Master Tone of Voice for Brand Messaging Consistency | Ruth Clowes | Skillshare

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Master Tone of Voice for Brand Messaging Consistency

teacher avatar Ruth Clowes, Professional Copywriter

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (54m)
    • 1. Introduction

      2:16
    • 2. Class and Project Overview

      2:33
    • 3. Understand Tone of Voice

      6:24
    • 4. Write in a Clear Voice

      6:58
    • 5. Write in a Warm Voice

      6:50
    • 6. Write in a Knowledgeable Voice

      6:40
    • 7. Write in a Positive Voice

      6:33
    • 8. Write in a Humorous Voice

      6:38
    • 9. Flex Your Tone

      6:35
    • 10. Next Steps

      2:53
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About This Class

If you’re looking to maintain a consistent brand voice, while flexing your tone appropriately for different audiences and platforms, this class is for you.

No sound needed! Give your headphones a break and enjoy accurate captions and fully visual walkthroughs.

This class shows you how to write in a consistent brand voice by exploring the most common voice characteristics, how to express them in your writing and how to combine them effectively.

It also covers how to adapt your tone in different situations – on social media for example.

You’ll learn:

  • What voice and tone are and how they relate to brand and marketing
  • Copywriting techniques to help you write with clarity and warmth
  • Top tips for making your copy sound more knowledgeable and positive
  • Low-risk ways to introduce humour into your business writing
  • Simple, practical ways to flex your tone for different audiences and platforms.

These skills will make your marketing communications more consistent and effective and help you reach your engagement and conversion targets.

This class is for you if you:

  • Work for a company that has brand guidelines for tone of voice that you need to follow
  • Write web copy, social media posts, letters or emails
  • Work in a communications, marketing, PR or customer service team
  • Want to maintain a consistent voice across web, print and social media.

The skills you’ll learn in this class are highly transferable. You’ll find them useful outside work too - especially if you use social media, you’re a blogger or you have a side-hustle.

BRAND AND VOICE GUIDES

Below are links to the different brand and voice guidelines I talk about during the class. These are great to dip into to see how different brands interpret their voice and tone principles.

Understand Tone of VoiceShopify
Write with a Clear Voice – Uber
Write with a Warm Voice – Virgin Mobile
Write with a Knowledgeable Voice – Shopify
Write with a Positive Voice – Airbnb
Write with a Humorous Voice – Mailchimp
Flex your Tone - Salesforce

TOOLS AND RESOURCES

Here are the various free online tools and resources I recommend in the different lessons. Do you have your own recommendation? Let me know in the ‘Discussion’ tab.

Tone of Voice in Action Cheat Sheet (to help you with your class project)

Write with a Clear Voice – Hemingway Editor (make your writing bold and clear)
Write with a Warm Voice – Otter (transcribe your voice into text)
Write with a Knowledgeable Voice – Hubspot Case Study Guide (write a compelling case study)
Write with a Positive Voice – PASO formula (Pain, Agitate, Solve, Outcome)
Write with a Humorous Voice – CoSchedule Headline Analyzer (check your headlines)
Flex Your Tone – Buffer Persona Guide (create audience personas)
Next Steps - Ultimate Copywriting Formula Guide

Connect with me: Website |  Twitter |  LinkedIn | Facebook

Theme music by The Clarendons

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Ruth Clowes

Professional Copywriter

Teacher

Your website text, online bios, social media posts and emails define you. They are what make people notice you, connect with you and buy from you… or not.

Learn to communicate more clearly, dynamically and persuasively with classes that focus on straightforward, practical techniques that get great results – fast.

Each session is full of real-life examples and hands-on exercises to help you practice as you learn.

