What’s your tone?

Deciding about your tone of voice is an important decision that can influence nearly all the daily duties of a communication specialist within a company. Whether you are responsible for internal communication, social media, PR, or external communication, the tone involves all of them. Because it’s not only about the content of your message. Your tone influences the overall impression and feeling of how your communication will be received. Sometimes the smallest change can create a whole different impression. Just imagine writing internally:

‘All employees must take part in e-learning.’

‘All colleagues are obliged to take part in e-learning.’

‘It’s important for us all to take part in e-learning.’

It’s the same message. Or isn’t it?

Simple rules to keep your tone consistent and polished

What you want to achieve is that your audience accepts the message. When setting the right tone, you can prevent the feelings of being spoken down to or hiding something within the message, or plainly misunderstanding. There are few golden rules we can recommend when setting up the standards of your communication tone:

  • Write directly to your audience (you can use ‘you’ or company naming e.g. Dear Googlers, Kiwis, Amazonians instead of ‘employees’ or ‘staff’).
  • Use first person wisely. Although the e-mail is written by yourself personally, most times it represents the opinion/information of the management/other teams (‘We are happy to inform you’). However, sometimes the first person can help you create a more personal feeling, and people pay more attention.
  • Active language is always more engaging than passive (‘We have started a new process’ rather than ‘New process has been started’).
  • Information should be clear. If there is a call to action, highlight it with a concrete deadline.
  • If there is more detailed information needed, use pre-links, not everything needs to be in the main message.
  • Don’t be afraid to express emotion – whether it is happiness, regret, or concern. Official e-mails do not have to be robot-like.
  • Try to keep the message simple and down to earth. It doesn’t sound better if you use sophisticated vocabulary (if you are unsure, read the message out loud, whether you can pronounce it easily. If the used terms are appropriate and the sentences aren’t too long).

Always have your company culture in mind

What can vary in different companies is the level of formality. This depends on many factors such as the size of the company, the age average of your colleagues, but also cultural preferences and the industry your company is active in. The company I work for is originally from the UK, but our internal communication is sent only to the 650 colleagues located in Brno, Czech Republic. Our age average here is 30 years, so a fairly young audition, the majority of whom have a degree (finance, IT, logistics, languages). In this setup, we can even use emojis in some of the internal e-mails. The tone we use is always inclusive, open, and friendly.

Key to employer branding comms is the diversity of channels

Many graduates are afraid of working in a corporate as they see it as something strict, sterile, boring, and rigid. The exact opposite of what the real atmosphere is within. That’s why we keep our comms informal, friendly and open also when it comes to employer branding.

We have a group of 6 people preparing content for our social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, blog, and newsletter) and it’s important for us to keep consistency. As an external reader, you should feel like everything was created by one person.

However, that doesn’t mean the content is the same on all of our comms channels. LinkedIn is more polished and professional. Facebook is the most relaxed in the style of communication. And on Instagram, we focus more on the quality of the picture and hashtags used. Each social media has its nuances, but the tone of voice should be the same on all of them. Because only the tone can transmit the right emotion you want to connect with your brand.


Written by Kristína Sabáková

Kristína has 15 years of experience in different areas of HR, especially in recruitment, employer branding and training. Her current responsibilities in Dixons Carphone CoE where she works as Recruitment & Branding Manager include also the area of internal communication that she's really passionate about. Kristína is an active mentor and loves to get involved in professional communities to meet other enthusiastic professionals.

Published on 14 December 2020

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