Voice and Tone in Internal Communications: How You Say It MattersBy Eleanor Pierce

We pay a lot of attention to voice and tone when we’re communicating with external audiences.

If we’re writing, we spend time carefully crafting a document that strikes the right balance between authentic and informative.

We’re careful about apologies.

But, too often, organizations aren’t quite as careful with their internal communications.

It’s as if the doors to our office close, the lights go out, we can finally relax … and instead of getting more fun and interesting, we decide to put everyone to sleep.

Here’s an example: Have you ever read a corporate social media policy?

Did it read in a tone that would make an employee excited to go be a champion for their brand online,  while also clarifying the company’s position, or did it read as though it was written by attorneys?

Do you even know, or was the document so freaking boring you couldn’t even bring yourself to read the thing?

Now, I get it, I do. Attorneys do need to see many of these documents. And so does your HR department.

But with these policies, and with nearly all of your internal communications, it’s worth taking the time to assure that the voice used is communicating more than just “this company has attorneys on retainer.”

Internal Documents Represent Your Brand’s Voice, Too

The fact is, your entire team is on the forefront of communicating your brand.

Yes, the marketing team, whoever’s in charge of your PR, they’re going to have a lot of sway when it comes to how your brand is perceived—or they should, if they’re doing their jobs well.

But so do your sales people.

And your customer service reps.

Anyone who interacts with your customers, your vendors… it goes way beyond the communications team.

How do you get those people to live and breathe your brand?

One way you can communicate the voice of your brand to everyone in the company is to be as careful and as consistent on the inside as you are the outside.

A quote by Nick Parker on the ILM blog summed it up nicely:

It is the people who work for you that live and breathe the brand, and it is difficult for them to be completely immersed in it if you talk differently internally compared to externally. It needs to be joined up. If you look at brands that do it really well and have the right tone in their policies and annual reports, such as Virgin and Innocent, it is a large part of what makes them believable.

More than Just Your Social Media Policy

What internal communications am I talking about?

Here’s a partial list:

All of these things communicate essential information to your employees. Management certainly knows this. HR knows it. Your attorney knows it.

But the voice you use in these documents matters, too. If they’re written in legalese, riddled with grammatical errors, or just a plain old snooze-fest, they also say something about your company.

Have you worked for a company that used a problematic voice in its internal communications? Or one that did this well?

Eleanor Pierce

Eleanor Pierce is a recovering journalist who can't decide which part of the country to call home. She's happiest when she's reading, though she also really likes writing, baking, dogs, and sarcasm. No, seriously.

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