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Transcripts

1. Introduction: Welcome! Hello, My name is Ruth. Welcome to my class on Mastering Tone of Voice. I'm drawing on decades of professional copywriting experience to show you how to write consistently in your brand voice. This class is perfect for you if you work for a company that has brand guidelines for tone of voice that you need to follow. You might be writing web copy, social media posts, letters or e-mails. You want to maintain a consistent voice across your written content and across different platforms. The skills you'll learn in this class are also highly transferable. You'll find them useful outside work too. Especially if you use social media, you're a blogger or you have your own business. I'm a member of Pro Copywriters and I've trained with the Chartered Institute of Marketing and Google. You can find my work on websites, blogs, social media, in magazines, annual reports and brochures. I'm especially excited to be teaching this class because voice and tone are often misunderstood and there's less practical help out there than for other aspects of writing. This class is an intermediate copywriting class. You should have a good grasp of English and some marketing knowledge, but you don't need to know technical terms, like what an adverb is, for example. I'm going to teach you some powerful techniques, share practical tips, and clever tools that will help you master your brand voice. By the end of this class you'll be able to write in a clear voice by splitting sentences, in a friendly voice by using the active voice, in a knowledgeable voice by citing evidence, and in a positive voice or by solving readers problems. You'll even be be able to harness humour to reflect a quirky brand identity by writing funny headlines and mastering wordplay. And you'll be able to flex your tone effectively to suit different messages, audiences and platforms. We'll explore real-world examples of brands using each of the techniques we'll learn. I'll show you exactly how to put them into action yourself with step-by-step tutorials. What you're about to learn will take your copyright into the next level. Let's go! 2. Class and Project Overview: Class and Project Overview... Before we get started, I'm going to quickly talk you through how each lesson in this class is organised, and also introduce you to the class project. I'll start each lesson by giving you an overview of what you'll learn and how these skills are going to help you. We'll then explore some key concepts and approaches by looking at real-world examples of brands that are already using them successfully. Then I'll show you how to use these techniques yourself by demonstrating step-by-step how they work and how you can make them work for you. That's where your class project comes in. I'd like you to choose a short piece of copy between 150 and 300 words, that you'd like to improve by reflecting your brand voice in it more effectively. It could be your own copy or an existing piece of business copy, and it could be a rough draft or something more polished. But it should be representative of the writing you do regularly. As we work through the lessons, you'll learn techniques for improving your copy and reflecting your brand voice more effectively. You can work on your copy as you go along. You'll be amazed at how much it improves with each lesson. Using a piece of existing copy like this is a great starting point because you'll be able to see first-hand the difference each of the techniques you'll learn can make. It also makes it really easy to get started because you don't have to worry about writing something from scratch. To help you with your project, there's a cheat sheet you can download from the Projects and Resources tab. It lists all the techniques we'll cover in the class, so you can follow along during the lessons and use it as a checklist for future writing. You can either bookmark a link to the cheat sheet or download it to your computer or print it out. It's up to you. I mentioned that I'll use real life brands as examples throughout the class. Well, links to the brands I'll talk about, and specifically their brand voice guidelines, are in the class description. Also in the class description are links to the different free online tools and resources I'll introduce you to throughout the class. Well, if you've got your piece of project copy ready and you've got the cheat sheet to hand, we're ready to go. In our first lesson, you'll find out what we mean by tone of voice, the difference between voice and tone, why they're so important, and what happens when they go very wrong indeed. Let's get started. 3. Understand Tone of Voice: Understand Tone of Voice. In this lesson, we'll cover what voice and tone are, why they're important, and where to find your company's brand voice guidelines. Before we go any further, let's clarify what we mean when we talk about voice, tone, brand voice, and tone of voice. These terms are often used interchangeably so it can get confusing. But by the end of this lesson, you will know exactly what they all mean. Let's start with the difference between voice and tone. Think about how you speak. You always speak using the same voice, but you alter your tone depending on the situation and who you're with. You're going to use a different tone when you're chatting with a friend over coffee than when you're in a board meeting, for example. But your voice is going to be the same throughout. It's the same with a brand. A brand voice should remain more or less the same all of the time. Its characteristics are usually defined in a company's brand guidelines. But the tone that the brand voice speaks in will be flexed to take account of different circumstances and audiences. We commonly use the phrase 'tone of voice' to refer to brand voice. That's why tone of voice is in the title of this class. Your company might well have 'tone of voice' guidelines. But if those guidelines refer to a defined, unchanging voice or personality for your brand, they're essentially describing the brand's VOICE, rather than having anything to do with a changeable TONE. Brand voice is important because it's an integral part of your brand's personality. As an individual, how you dress, your haircut, how you speak, and how you express yourself generally, are reflections of your personality. In the same way, a brand shows its personality through its brand colours, its logo, the photographs and graphics that it uses, and through the way it speaks - its brand voice. All of these brand elements need to be used consistently for a brand to be seen as trustworthy, credible, and familiar. That's why all big brands go to great lengths to make sure that their logo is always displayed in the correct ratio. If you see a famous brand's logo in the wrong ratio, or colour, or font, it immediately feels jarring. Brand voice is no different; if it's not expressed consistently, it dilutes the brand and reduces engagement and trust. Let's look at an extreme example... Now, I'll be showing you lots of positive examples of real-life brands totally acing brand voice throughout this class. This is the only negative one and, as such, I've made it up to avoid