stick to it, which means, your brand’s voice should be the same across all content collateral. Sometimes, the tonality can undergo minor changes depending on the channel (social media, email, blog, etc), and campaign goal (brand awareness, or driving conversions) however, it’s important to remember that the changes will be concentrated more on CTAs than the actual content.
  • Empathy over everything: Regardless of who your audience is, it’s important that your content always has a “human element” to it. For eg, when you’re talking about pain points, problems, and challenges, people should feel that you actually understand what they are going through –  after all, why would you seek and follow advice from someone who has never gone through a similar struggle? Our content is always meant to be actionable and is often tech/data-heavy, so it’s easy to forget to talk to people like people.

    By approaching tonality from an empathy standpoint, you’d also have a better hold on content structure and flow because you’d be thinking about approaching complex talking points from a layman perspective.
  • Side note for content in times of COVID-19: It’s of utmost importance that we have an extremely sensitive tone whenever we talk about how COVID-19 has impacted people’s lives (personal/professional), and businesses. Acknowledging that everyone is going through a challenging, mentally exhausting time should be a priority, however, at the same time, there should be “light at the end of the tunnel” – meaning, you shouldn’t become so engrossed with the negatives, that you forget to convey a much necessary dose of hope/positivity.

    Tonality during this time is tricky because you have to talk about the hard things, but also end on a positive note without sounding nonchalant or “too cheery”. You also shouldn’t come across as dismissive – for eg, “it’s a challenging time, but not all is bad”. A better alternative would be, “it’s a challenging time and we have a long road ahead of us, but having a definitive starting point to problem-solving will help you handle things better”.

Miscellaneous guidelines:

  • Tools/apps: Grammarly is excellent for keeping your tone is check – for eg: informative, joyful, neutral, persuasive, etc. Install the Chrome extension for Grammarly so you can easily write/edit content anywhere, including GDocs.
  • Audit your communication every once in a while: It’s easy to lose focus, especially with tonality, when you’re constantly creating content for multiple campaigns, brands, and channels simultaneously. Conduct a personal/team retrospective on a periodic basis to ensure tone-related consistency.