tone of voice

Developing your tone of voice in 7 easy steps

tone of voiceHave you figured out what your tone of voice is for your accountancy firm yet?

Tone of voice means the way your accounting business talks. What words you use (or don’t use). The style and approach you take when writing or sharing anything.  It’s actually more like “tone of words” than “tone of voice”.

Your tone will even flow into your design. A very stiff, professional tone means a certain type of stock imagery; and a friendly, cheerful tone full of banter may fit better with vector or custom graphics, even cartoons.

I realise that getting clarity on your tone of voice sounds like a pretty low-priority item.

“How is that going to get us more business?” you ask. “Who’s going to look at our tone of voice sheet and decide they want to work with us?”

But if you’re going to see the right kind of success in your firm marketing, it’s critical to set aside that “if this then that” mentality. Everything integrates – it’s the two bucket rule.

So if everything integrates, your tone of voice will spill over into so many areas of your marketing – website pages, emails, blog posts, ebooks and guides, videos, webinars, events…everything.

Here’s a super quick way to get yours identified. Don’t over-think it: simply follow the steps and get your 5 words. It’s that easy. The rest can come later.  (And if you’d like our input, drop us a line and ask for our thoughts! We’d be glad to share.)

1. Get the team together.

Unless you’re a sole practitioner, this is not a Lone Ranger exercise. Actually, even if you are a sole prac, I’d still suggest you get a few people round the table – a partner, a client, a friend.

2. Make a big list of words.

Make a big list of all the words you feel define your firm now, and the words you wish defined you. Bung it all in together into one list.

NOTE: In this portion of the exercise there are no bad ideas. Include everything, even if you disagree, or even if the words are ones from step 3. (Don’t strike those off until later.)

3. Remove any of these words from the list:

  • Modern
  • Forward-thinking
  • Progressive
  • Professional
  • Friendly
  • Helpful
  • Supportive
  • Knowledgeable
  • Reliable
  • Caring
  • Competent
  • Efficient

That’s not an exhaustive list, but those are standard things to doing business. Those aren’t unique to you and your brand.

In our experience, almost every accountancy firm in the entire world can be defined by these. We’re looking for personality. Difference. Standing out. What makes you, you.

4. Circle the words that are repeated by at least a third of your team.

If you have a team of 17, a word mentioned over 5 times would be shortlisted.

5. Pick the top 5 words.

If you don’t have 5, pick 4. Or 3. If you don’t have 3 words in common amongst the entire team, you may have team issues, and you need some coaching and support to be the firm you need to be.

Remember, some words are very similar. When we did this exercise, we decided that ‘positive’ and ‘motivating’ and ‘encouraging’ were all very similar, and we chose the word “positive” for our final list. We identified though that by positive, we meant motivating and encouraging, too.

6. Discuss whether you’re happy with these defining words.

Are they unique? Do you like them? Are there any you wish were on there, but no one came up with them? Any that you came up with that the rest of the team didn’t support?

7. Repeat the exercise for the opposites.

If you wish, you can also repeat the exercise for words you feel do not represent your firm.

Ta-daaa! You’ve got the beginnings of a tone of voice sheet.

We’ve got a lovely tone of voice PDF that our graphic designer Chryzia created. Feel free to mock one up of your own. (By the way, if you’re already a PF client, we’ll create one of these, as well as a style sheet and imagery sheet, for your firm – drop us a line if you don’t have yours yet!)

Oh – and refer to this sheet every time you write, prepare, create, and generate.

You’ll have much more clarity, and your clients will too!

PF Tone of Voice