embarrassing anyone. I'm sure you can see what the problem is here. The headline and subhead are written in informal slang. The writer is clearly attempting to use the same casual language as their target audience. They're taking a cue from social media with the hashtag and the acronym FOMO. Notice also how the subhead uses the first person "our". In the body text, it's a different story. It's very formal. It uses the old-fashioned cliche, "is delighted to announce", and outdated language choices like "garments", "unerring", "purchase", and "forthcoming". It also uses the third person for both the company and the reader, which adds to the formality. There's nothing wrong with any of these style choices in themselves, but when different voices are mixed up like this, it makes for a very confused brand message. Before we go any further, you'll need to have your brand's voice guidelines to hand. Most businesses will have brand voice guidelines either in a standalone document or included in a broader brand guide - alongside all those rules about which Pantone colours to use and how to display the logo. If there are no dedicated brand voice guidelines, look out for a list of brand personality traits or characteristics. However it's described, you're looking for a list of between three to six characteristics or traits that could be used to describe a voice. Here's an example from Shopify. Shopify starts by personifying their voice as a business mentor with zero ego. It's a great way of quickly drawing a picture of what that brand would be like if it was a person. They then go on to describe four characteristics that define their brand voice; real, proactive, dynamic and guiding. Many brands do what Shopify has done and also clarify what that brand voice isn't. For example, they don't want you to be overly proactive so that you come across as pushy. In the last video, I asked you to choose a short piece of copy for your project that you work on during this class. Here's the piece of copy I'll be working on today. It's been sent to me by my client, Lois. Lois owns a florist business called The Flower Yard and she's launching a new product. She wants to promote this product on her website and post about it on her social media feeds. Here's a piece of text she's written. It's fairly functional and dry right now. It contains all the information I need, but it doesn't reflect The Flower Yard's brand voice, which is made up of five of the most common sorts of characteristics you'll find in almost every brand voice guide. We'll help Lois improve her copy and make it more on brand. The most important takeaway from this lesson is not to be intimidated by the concepts of voice and tone or the different phrases that are used to describe them. Essentially, what we're talking about is a brand's personality and getting that across consistently in writing, while having the flexibility to adjust our tone when needed. Don't worry if the brand voice guidelines you have to work with are fairly sparse, all you need are a handful of characteristics or traits. The next lesson covers how to write in a clear voice. 4. Write in a Clear Voice: Write in a Clear Voice. In this lesson, we'll cover writing in a way that's clear and straightforward. This is something that's included in most brand voice guidelines in some form. Sometimes this style of voice is referred to as clear, sometimes as direct or to-the-point, honest, simple, or plain-spoken. The idea is the same. You're being asked to write in a voice that makes it obvious to your reader what your message is, and avoids ambiguity or confusion. Here is Uber's voice guide. You can see that "simple and direct" makes up one of their three core principles, and here's an example of what that looks like in action on Uber's Website. "Set your own schedule. You're in charge. You can drive with the Uber app day or night, fit driving around your life, not the other way around." There are a few things in particular I want to point out here. First; notice the lack of unnecessary words, especially modifiers. In fact, there are no words you could remove from this snippet of text and still have it makes sense. Look also at the specific words and phrases used; they're all very simple and unfussy. Imagine the difference in voice if, for example, the first word "set" was replaced with the fancier synonym "determined" or if the phrase "the other way around" was replaced with the Latin phrase "vice versa". Finally, notice how short the sentences are. Using three short sentences instead of one long one is a style choice that's helped make this paragraph as clear and easy to read as possible. With Uber as our inspiration, we're now going to make our own writing clearer, using three simple but powerful techniques; being more direct by cutting out adverbs, improving clarity by using simple words and phrases in place of complicated ones, and making copy easier to read by splitting long sentences. An adverb modifies a verb or an adjective to tell you how someone did something. They're often overused and getting rid of them, either by simply deleting them, or by strengthening the verb they are modifying, will make your writing clearer and more concise. There are a few different types of adverbs, but the type that it's most important to check are easily identified because they almost always end in the letters 'LY'. I've highlighted the two 'LY' adverbs in The Flower Yard's text. Let's see if they really need to be there. First we have the phrase "really pretty". This is a good example of where we can strengthen the adjective, in this case "pretty", and in doing so make the adverb that comes before it unnecessary. So what's a stronger word for "pretty"? How about "stunning"? With that nice strong adjective in place, we can get rid of the adverb without losing any meaning. Next we have the word "totally" before "different". Is that extra word adding anything at all to the message? I don't think so. If anything, it's just making it fussier and more difficult to read. Let's delete it. Getting rid of those adverbs was easy and it's already made our writing feel clearer and more direct. If you want your writing to be clear, don't use complicated words when there's a simple alternative that means the same thing. Even experienced marketers are guilty of using uncommon, fussy words in their writing, when there's a much better, shorter, and more commonplace word that gets the message across more clearly. It's something Lois has been guilty of in her copy for The Flower Yard. Let's swap these words for simpler ones. "Consumed" becomes "eaten", "diminutive" becomes "short", "utilise" becomes "use", and "receive" becomes "get". Long rambling sentences, over around 20 words, are a feature of bad writing. They're confusing and they're difficult to read, especially online where readers tend to scroll and skim through text rather than reading every word. Remember how short the sentences were in the Uber example we looked at earlier? To spot long sentences in your copy, you can use the word count feature on your computer and you can look for connecting words like "and", "but", and "because". You can also read your copy out loud; if you run out of breath, it's a surefire sign