Phase 1 — Research
First thing I did was a quick competition analysis. I went through our competitors’ websites and support pages to check what their tone&voice is. This activity will help you to understand how you can distinguish your company from other similar ones, as a unique tone and voice can be a huge differentiating factor. Pay attention to the words and phrases they use, their tone (is it more official or casual?), and consistency.
I also checked how our company is currently communicating with the clients. I looked at our marketing materials (website, blog), and customer success team’s communication. We mostly talk with our clients on Intercom, so I read many conversations to get a feel for our current tone. I picked a few messages that I thought reflect our current tone best.
Phase 2 — Company workshop
To make sure that everyone has the same vision about our tone and voice I organized a workshop. I invited people from the design, customer success, and marketing teams — people that use words on behalf of our company every day.
At the workshop we tried to talk about who our customers are, what they do, and how do we currently communicate with them. Then we tried to find out how we all see Growbots — we generated some character traits that we associate with our company (e.g. helpful, casual, friendly). We found out that our vision is very similar. Everyone more or less have seen Growbots as a young person (we’re a startup), very helpful, someone who learned everything on their own and loves to share this knowledge with others.
Our Head of UX, Piotr, also came up with a great exercise. He printed a photo of a group of people and asked us to indicate the person on the photo that, in our opinion, resembles Growbots the best. Most people chose the same person and it really showed us that our vision is very consistent.
When we had an image of the person that we felt looked like Growbots (we named this person Mark), we did a next exercise that really helped us to translate our vision into something more tangible. We imagined that Mark (Growbots) has his own shop with prospects data, and a customer enters this shop. Then we wrote a conversation that we imagined would happen in such a situation.
We went through the whole possible scenario — from the beginning of a relationship with the customer, through some of his problems and little accomplishments, up to the client deciding to stop using our services. In this scenario, we used a different tone depending on the situation we imagined. E.g. when the client was angry that something was not working, Mark was very calming and helpful. And when the customer had some wins, Mark was cheerful and encouraging, using less formal words.
When we finished working on that scenario, we assigned every Mark’s sentence to one category:
- Positive information
- Neutral information
- An answer to a problem
Then, we analyzed those sentences and marked them on the matrix we created. The matrix consisted of two axes:
- How professional the information sounds
- How energetic Mark was while communicating the information
Thanks to this exercise we were able to assign the types of messages to the tone we want to use in these situations.
Phase 3 — The guidelines
Having all this information I was able to create the guidelines for our tone and voice. It consisted of a few main sections with 1–6 slides per section. Below you can see a sample slide for every section.
- What are tone and voice and why they are important
2. Who are our customers?
3. What is Growbots’ “personality” and an introduction to our persona (Mark)
4. What is our voice
5. What we are, and what we’re not
6. Few rules of our brand’s writing with an explanation and some tips to achieve this style.
7. Some general writing tips — e.g. which tenses to use, how to structure sentences, phrases to avoid etc.
8. Do’s and don’ts of writing for every type of information, consisting of examples of good and bad phrasings.
After creating the guidelines I presented them to product owners, developers and other people working on Growbots app.