Developing your style and tone

A tone of voice is an expression of someone’s values and way of thinking. Understanding your core values will help you to define the style and tone of your content. Pinning down your values acts as background work – before you can think about what you write, you must decide on how you write. For example, if one of your core values is connectivity, the direction of your content may be about connecting people as a community and uncovering similar themes and stories in your collection.

Once you have identified what your core values are, think about how this shapes your tone of voice. Connectivity as a core value would suggest that your tone of voice for digital engagement would be friendly and warm. This will change depending on the platform and context, so it’s a good idea to figure out a standard tone of engagement. Formal language can communicate a sense of professionalism as well as authority. On the other hand, it runs the risk of appearing stiff and uninteresting. Informal language can be more easily imbued with personality and warmth but could be interpreted as too relaxed. Whatever tone you decide upon must align with your values and be consistent so that you build a solid relationship with your audience.

Exercise – discovering your values

The organisation that your archive is a part of may already have a set of values and these may be a good starting point for this exercise.

On a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle and at the top of the left column write ‘We are’, and at the top of the right column write ‘We are not’.

Fill in these columns stating what your archive organisation is and what it isn’t. These can be adjectives such as curious, passionate, inclusive, innovative, playful.

E.g Red Bull are adventurous. Red Bull are not timid.

Exercise – discovering your voice

From the exercise above now write down words that describe your ideal:

  • Tone of voice
  • Content style

Further development

The guide below explores how tone of voice and the personality of  a museum are linked and is a useful insight into how this can be developed to engage with audiences.

Museum Next – How museums use tone of voice to reveal their hidden personalities

Once you have more of a sense of how your values and voice are developing, you can move on the next section of the Creative Inspiration Guide, which focuses on where to begin with your story.