Remember when you were a kid and your parents scolded you in that tone? How much of what they were trying to tell you got through? Probably not much.
What was true then is true now – tone matters. And it turns out that the tone organizations use to talk to their employees matters as well. The right tone can have a dramatic impact on message effectiveness. In fact, finding and developing an organizational voice that is authentic, credible and reflective of your brand is crucial to shaping perceptions, driving brand behavior and enhancing employee engagement.
So why is tone so important? Here’s why: words impact how we think but tone impacts how we feel. Tone goes to the heart. Perceptions, attitudes and commitment are driven by how we feel. Tone is crucial to branding because great brands aren’t about what we think – great brands are about how we feel about them.
Authentic brands are built from the inside out. It takes effective employee communication, with the right tone, to turn brand promises into great customer experiences. Advertising slogans are promises made – brands are promises kept. Those promises can’t be kept without effective employee communication delivered in the right tone.
We cannot talk to our customers in one voice and talk to our employees in a different tone and expect them to consistently deliver on the brand promise. We need to talk to our employees like we want them to talk to our customers. Our employees are trusted business partners and we need to speak to them as such. We need to develop a Voice of the Brand and integrate it into everything we do.
Organizations, like people, have personalities. We need to develop a tone that reflects the personality of our brand. I have seen this work with impressive results throughout my 20-year career in internal communications.
Case Study Example: When I first came to PetSmart in 2001, the tone used to communicate to employees was mostly a directive tone and task compliance was the primary goal. The belief was that store managers were busy and didn’t have time for the “why,” which was regarded as “fluff.” The philosophy was “just tell them what to do in simple, clear terms.” This tone was designed to keep shelves stocked, not to delight customers. It did neither with any great success.
My team and I set about developing a Voice of the Brand that reflected our fun, playful and knowledgeable brand. We developed a custom style guide, a brand vocabulary, guiding principles, and a lively, conversational writing style to support our Voice of the Brand. Over the next nine months, we saw marked increases in readership of our e-letter and intranet, greater task compliance and an upturn in customer experience scores.
I believe if you discover the Voice of your Brand, you will discover a deep unstoppable power within. Or you could try having your parents talk to them.
NOTE: Paul Barton, ABC, will present an interactive workshop on Finding the Voice of Your Organization’s Brand at the ALI Strategic Internal Branding Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., on April 20.
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