Why tone of voice has become vital during the pandemic

To find out how brands are communicating and the tone of voice they are using right now, language and behaviour consultancy Schwa recently surveyed brand and marketing leaders across 13 countries.

Key findings

  • 93% saw the value of having a global tone of voice. The main benefits mentioned were its ability to bring consistency to comms (79%), improve customer experience (76%) and create a stronger brand (69%).
  • PR and communications teams are most likely to use that tone of voice consistently – particularly in the UK. The next three were marketing, brand and digital.
  • Most respondents said the pandemic had changed the way brands communicate. In the UK, 61% said brands had become more ‘soft and fluffy’. Whereas around the world, 37% said brands had started using more ‘formal language’.
Tone of voice is vital and PR and comms people are its gatekeepers.

So if that’s you, or your client, what should you do about it?

Make sure you’ve got a tone of voice

It brings all the benefits already mentioned and many more besides. Most topical, perhaps, is the safety net it offers when you find yourself having to put out tricky messages during a global pandemic.

Our clients have saved millions, increased sales, boosted net promotor Scores (NPS) and much more. All by rewriting key comms in their tone of voice.

What tone is best?

The survey showed that brands have pulled in opposite directions: some going soft and fluffy, others formal. So which is right?

Well, I can tell you which is wrong: formality. It’s 2020. There’s no place for 'apologise for any inconvenience caused' anymore. It’s a ‘we’re really sorry world’ now.

But is soft and fluffy right? That depends. It’s probably a good idea right now, when times are tough. But whether it’s right for your brand is another matter.

With tone of voice, the goal is to find one that fits your brand and stick with it. So if you’re a tough, no-nonsense kind of brand, should you soften?

I’d say no. By all means soften your content – give discounts to help people with money trouble, send out empathetic emails, show you’re all in it together. But do all of that in your usual, no-nonsense tone.

Because remember: the number one benefit of a tone of voice, according to our research, is consistency. You just have to be brave enough not to flex.

Written by Nick Padmore, creative director at Schwa


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