that your sentence is too long. When you found a long sentence you want to split, do it by adding full stops at natural points between ideas. Those connecting words often act as useful pointers. These two sentences in the middle of The Flower Yard's text are both over 20 words. The first one is very easy to split - the connecting word "and" tells us where to do it. We can just remove that and capitalise the word after it. This second sentence also has two obvious separate chunks, we just need to do a little more work by re-framing the second sentence slightly so that it follows on nicely from the first. Simple, straightforward changes that straightaway have made our writing clearer and easier to read. Before we finish up, I want to share with you a brilliant free online tool that will help make your writing clearer - it's called Hemingway. If you copy and paste your text into Hemingway, it will check it for common writing errors. The aim is to make your copy as bold and clear as possible. You can see the things it checks for here on the right-hand side, and some of them are going to look very familiar. We've got adverbs, the passive voice, (we're going to cover that in our next lesson), and simple word alternatives. Hemingway also flags up when sentences are hard to read, something that can usually be remedied by breaking the sentence up into shorter ones. The most important takeaway from this lesson is that writing clearly isn't just a common guideline in brand books, it should form the foundation of all your writing, because it helps you get your message across quicker and more accurately. You can make your copy clearer and easier to understand by cutting out adverbs, using simple alternatives to complex words and phrases and splitting long sentences. Now's the time to look at your own copy and make it clearer using the skills we've just learned. Whatever your brand voice is, you should find that putting these techniques into practice has improved your copy and given you a clear, direct piece of text to continue working with. In the next lesson, we'll explore how to write in a warm and friendly voice. 5. Write in a Warm Voice: Write in a Warm Voice. In this lesson, we'll cover writing in a way that's warm and friendly. This is another characteristic that's included in a lot of brand voice guidelines in some form. Sometimes this style of voice is referred to as warm, sometimes as conversational or informal, genuine, real or human. The idea is the same. You're being asked to write in the warm, informal language and style that you might use if you were talking to a friend. Here is Virgin Mobile's brand voice guide. You can see that "friendly and natural" makes up one of their five key voice characteristics and that's reiterated by the instruction to "be human". Here's an example of what that looks like in action on Virgin Mobile's website. "Upgrade early. Say bye-bye to your old phone and hello to a new one. You can send us your old phone and use it to help pay off your current contract. Sound good? Chat with us to get started." First, notice how this is written in the active voice. That's a big part of what gives it such a direct conversational feel. Don't worry if you're not totally sure what the active voice is and how to use it, we're going to cover that in a bit. Look also at how Virgin has used "your" and "you" a lot in this snippet of text and how they refer to themselves with the first-person "us". Imagine the difference if they'd use the third person; referring to "customers" and "Virgin Mobile" instead of "you" and "us". Not only would the copy be much longer, but it would feel very cold and standoffish. Finally, notice the overall conversational, natural feel of the copy. As a reader, we feel involved and invested in things. One of the reasons for that is that we've been asked a direct question. With Virgin Mobile as our inspiration, we're now going to make our own writing clearer using three more practical skills; Sounding more natural by using the active voice, making our writing feel personal by using you and I, and writing conversationally by asking some questions. The active voice describes the sentence where the subject performs the action stated by the verb. It follows a simple subject-verb-object format. With the passive voice, the subject is acted upon by the verb. Here are some sentences written in the passive voice and then the active voice. With the passive voice, the 'doer' comes after the thing that's done. You can see straight away that the active version comes across as warmer and more human. On the other hand, the passive examples are more bureaucratic and long-winded. Luckily, once you've identified the passive voice, it's really easy to fix. It basically just involves rearranging the words a little. This sentence is in the passive voice. The doer (food bloggers), comes after the thing being done (loving). Fixing it is as easy as rearranging the words so they follow that simple subject-verb-object format. One thing that makes writing sound cold and formal is when you use the third person. When you write from a third person perspective, you write as if both you and your reader were unconnected, objective observers of everything you're writing about, including yourselves. You write about yourself as if you are an entity separate from yourself and you write about your reader as if they were an entity separate from themselves, which is a bit weird when you think about it. Look at the examples I've highlighted in The Flower Yard copy. In them, The Flower Yard full-names itself and it refers to its target audience as "the recipient" and "the customer". Let's swap that "The Flower Yard" for "our" and "the recipient" for "you". Finally, let's get rid of "customers who" completely. That also means we can shorten the rest of this sentence. The result is not only warmer and friendlier, it's also made our call to action stronger and more direct. When you talk to someone face-to-face, it's a two-way thing. You focus on the other person, you ask them questions and you give them time to respond and give their opinion on things. Replicating this conversational approach in writing is challenging because the person you're conversing with isn't with you, so they can't join in the conversation directly. As a result, writing can sometimes come across as unfriendly and one-sided. From a reader's point of view, it's the conversational equivalent to being on the receiving end of a long monologue. Asking questions is a technique I use a lot. It encourages people to think about what you're telling them and how it relates to them, just like it does in conversation and it's a technique that is easy to put into practice. Remember the "sound good?" from the Virgin Mobile website? Let's try something similar ourselves. How about editing this subheading so it's made up of two questions. That's an effective way of drawing our reader into our copy and it also adds a bit of punchiness to what was otherwise quite a boring subheading. Before we finish up, I want to share with you a brilliant free online tool that will help make your writing warmer and more natural sounding. It's called Otter, and it transcribes your speech into text. The free version lets you