How changing the tone of your content affects your audience

Originally published November 2013 in the Alternative Strategies newsletter

One of the greatest advantages of using media is the variety of formats that now allow for conversation between you and your audiences. When writing to communicate with specific groups, you should take account of, and tailor your message, paying special attention to the tone that you use. Tone conveys your attitude towards your message and audience, and is crucial because it determines whether your content leads to active conversation or a passive presentation of information.

To begin with, be conversational. Build and foster relationships by creating messages that use words like “you” and “we,” and straightforward language, not jargon. Use an active voice to show what your company can do, rather than a passive voice. If you are looking to be more casual, use contractions such as “it’s” or “you’re,” instead of “it is” or “you are.”

The overall tone of your message also depends on your audience.

  • Ask yourself key questions:
  • Who am I trying to reach?
  • What are their personality traits?
  • What are they looking for?

Your audience’s values, as well as your own, determine how you approach the conversation. For example, customers looking for organic products appreciate an honest, friendly tone whereas an IT company’s audience likely responds better to a factual and reliable tone. B2C writing can be informal, even humorous or chatty, whereas B2B communication is more formal and professional. Conversations can only occur when there is a shared underlying connection.

Your medium also determines your tone. For example, consider a few of the many different online platforms and tones of voice that are usually used:

  • Website: concise, informative
  • Blog: informed, personal
  • LinkedIn: friendly, professional
  • Twitter: chatty, current

Most importantly, remember to be consistent and true to your company’s brand in your communications. Not only does your tone convey what you think about your content and reader, but it also determines what your audience perceives about you and your company’s personality.