Charting a Better Brand Course – Part 2

Charting a Better Brand Course – Part 2

In the first part of our series, we focused on an invisible yet fundamental element in brand construction: your organization’s values. We outlined the reasons why it was important to define them clearly, before articulating your mission and vision, so that your team could move toward a purpose-driven and impactful future. We now turn our attention to brand voice and copy tone, and how you can achieve clarity and consistency in both using organizational style guides and document-specific style sheets.

Brand voice vs. copy tone: What’s the difference?

Brand voice reflects your organization’s unique personality and character, and is based on your values, mission, vision, and culture. It serves as the foundation for all your communication efforts, influences brand perception, and sets expectations for how your organization engages its audiences, including staff, partners, and customers.

Your brand voice could be described in terms such as professional, innovative, traditional, or authoritative.

Copy tone refers to the expression of your brand in a particular context. It is the way your brand voice adapts to fit different situations, platforms, and audiences. As the subtler aspect of communication, it can echo your general brand voice or vary based on factors such as these:

    • target audience
    • communication topic
    • copy format
    • media outlet

 

Think of copy tone as the emotional trigger that allows you to connect with your audiences in specific situations. For instance, a brand may maintain a professional voice but adopt a conversational and friendly copy tone in a social media post to suit the needs of the moment.

Copy tone could be described in terms such as formal or informal, serious or humorous, respectful or irreverent, reassuring, enthusiastic or matter-of-fact.

Together, brand voice and copy tone affect the understanding of your brand, facilitates audience engagement, and, ultimately, builds trust.

Achieving consistency with style guides and style sheets

To ensure a seamless and unified communication strategy, organizations should consider creating and implementing style guides and document-specific style sheets.

1. Organizational style guides

An organizational style guide is a comprehensive document that outlines your brand’s voice, values, and the rules governing all aspects of communication. It acts as a reference for your team and collaborators to maintain consistency in all written and visual content. Key components of an organizational style guide include:

    • A clear definition of your brand voice, using adjectives or phrases that encapsulate its personality
    • Guidance on how to adapt your brand voice to different situations and platforms using copy tone
    • Notes on recurring audience engagement elements such as Indigenous land acknowledgements. In that instance, your should indicate when and where the acknowledgements should be included, and what should be communicated (i.e., standard copy and speaking notes)
    • A list of “magic words.” These are approved words and phrases that reflect your brand’s identity
    • Information on the visual elements that align with your brand’s voice, including approved logo usage and rendition, colour palette, typography, image and video guidelines, and general design principles
    • Rules for using AI-powered editing and writing tools

 

2. Document-specific style sheets

In addition to the overarching organizational style guide, document-specific style sheets provide instructions for individual pieces of content, such as blog posts, marketing materials, or social media updates. These style sheets tailor the brand voice and copy tone to a specific context while adhering to the organizational style guide.

Document-specific style sheets might include:

    • A description of the audience for the particular piece of content. This will support the use of clear, accessible, and inclusive language
    • Guidance on how your writers and editors should adjust the brand voice for the context
    • The communication goals and core messages for the content
    • Samples of how to write and structure content in line with the established guidelines
    • A glossary of technical terms
    • Notes on the spelling of names and use of preferred pronouns and titles

 

By combining the consistency of an organizational style guide with the adaptability of document-specific style sheets, you can ensure that your organizational brand voice and copy tone remain coherent across all communication channels. This will help your audience recognize and connect with your brand, building trust and fostering loyalty.

In Part 3, we’ll look at the pros and cons of using AI-powered large language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT and image generators like Midjourney to support brand expression as well as maintain ethical governance.