by | Jun 18, 2019

Your internal communications tone of voice matters. Does it reflect your brand and your culture — or does it sound like corporate speak?

The writing in a lot of well-intentioned internal communications comes off as unnecessarily stiff and corporate. Or worse, like a school teacher instructing students.

At Tribe, we believe it’s important to make the writing conversational and human. Rather than thinking of it as the company talking to employees, we like to think of it as person to person. (For more on why a conversational tone is important, try this Harvard Business Review article.)

That person-to-person approach levels the playing field of the conversation. It helps prevent the language from becoming too stilted or formal, or from talking down to people. By talking with people instead of at them, the writing shows a sense of respect for employees. It becomes more authentic, and less preachy.

Writing can be professional and conversational at the same time. Conventions like punctuation, spelling and grammar remain important. But conversational language, colorful examples and even humor can help people relate more easily. If you can’t picture someone saying it aloud to the person at the next desk, maybe try loosening up the language a bit. Phrases like “at this point in time,” “the fact of the matter” and “for what it’s worth” don’t make very engaging writing — or interesting conversation, for that matter.

Beyond being human and conversational, let the tone of voice reflect your brand. If your company makes surfboard wax, the tone of voice should probably be different from that of a company providing back-office services for financial planners. The internal communications for an audio equipment company that promises consumers mind-blowing innovation might have a different tone of voice than an aircraft manufacturer with a brand promise of safety.

The culture behind your brand can be your greatest guide in finding your internal communications tone of voice. Consider your company values and how things get done in your organization. For example, are your meetings generally formal and structured or a freewheeling brainstorm? (Try this quiz to define your meeting culture.) Think about how your leadership talks to their peers and to employees, and how employees talk with each other. Is your company’s cultural vibe smart and witty? Kind and helpful? Are you a culture of tech nerds or science guys or sustainability geeks?

Once you define that tone of voice, how do you replicate it in all your internal communications? One of the best ways to help writers throughout the organization and in your agencies nail that tone is to create a style guide as part of your internal communications brand guide. Stylistic guidelines could range from using more contractions to avoid sounding overly formal to emphasizing an active voice rather than a passive one. Including examples of writing that is and isn’t in your brand voice can help people get it more quickly.

Interested in taking your internal communications tone of voice from corporate to conversational? Tribe can help.


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