Jun 262013
What's your tone of voice?

Are you shouty?

Do you ever feel shouted at by advertisers? Some TV adverts take this to extremes with over excited chaps and girls bellowing into the camera promising you super clean kitchen surfaces, increased sex appeal and more. Annoying isn’t it?

Why would advertisers do this? Mainly to get attention but secondly to adopt a commanding tone that will compel you to listen and act. They use volume to be more insistent.

Without the benefit of sound, the words we write on the page, have to find another way to grab attention and compel the reader to act.

One of the techniques copywriters use is to adopt a specific TONE OF VOICE.

What is the tone of voice in copywriting?

It is the feel and sound of your copy. Below is a list of words that can describe the tone of voice. Usually we need several of these words to capture exactly the tone we want to use.

Words that describe tone of voice 
formal jokey newsy
intense laid back in your face
authoritative down with the kids precise
insistent matey grammatically correct
serious lively  modest
confident refreshing  thoughtful
commanding energetic knowledgeable
hectoring whimsical educational


How does it leave people feeling?

The tone you choose should reflect a mix of your business image, your personality (if you run a micro business) and crucially how you want your customers to feel. Let’s look at a few examples to see how this works in practice.

1. Innocent Drinks

Innocent Drinks uses a fun, playful tone of voice in the copy

Innocent Drinks uses a fun, playful tone of voice in the copy

The tone of this copy is FUN, IRREVERENT, FUNKY and FRIENDLY. By making a point of not taking themselves too seriously they encourage you to relax and enjoy the product.

IRREVERENCE is brought in by phrases like, “helping people live well and die old“. The story of how the brand was set up, plays on that DEVIL MAY CARE attitude that is appealing to people who feel stuck in a rut,working 9-5.

They use irreverence to avoid making their “quest to make natural, delicious, healthy foods...” from sounding too heavy.

This deliberate swing away from formal, serious copy also makes them seem like a “nice” brand run by regular guys who probably like to go surfing on the weekends.

It is designed to make us feel comfortable, encouraging us to let go of our suspicions and tap into our playful side. The image that the tone conveys is attractive. We want to be those free and easy guys for a day.

In an age where trust in corporate brands is thin on the ground, this tone says, “hey we’ve nothing to hide, why not come over and join us!”

The call to sign up to their email list, continues the light hearted, playful tone.

“sign up for love, friendship, a weekly newsletter but no pocket money”

Let’s take another example from an ethical clothing brand here in Wales.

2. Howies

Howies ethical clothing, tone of voice example

Howies ethical clothing, uses a simple, straight forward tone of voice

The tone here is MORE ERNEST, LESS FRIVOLOUS than Innocent Drinks. There is a strong ethos behind this company and they want you to know that it drives what they do. So although the tone is FRIENDLY, they aren’t trying too hard to be cool and funky.

The copy uses SIMPLE language, keeping the tone DIRECT and STRAIGHTFORWARD. This too gives you confidence that this is an authentic brand with people behind it, who genuinely care about the wider world.

It is quite serious and will appeal to people who have a serious commitment to the environment as well as active adventures. There is clearly no room here for being overly chummy, gimmicky or using very Americanised language.

This company has recently been bought back by its founders and the tone of voice represents a return to its roots. The tone reflects a company that wants to stay focused on its core aims and core customers and not get distracted by shiny objects along the way.

And our last example, comes from the office of our leader.

2. Number 10 Downing Street


Simple impersonal language on Number 10 website

Simple impersonal language on Number 10 website

The tone here is deliberately impersonal but uses very simple language. Its purpose is to provide information and educate readers on the role of The Prime Minister. The tone is educational. What reading age do you think this copy is aimed at?

Why does it matter?

Tone plays an important role in delivering your message. Tone is used to provoke a response in the reader.

Larger companies have brand guidelines which will include tone of voice guidelines. Typically they’ll say something like this,

“How we sound,

Confident and commanding,
but not arrogant.
Lively and refreshing,
but not contrived.
but not overcomplicated or know-all.
Consistently grammatical, accurate and precise.
Energetic and witty,
but not ‘yoof’ or pretentious.
Conversational and personal,
never stuffy or corporate”

Looking at these guidelines you can see that the company want to inspire confidence in their products and associate their brand with a fun and lively experience.

Wouldn’t every business like to sound like that?

For a small rural business we can take some clues from this but perhaps make it simpler.

If you’re a one woman band, the first thing you need to check is that there is a good match between the tone of your copy and your manner in person. If you write like a 1950s school teacher but in person you sound like a children’s TV presenter (or vice versa), you’ll make people uneasy. They’re left confused. That erodes trust.

If you are very enthusiastic in person then add urgency and excitement to your copy by mixing in short sentences, exclamation marks (but don’t go mad) and using phrases to sweep you reader up in the excitement, such as, “Don’t you just love a Sunday roast?”

How do you express tone of voice?

Once you’ve chosen the words that describe your business personality, your own personality and how you’d like people to feel, then it helps if you can wrap that up in a role. You might choose:

  • teacher
  • guide
  • leader
  • role model
  • coach
  • activist
  • campaigner
  • father figure
  • busy mum
  • organiser
  • networker
  • influencer
  • safe pair of hands
  • rabble rouser
  • style icon
  • best friend
  • counsellor
  • fixer
  • muse

Some of the roles are closely related but they have a slightly different tone. For instance a teacher tends to tell people how to do things whereas a coach will help people find their own solutions. Once you find out about tone of voice, you start to recognise when it has been deliberately applied.

