It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it

If there’s one thing you learn after years spent working with clients to create successful campaigns, it’s that it’s not always what you say, but how you say it.

The majority of our clients operate in highly regulated, complex industries – defence, IT and nuclear. One of the key challenge they share is developing effective communications that successfully engage with a wide range of stakeholders/audiences.

It’s vital when working on projects, not just to think about how something will look, or the tactic to get it to market. The language, the words and the tone of voice have a huge bearing on how communications are interpreted and how a brand is perceived.

Think about language and tone of voice

Understand your audience

It sounds blatantly obvious, but unless you know who you’re communicating with you’re on to a loser from the start. Once you’re clear about the ‘who’, invest time in understanding them. We spend a lot of time talking to people, we also spend a lot of time listening to what they have to say – using the insights to inform and influence what we develop.

Uphold your brand values

To be trusted, language and tone of voice must be consistent with brand values. Inconsistency leads to suspicion and people either won’t believe you, or worse still, believe in you. Never try and sound like someone you’re not. Set the ground rules early, make sure they’re understood and don’t deviate. That doesn’t mean language and tone of voice should be static. They need to evolve in the same way as a visual brand identity – make sure they always form part of any brand review.

Don’t just follow the crowd

Tone of voice can be the point of difference. Used in the right way, it could be something that makes you distinctive. Think about how you want to be perceived, take the time to assess what your competitors are doing and establish whether there’s scope for creating a unique identity through language and tone of voice.

There’s a time and place for everything

Depending on what you’re communicating, remember that there’s always a time and a place for everything. People can easily take offence if they think you’re being too flippant with a message that requires more authoritative language and tone of voice.

Gobbledegook, gibberish and jargon

Is it appropriate to use gobbledegook, gibberish or jargon? Don’t blind people with science. Make things clear and simple for people to understand. The worst thing you can do is alienate your audience, speaking a language they don’t understand. If people have to work too hard to get the message they’ll simply switch off.