transcribe up to 600 minutes of speech per month. This app could be especially useful if you find you can TALK very fluently and passionately about a subject, but you struggle to translate that enthusiasm into writing. Record yourself talking about your subject and let the app transcribe your words, then write about your subject using the transcript as inspiration. And if you feel awkward talking to yourself, you could always ask a friend to ask you questions, so it all feels a bit more natural. You'll find a link to Otter in the class description. Let's recap what we've learned this lesson... The most important takeaway is that it's actually quite quick and easy to make your writing sound more friendly, just by using two simple techniques; the active voice and the words "you" and "I". In addition to that, adding a few questions can help engage your reader even more. Now's the time to look at your own copy and make it warmer using the skills we've just learned. You should now have a piece of copy that's clearly written and has a warm human feel to it, which is a great achievement in itself. In the next lesson, we'll explore how to write with a knowledgeable voice. 6. Write in a Knowledgeable Voice: Write in a Knowledgeable Voice. In this lesson, we'll cover writing in a way that's knowledgeable and professional. Sometimes this style of voice is referred to as knowledgeable, sometimes as trustworthy or businesslike, thoughtful, or expert. The idea is the same. Your copy needs to enhance the professionalism of the brand to increase credibility and reader trust. Let's revisit Shopify's brand voice guide. Remember how they define their voice as a business mentor with zero ego? If we read on, we can see that this refers to sharing expertise and experience and giving guidance and insight. Let's see how they put that into action on their website. First, look at this statistic Shopify uses to demonstrate the popularity of its product. The claim that it "powers ambitious entrepreneurs all over the world" could be seen as empty rhetoric, if it didn't immediately back that up with proof in the form of hard data. Look also at the way Shopify links the features of its product to the benefits they bring to the user in each of these short snippets. For example, we're not just told about the drag-and-drop store builder feature; we're told the precise benefit this feature brings us - the fact that we can build our online store with ease and without any design skills. Finally, look at the testimonials from existing customers. As a potential customer, it gives you the feeling that this brand can be trusted, and also that it take cares about the experience of its users. With Shopify as our inspiration, we're going to explore how to write in a knowledgeable voice using three more practical and actionable skills; demonstrating credibility by providing evidence, linking features to benefits, and building trust by sharing success stories. When it comes to appearing knowledgeable and credible, having evidence to backup your claims is vital. Without it, you're asking your reader to take your word for things. When we think of evidence, we probably think of statistics and research results, but there are plenty of other sources of evidence you can use to add credibility to your marketing messages. When it comes to The Flower Yard's new product, the most obvious evidence we should use isn't actually copy-related at all. With a very visual products like this, we will of course include a photo of it. That will act as evidence for all the places in the copy where we've talked about what it looks like. Aside from that, I notice here that Lois has mentioned that photos of dishes that include edible flowers do really well on Instagram. For a target audience of food bloggers, that's a great reason to buy. But it would be much more compelling if we had actual evidence of that. Less than a minute's worth of research on Instagram has given me just the information I need to beef this statement up and turn it into something far more compelling. From Just a vague claim to a cold, hard fact that's far more likely to persuade potential customers. Linking features to benefits is one of the most powerful copywriting techniques in existence. A feature is an aspect of a product or service, while a benefit explains what's in it for the customer. Benefits sell your product or service because benefits connect with your reader's desires. But you also need features to help customers justify the purchase. So starting with a feature, then explaining the benefits of that feature, is a foolproof way to appeal to both the head and the heart of your reader. Remember Shopify; they told us about a feature, the drag-and-drop builder, then explained the benefits, the fact that we could use it without design skills. A great way to identify places in your copy where you've described a feature but failed to link it to a benefit is by asking the question, "So what?" As you read your copy. For example, in The Flower Yard copy, we have this statement about flowers in the bouquet being long-lasting and low maintenance. So what? What's the actual benefit to the customer? Well, it means they can enjoy it for longer and don't have to water it as often. Let's add that in. Finally, a real quickie about success stories, because success stories, case studies, testimonials and customer quotes, are an unbeatable way to demonstrate credibility. That's because we naturally trust a product or service that our peers have used and recommend over one that lacks that social proof. I want to show you a few more examples from Shopify's website because they do this particularly well, and they use a few different techniques to tell their customer stories that not only builds trust, but also positions them as a brand that's very customer-focused. It starts right at the top of this page with the choice of photos. We're not seeing screenshots of Shopify's product, or their employees, or their office. We're seeing photos of customers and their businesses. Next, we have a series of traditional testimonial quotes, and these can be so powerful on their own. But notice how it's also backed up by a longer vlog and written story. Lois sent a sample of her edible flower bouquet to a local influencer, who has given her a positive review to use on the website. So I'm going to include that in her copy. I also want to share with you a guide and a series of templates that will help you collect and use case studies effectively. This HubSpot guide gives a practical, actionable overview of how to collect the kind of in-depth case studies that works so brilliantly for Shopify, along with a collection template. It's a brilliant place to start if you want to go one step further than the usual testimonial quotes. You'll find a link to this guide in the class description. Let's recap what we've learned in this lesson. The most important takeaway is that writing in a knowledgeable voice is as much about what you choose to say as how you say it. By backing up your marketing claims with evidence, showing readers the benefits of your product or service and using success stories, you can build credibility. Now's the time to look at your own copy and make it sound more knowledgeable using the skills we've just learned. Dial the knowledgeable factor up or down depending on what's the best fit for your brand. In the next lesson, we'll explore how to write with a positive voice. 