Tone is the way in which you use language to convey the specific personality and overall feeling of your organisation.
As an example, depending on your non-profit, your tone may be formal or informal, serious or joking, authoritative or friendly, or any combination of other moods.
Particularly with non-verbal online communications such as social media, it is impossible to convey a sense of personality in the same way you would face to face. Therefore, the tone of your communications and the language you use is important to give the right impression of your organisation.
Tone and voice should express your values, be unique, set you apart from others. It may vary slightly between platforms and intended audiences, but your overall voice should be consistent, giving your organisation a clear identity.
Why it is important to use the right tone
Firstly, why is it so important to find the right tone for your organisation?
There is a multitude of reasons why using the right tone across communications to your audience will improve the overall success of your non-profit.
Here is why it is important to find the right tone for you:
It will attract the right audiences
Different tones of voice will attract different types of audiences, who are interested in different types of brands. Therefore, if you find a tone of voice that truly represents your organisation, you will be sure to attract the audience that you want to connect with.
People will understand your organisation better
The tone of your communications can reveal just as much as the information it contains. The right tone will reflect your organisation’s personality and people will better understand your intentions and ethos.
Engagement with your organisation will increase
A better understanding of your organisation also comes with a sense of connection. This means that people will also be more likely to engage with your online content, and maybe even offer support and donations. Audiences are not just looking for pure information, but connection is just as important
Your brand will feel more human
This is particularly important for non-profit organisations. With the right tone, your personality will shine through in all your communications and will show that behind the black and white text, there are real people working to do good in the world. Once again, this will make people more likely to engage.
A consistent tone will build trust in your brand
If your tone of voice is consistent, people will develop a better sense of familiarity with your brand. If your tone is constantly shifting across communications, it can be jarring for readers and can decrease trust in your brand. Trust and familiarity are closely linked, and a consistent tone will help to increase this trust (see here for more tips on how to build trust in your non-profit).
Find your voice: How to develop your tone
1 – What are your core qualities?
The first step is to think about the fundamentals of your organisation; your ethos, intentions, motivations, inspiration, and overall philosophy. Consider what you want people to think or envisage when they think of you.
From this, make a list of adjectives that describe the overall personality of your non-profit. These could be anything you feel applies to you, whether it is: fun, serious, informative, engaging, motivational, moving, authoritative, or anything else. Don’t forget to also think about what you are not, to help refine your tone even further.
From then on, these core adjectives should apply to every piece of communication you write.
Develop your persona
One way to come up with this list of core adjectives is to build a brand persona.
A brand persona will allow you to envisage more clearly what your voice will be like. It will also help you to resonate with your target audience.
The easiest way to imagine your persona is to consider who your brand or organisation would be if they were a person. You could make up a fictional person, or make comparisons to the personalities of celebrities, for example.
As well as who they are, you could determine what relationship this person would have with the audience you are trying to reach. For example, they may be a friend, teacher, or big sister. This will help you to understand how to communicate with your audience.
Another way to come up with your core qualities is to consider what customers or supporters think about you.
For example, after people have supported or donated to your organisation, you could send out surveys asking people to select the adjectives that best describe you, in their opinion.
You could also carry out social listening, the process of looking at the way your customers are talking about you and analysing their language. This could be from direct communications or indirects on social media, for example.
Both of these methods can give you a sense of how people view your organisation. You can then use this information to develop your tone to fit to how people want to see you. You may mirror how others talk about you and better meet the needs of your supporters.
2 – Use the right language
Tone is made through the vocabulary you use.
There are some things you might want to consider when choosing the vocab you use:
Is your language formal or informal? This will depend on your audience, and whether you want to be more friendly and warm or authoritative and respectful. Many brands also successfully strike a balance between the two.
Will you use technical language? Technical language can be very useful if you’re educating people about certain issues. However, overuse can make your copy confusing and may alienate certain readers.
Will you use slang? Slang can be effective for creating a friendly and informal tone, but once again can alienate potential audiences. – same thing, accessible
Good grammar is also very important!
There are many other aspects of language you can consider, but ultimately the language used should reflect the core personality traits and persona of your organisation
3 – Tweak until perfect
You may need to experiment with tone and the type of language you use in communications such as social media posts until you get it exactly right.
Look at which posts get the best responses and engagement, and then you can mimic the tone and language in these to connect with the most amount of people possible.
Gradually tweak your tone until it is perfect, but do this slowly because, as mentioned, sudden changes in tone can be jarring for readers.