Developing a strong tone of voice for your school

As school marketers, we spend a lot of time and energy ensuring the visual elements of our brand are consistent – the correct logo, colours and fonts.

But what about your school’s tone of voice? Does the tone of voice in your written communications and messaging match your school’s beliefs? If your logo wasn’t there, would you recognise your own content?

A strong tone of voice helps create similar experiences for customers across your communications, differentiating your school from the next.

Here are five tips for developing a strong tone of voice in school marketing:

  1. Review your content
    Take a wide selection of your current content across a range of platforms, including web copy, letters, publications, videos and social media. Do they reflect a unified tone of voice or are some stronger than others? Can you identify the characteristics of the successful examples that help define your school? What are acceptable for some, for example Facebook, but not for others.
  2. Define your tone of voice
    Think about your school’s values? If it was a person, how would you describe it? Understanding your school and what it stands for should help you come up with a short list of characteristics that determine its ‘personality’ – what is appropriate and inappropriate. If you’d describe the school as traditional then a more formal writing style would apply, such as not using contractions (will not versus won’t).
  3. Create a language style guide
    Most schools have a design style guide but many still don’t have a detailed language style guide, or a limited one at that. It’s the ‘bible’ for school marketers when it comes to writing and proofreading, and can settle disputes quickly over whether to spell ‘program’ with one ‘m’ or ‘mme’ or refer to the school in the first or third person. If you don’t have a language style guide, then some guidelines on basic conventions, punctuation, grammar and spellings, as well as tone of voice in written communications (e.g. prospectus, yearbook or social media) would be a good investment of your time.
  4. Enlist the help of content police
    Not everyone can write! And it’s unrealistic to think that every piece of written communication will pass through your office. Every staff member in your school should at least have access to the style guide or guidelines – that’s a start. Enlist the help of your most trusted content police, whether its members of your own team or other staff members who know the voice and style of the school like the back of their hand. These allies are an excellent backup in times of need.
  5. Revisit
    Schools grow and change, key figures come and go and new schools emerge. Revisit your tone of voice just as you would your messaging. You might be surprised at what you find.

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