7. Write in a Positive Voice: Write in a Positive Voice. In this lesson, we'll cover writing in a way that's positive and enthusiastic. Sometimes, this style of voice is referred to as positive, sometimes as upbeat or spirited, inspiring, fresh, dynamic or energetic. The idea is the same. You need to infuse your copy with energy and oomph and hopefully transfer some of that enthusiasm into your reader. Here is an article by Airbnb where they talk about their brand voice. One of their voice principles is "spirited". Here's how that spirited, positive brand voice manifests itself on the Airbnb website... Notice in this snippet how Airbnb have accentuated the positive. They say that "it's easy to become an Airbnb host in most areas", for example, instead of "we only accept hosts in certain areas". At the end here, they talk about "helping hosts earn great reviews" rather than helping them avoid bad ones. They've also set themselves up as problem solvers. What problems are potential Airbnb hosts looking to solve? Well, they want to make money from their property easily and safely. Airbnb recognise this and they take every opportunity in their copy to tell potential customers how Airbnb can help them solve their problem. "Airbnb makes it simple and secure." "We have your back." "Lists your space for free." "We are there to help." Similarly, Airbnb recognises what people's main objections are likely to be; what's most likely to be stopping them from becoming a host; and it addresses them. So we see a lot of copy devoted to reassuring people that they are in control of things like price setting and house rules, and highlighting security measures such as the host guarantee and the requirement for guests to provide identification. With Airbnb as our inspiration, we're going to explore how to write in a positive voice using three simple but powerful techniques; banishing negativity by converting negative statements into positive ones, solving your readers problems, and keeping them on your side by overcoming objections. Your reader doesn't want to hear what they're lacking. They DO want to hear what they can have when they use your product or service. So you need to frame information positively, not negatively. For example, rather than describe something that isn't happening, describe what could happen. Here are a few examples. You might recognise that last one from the Airbnb webpage we looked at earlier. Research has shown that framing products and services in a positive way increases conversions by as much as 50 percent. So this technique isn't just about appearing cheerful and upbeat, it makes good business sense too. Let's look again at The Flower Yard's copy, and two ways to pick out negative framing are by looking for obvious negative words like "no", "not", "stop", and "avoid", and by looking for words with more general negative connotations. Here we've got the negative adverb "not", and a word that has a negative connotation; "ill". Let's turn things around by focusing on what the flowers ARE: edible instead of what they ARE NOT: poisonous. As a marketer, a big part of your job is to work out why your reader has started to read your copy. Why are they on your website, your social feed, or reading your advertisement? In other words, what problem are they looking to solve? Once you've identified the problem, then you need to solve it for your reader. Lois knows that a lot of people who buy her flowers do so because they're looking for last-minute gift. That's why she offers free next day delivery. But right now, that information is hidden down at the bottom in the call to action. Having identified this as a major selling point and problem solver, I'm going to include it right here in the first paragraph and link it directly to the benefit felt by the user. Problem solved. Remember Airbnb's webpage about becoming a host and the lengths that Airbnb went to to reassure potential hosts about things like security, safety and control over bookings and finances. Airbnb clearly did a lot of research into what stopped people from becoming hosts, in other words, what their objections were, and devoted a lot of their copy to overcoming those objections. Overcoming objections, like solving problems, is another feature of a positive brand voice, but it also makes good business sense. The trick is to put yourself in your reader's shoes. Why might a potential customer decide not to buy your product or service? There are two phrases I find helpful when doing this. "I'm interested but" and "that's okay because". I've used The Flower Yard's product as an example here. So a potential buyer might say, "I'm interested, but it might not arrive on time." To which we can reply, "That's okay, because next day delivery is guaranteed." Having a conversation with your imaginary reader like this is a really effective way to draw out potential objections and demonstrate a positive brand voice by overcoming them in your copy. If you're interested in taking this approach further, one of my favourite fellow copywriters, Belinda Weaver, has written a blog post on the subject on her website Copywrite Matters. In it, she adds two extra steps to the problem-solution formula we've just used. The resulting framework is really effective and I use it all the time. Give it a try and let me know how you get on. There's a link to this post in the class description, along with links to all the other brand voice guides, tools, and articles we've looked at in this class. Let's recap what we've learned in this lesson... The most important takeaway is that writing positively isn't just about making your reader feel-good; it's also an extremely powerful sales tool. When you convert negative statements, solve customers problems, and overcome their objections, you're giving readers lots of reasons to trust you and buy from you. It's now time to look at your own copy and make it sound more positive using the skills we've just learned. Use your own brand voice guidelines to adjust how much or how little positivity you choose to inject. In the next lesson, we'll explore how to write with a humorous voice. 