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How to Define Voice and Tone for Brand Journalism

Madeline Killen

Defining voice and tone for brand journalism is much like defining your overall brand voice, but with a few key caveats.


When building a brand, one of the first and most important decisions you have to make is what your brand’s voice is going to be. Before creating any of your website’s copy, emails to investors, or initial descriptions of your product or service, you had to decide whether your brand was going to be funny, friendly, honest, or direct — and all of your copy had to match the voice that you chose. But if you’re getting ready to venture into brand publishing, that voice is about to become more important than ever.

Creating branded content on a regular basis requires a clearly-defined brand voice, and if you’re working with multiple writers or publishing across a number of channels, keeping that voice consistent will be challenging. That’s why any venture into brand journalism has to begin with establishing your brand voice in clear and detailed terms. Look to these five steps for guidance as you craft a compelling and consistent brand voice:

1. Consider your past content

Before you do anything else, you should gather plenty of examples of content that your brand has created in the past. These assets will act as your starting point. Consider how your brand voice comes across in these existing materials. Do you still feel comfortable with that voice, or is it time for a change?

If it’s time to switch it up, define what you want to change and why. What about the old voice wasn’t working? If you want to stick with your existing brand voice, you’ll need to define that voice in greater detail.

2. Describe your brand voice

Review the content you’ve selected as the voice you want to embody, and look to common themes across those pieces. How would you describe the themes you see? We’d recommend choosing three broad adjectives to sum up your brand’s voice or the voice you’d like for your brand to have.

For example, maybe your ideal voice is witty, quirky, and knowledgeable. Once you’ve chosen those three adjectives, define each in more depth to create a well-rounded portrait of your brand voice:

  • Witty: Clever and funny, but never snarky
  • Quirky: Hip with Internet culture, friendly
  • Knowledgeable: An expert on our subject matter, ready to get serious if necessary

3. Keep your audience in mind

While you do want to keep your brand voice consistent, brand journalism is about audience above all else. Think about the audience you’re trying to reach, what kind of language they’re likely to respond to, and how you want to make them feel. Generally, your brand journalism will be a little more formal than your product language, but the overall voice should remain the same.

This is where tone comes into play. While voice is static, tone changes depending on the topic or audience. Consider what tone is appropriate for the audience that you want your blog post, e-book, or social media channel to reach: it might be humble, sympathetic, cheerful, congratulatory, or concerned, to name a few possibilities.

4. Identify your authors

Your brand publication is likely to have a number of different authors, whether they’re employees, guest writers, or freelancers. Fortunately, it’s okay for different authors to be distinct from one another — it might even seem strange if they weren’t.

However, you still want everyone who’s writing for your brand publication to have an in-depth understanding of your brand voice. Maintain cohesion by making sure that all of your authors fit under the larger umbrella of your brand’s voice, even while bringing their own personal touches to each piece.

5. Create a style guide

Since it’s likely that you’ll have multiple people contributing to your brand publication, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page by creating a comprehensive style guide. A style guide will form the cornerstone of all your brand publishing efforts; you can always return to it to make sure you’re on the right track.

The guide can also help bring any new contributors up to speed quickly and, above all, accurately. Without a definitive guide, explaining your brand voice can turn into a game of telephone — writing it all down will keep everyone on the same page.

Madeline Killen

Senior Content Associate

Helps clients find their voice and share it with the world, online and in print. Best friends with her library card.

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