8. Write in a Humorous Voice: Write in a Humorous Voice. In this lesson, we'll cover writing in a way that's humorous or eccentric. Some variation of this characteristic is included in a lot of voice guides and it's by far the most difficult one to get right. Sometimes this style of voice is referred to as humorous, sometimes as witty or quirky, fun or playful. The broad idea is that your copy should make people laugh - or at least smile. This is Mailchimp's style guide. In their voice and tone section, they have four characteristics to guide their copywriters. One of them is "our humour is dry" and they also refer to being eccentric and weird. Let's see how that manifests itself in Mailchimp's marketing material. The first thing to notice is that in terms of copy, Mailchimp's main web pages aren't brimming with humour. Look at these web pages and you'll see that they're very much focusing on clarity, warmth, knowledge, positivity... In fact, all the principles we've already covered in this class. Humour certainly comes across in the images, but to find it in the copy, which is what we're interested in, we have to dig a little deeper. This is the message you see when you sign up to Mailchimp. The funny headline immediately gets your attention and makes you smile. Most error pages are pretty boring and standard. Mailchimp have used their's to demonstrate a little of that trademark wit and introduced a bit of humour where it's not expected. But advertising is where Mailchimp really tries to tickle our funny bone, and the best example is its long-running "Did you mean" campaign, which relies on gentle wordplay to raise brand awareness. With Mailchimp as our inspiration, we're going to explore how to write in a humorous voice using three fun and foolproof techniques... Write witty headlines that get your reader's attention, introduced the unexpected, and use word play to give your message a playful feel. Headlines and subheadings - or titles and subtitles - are good places to introduce a little humour. A funny or unusual heading can catch your reader's attention and make them want to keep reading to find out what you're talking about. Let's revisit The Flowery Yard's copy. The contents of this subheading is repeated further down, so I think we can safely replace it without losing any meaning. I don't think this is going to have anyone rolling on the floor laughing, but it might raise a smile. One thing we saw from Mailchimp's approach was that rather than trying to be witty and clever in their main messaging, they hid their funny asides away in unexpected places. Remember the cute error page and the irreverent message asking us to confirm we were human that we got when we signed up? This is a very clever way of leveraging humour. It allows you to keep your main messaging clear, concise and friendly. Meanwhile, you're able to show off your quirky brand personality in places where the stakes are a little lower and the chance of accidentally offending or confusing your reader are a smaller. Inspired by Mailchimp, I've written this copy for The Flower Yard's error page. If you don't know what your own company's error page says, have a look and think about whether it would be appropriate to inject a little humour in there and how you might go about doing it. It's a useful exercise. Gentle word play is one of the most low-risk ways of experimenting with humour in your copy. The idea is to use techniques like puns, rhyme, metaphor and alliteration to add a little playfulness into your copy. Well, I think we can safely say we've covered puns. So let's try some rhyme or alliteration in The Flowery Yard's product copy. A method I find useful for coming up with ideas for this is to list synonyms for the key verbs and nouns in my copy, then see whether there are words in each group that either rhyme or have similar sounds in them. "Munch" and "bunch" has potential. Let's adjust this first sentence to give us an opener that's altogether quirkier and more fun, and as an added advantage, making that change means we're not repeating the words "bouquet" and "eat", which already appear a lot within the text. This technique of using synonyms to avoid tedious repetition of the same words is called 'elegant variation' and it's used a lot by journalists. If you work for a company that uses certain words a lot in the way that The Flower Yard uses the words "flower" and "bouquet" all the time, read up on the elegant variation technique, and see if it can help you vary your copy. Before we move on, I've got another free online tool for you, and this one's going to help you write headlines, (that's all headlines, not just funny ones). Co-schedule's Headline Analyser is a simple but useful little tool that analyses your headline and gives you tips for how to improve it. I've popped The Flower Yard headline in here and you can see the detail we get back: Word balance, headline type, links to useful blog posts and analysis of the length and sentiment and even a preview of what your headline will like on Google Search and in an email. Like any automatic tool, you need to take the results with a grain of salt. But I find it very handy to quickly run headlines through this to see if it gives me any easy pointers for how I can improve them. I've used the tool to reshape The Flower Yards headline into something a bit more punchy and I've managed to squeeze in a bit more alliteration for good measure. Let's recap what we've learned in this lesson. The most important takeaway is that writing with humour is something that everyone, even seasoned writers, find difficult. So don't be disheartened if you struggle with it. Hopefully, by writing the odd, witty headline, looking for ways to introduce the unexpected and experimenting with wordplay, you'll build your confidence. It's time to look at your own copy and make it sound more humorous using the skills we've just learned. Use your judgment and your knowledge of your brand to decide how much humour you should introduce. In the next lesson, we'll move from voice to TONE and how to vary your tone for different audiences and emotions. 9. Flex Your Tone: Flex Your Tone. Right at the start of this class, we talked about the difference between voice and tone. A brand VOICE should remain more or less the same all the time. But the TONE that the brand voice speaks in should be flexed to take account of different circumstances and audiences. You can also think of it as dialling different elements of your brand voice up or down depending on the context. In this lesson, we'll cover how to adapt your tone to suit different audiences, platforms, and situations. This is Salesforce's brand voice guidelines. You can see that Salesforce describes its brand voice as "honest, clear, fun, and inspiring", which all fall into the broad categories we've already discussed. It goes on to talk about tone, and how the tone of the brand voice should be tailored for the audience, medium, and situation. Let's see what that looks like in action on Salesforce's website. This is an article promoting Trailhead, Salesforce's gamified learning platform. Its audience is young people, mainly students, who are new to Salesforce, and the tone it's written in really ramps up the fun and inspiring elements of the brand voice. I've counted seven exclamation marks in this one short article and look at the language used; "scaled-up, kicked off, true grit, get in on the action." The writer is emulating the language used by the target audience. Contrast that with this page, which has a target audience of developers. "The Salesforce platform empowers developers to quickly build and deploy trusted cloud applications that are rock solid, secure and scalable without worrying about hardware provisioning or application stacks." Phew. No exclamation marks here. Instead, Salesforce is drawing more on the honest and clear elements of its brand voice. Again, it's using the language of its readers, in this case developers, by including industry terms. Salesforce flexed its voice in those examples, but remained true to his brand voice. Both examples are honest, clear, and inspiring. Although you may have to be a developer to find the second one 'fun'. To write for different audiences, first define your audience segments, then explore the kind of language they'd use when talking about your products. Let's take The Flower Yard as an example. Here are some examples of different language that might be used for an audience of lifestyle bloggers compared to floristry industry professionals. Now think about your own audiences and how you might need to flex your tone and language to suit them while remaining true to your brand voice. We've explored Salesforce's online presence so let's see how it flexes its voice on a different medium, in this case, social media. This is its main Instagram account, notice the use of emojis and trendy abbreviations like GOAT. They're using more exclamation marks than on their website, and the overall tone is lighter and more playful. Even if you work for a serious corporate brand, you need to soften your tone and make it lighter on social. That's because the main reason people use social media is to connect with friends, so it helps to emulate that casual tone in your posts. Remember too, that while generally more casual, your tone should be adjusted for different platforms. For example, on LinkedIn - the professional network, a typical Flower Yard post might say, "Our team at the flower yard has put together a list of the best floral centrepieces to make your corporate events stand out from the crowd. Click below to find out more." On Facebook, which is a more social platform and less professional, that might be tweaked with a few more colloquialisms, exclamation marks, emojis, and generally more casual language. As well as taking audience and media (or platform) into account when flexing your tone, we need to consider the situation or context. The content of our messaging and, crucially, how the reader is likely to be feeling. Let's look at Salesforce's support Twitter feed. This is where people come for help when they have a problem. The audience may well be the same audience that's reading Salesforce's web copy or following them on Facebook, but the situation here is different. These people have a problem with the product they haven't been able to resolve themselves. They're likely to be feeling annoyed, impatient, and possibly embarrassed, or just plain angry. Salesforce is flexing its tone in a few ways to avoid making these tricky situations more so and defuse them as quickly as possible. For a start, it's apparent that this isn't the place to be stressing the humorous element of the brand voice. That's kept firmly under wraps, and instead the focus is on clarity and honesty. Once again, Salesforce isn't introducing anything new into their voice; it's adjusting its tone; dialling different elements up and down to suit the audience, medium, and situation. Notice also how whoever is monitoring the feed uses the customer's first name whenever possible, and instead of using the collective "we", they use the singular "I", and finishes each tweet with their initials. These are useful ways of diffusing potential conflicts because they make the exchange feel more like a face-to-face offline conversation and they also humanise the person behind the feed. Earlier on in this class we talked about problem-solving. That's really an evidence here too. There's a real emphasis on positive solutions and resolving issues. Have a think about the different contexts your copy is used in and how you might need to flex your tone to suit them. This is especially important for potentially tricky situations, such as customer problems and complaints. We've talked a lot about understanding our audience in this lesson. Well, I've got another free tool that's going to help you do that better. It's a guide to marketing personas by Buffer. A marketing (or audience) persona is a snapshot of a segment of your audience. The process of creating them helps you understand your audience better; their age, interests, and outlooks. Building a clear picture of who you're writing for is the best way to make your copy more audience-focused and understand when and how to flex your tone to get the best results. This guide comes complete with free templates and links to lots of other really useful resources. There's a link to it in the class description. In the next lesson, we'll recap what we've learned and talk about our class project. I've also got one final brilliant free resource for you - so don't even think about skipping it. 10. Next Steps: Congratulations :-) Thank you for joining me for my class on Mastering Tone of Voice, and congratulations on finishing the class. In the last 60 minutes, you've explored helpful real-world examples from seven top brands who are totally acing tone of voice. You've learned a total of 18 practical, actionable steps you can put to work straight away to improve your copy and make it clearer, warmer, more knowledgeable, more positive and funnier, as well as flexing your tone to suit different audiences and platforms. And you've added six quality writing resources to your toolkit for a bit of extra help when you need it. You should congratulate yourself on an hour well-spent. You now understand exactly what voice and tone are and how they relate to brand marketing. You've learned copywriting techniques to help you write with clarity and warmth, along with top tips for making your copy sound more knowledgeable and positive. We've even covered the trickiest brand voice principle to master - that of humour - and you've learned how to flex your tone effectively to engage your reader. I promised you one extra copy writing resource, didn't I? Well, here it is. This mammoth guide from Copy Hackers lists every copywriting formula you'll ever need, from Aida to Scamper and so much in-between. Each formula is explained and shown in action with real-world examples. I refer to this comprehensive copywriting roundup all the time and I think you're going to find it really useful too. There's a link to it in the class description. Now, have you started your class project yet? Maybe you've been editing your text as we've gone along? Well, if not, now is the time to start. Choose a short piece of copy between 100 and 300 words that you'd like to improve by reflecting your brand voice in it more effectively. Download the Tone of Voice in Action cheat sheet. There's a link in the project description, or you can download it from the Projects and Resources tab. Use the cheat sheet to work through the new skills you've just learned. Your writing will become more on brand with each step. When you are done, share your new copy as a project. I'd love to see how you've used the techniques we've explored during the class. If you're unsure what image to use for your project, (this is a writing task after all), I've uploaded three royalty-free stock images to the Project and Resources tab for you to choose from. If you get stuck or you have any questions, let me know. Get in touch using the Discussions tab and I'll help you work things out. I'd love to hear your feedback about this class, and I'd love to hear about the positive feedback YOU get about your newly on-brand messaging. Thank you again for joining this class. Enjoy the rest of your day.