Look out for different uses of tone of voice

Now you know what you’re looking for, you’ll notice the tone of voice on all sorts of platforms. Not just on websites, in emails, blog articles and on Facebook but also on your favourite radio and TV shows.

In the UK, BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans’ Breakfast show has a distinct tone. It is upbeat, positive and energetic. This is reflected in the language and delivery. Chris takes the lead but all the presenters speak a little more quickly and with a little extra energy and enthusiasm. There’s a relentless emphasis on the positive which works for the 9.8 million weekly listeners.

So how do you balance friendly with professional?

Balancing a friendly tone with a professional image

Many brands want to engage their customers and so copywriters and marketing experts encourage them to avoid using language that makes them distant or corporate.

So instead of saying,

“We deliver first class management consultancy services to clients across the UK”

A copywriter might suggest,

“Our clients from Scotland to Southampton, London to Llandeilo, find our services improve profits and staff morale.”

The second version is more personal but still professional. By starting with “our clients“, it is putting the customers first, literally and implying that their needs are paramount.

Corporate language has had a bad press and for good reason. Government departments that deal with the public for instance have no excuse for being distant or corporate. That sort of language is a barrier.

However for some businesses, being distant and corporate is reassuring for their customers. If someone is going to spend £100K with your firm of architects then they probably aren’t looking for a matey tone in your communications.

There are many ways to strike the wrong note. Take this example, which is not only matey but rather boastful and could be a turn off for your clients.

“You don’t want to waste your time trying out other management consultants. Save yourself the bother. Call us. Our clients think we’re simply the best. Bet you will too!”

Can you feel how the tone jars with the job title? Do we want our management consultants to be this matey? It suggests a laid back attitude, perhaps a little careless with the details. Not what we want from our highly paid consultants.

If you find yourself being persuaded to use a matey tone that feels uncomfortable then follow your instincts and stick with a friendly but professional tone.


Do you need help with your business writing?

You can book me for 1:2:1 coaching (in person or by Skype) or contact me to register your interest for a copywriting workshop.

Here’s what delegates said on a recent copywriting workshop.

“Would I recommend Juliet’s copywriting workshop, How to create engaging content? Yes! It offers a lot of good advice for different communication platforms. Informative and good examples used.”

Esther Apoussidis, Coffee Continental (Blackwood and Cardiff).

“I find writing content challenging because I felt I was rusty and I need to be confident that I am doing things the best way. The best thing about Juliet’s copywriting workshop, How to create engaging content, was the personalised help and tips on helpful tools.

I also liked the structured pointers and drawing out of ideas. Would I recommend this workshop? Yes, Juliet is a very good tutor and made the workshop relevant to our needs. Many thanks!”

Sally Edwards Hart, Operational Manager, Cardiff Venues and Tourism Services



How the smallest town in Britain used the fun factor to bring in over £1 million

 Marketing  Comments Off on How the smallest town in Britain used the fun factor to bring in over £1 million
Jun 142013
World Bathtubbing Championships, Llanwrtyd Wells 2012

World Bathtubbing Championships, Llanwrtyd Wells 2012

On my way back from presenting at a media workshop for organic farmers in Welshpool, I stopped in the tiny town of Llanwrtyd Wells, home of the Wales World Alternative Games.

These games, full of madcap events like the World Bathtubbing Championships, brought a whopping £1,010,570 of direct economic impact to the area in 2012.*

Wacky is an understatement

The town is famous for wacky events such as Man vs Horse, World Bog Snorkelling Championships, Stiletto Racing and Wife Carrying.

The story of how the smallest town in Britain (with just over 700 inhabitants) came to host the alternative games, began back in the 1970s when a group of local business people wanted to attract more tourists to one of the last wilderness areas in Britain.

Putting the fun into outdoor activities

Not content to rely on the pull of the history, hills, river valleys, outdoor activities and rare wildlife of the area, they decided to put on a series of bonkers outdoor events to bring in families and fun seekers from far and wide.

It’s been an unqualified success. The events have grown in number and popularity, peaking with nearly 7000 spectators and competitors in the 2012 Wales World Alternative Games.

This is a wonderful example of a community of business people grabbing hold of the idea of the FUN FACTOR and using it on a grand scale to put this remarkable little town on the world map.

What is the fun factor?

It’s using fun as a hook to get people to act. In this case the fun is crazy, madcap sports used as a lure to visit an area of outstanding natural beauty in Britain. If you analyze these events further you can see the one ingredient that creates the spectacular buzz. In the mix we have:

1. Smallest town in Britain

2. Wild and beautiful rivers and mountains

3. Competitive element

4. Traditional sports event structure

5. Physical prowess

6. Add incongruous elements such as: wife, stiletto and bathtub

It is number 6 that turn these from serious endurance events to fun filled family frolics.

Fun comes in many shapes and sizes. For instance:

• Something silly

• Something absurd

• Something outsize

• Something surprising

• Something funny

• Something incongruous

• Something cool

• Something clever (but not too clever)

Those in rural businesses often have strong passions and it’s easy to be too earnest in your endeavours. So even if FUN doesn’t come naturally consider how you might inject some into your business and marketing activities. Can you add an absurd element to bring out the fun?

Why does it matter?

Laughter is a great medicine. When all’s said and done, we remember how small businesses make us feel, more than we remember what we actually purchased from them. If fans, subscribers or customers leave you (or your digital content) with a smile on their face, you nurture a positive relationship.

In that relationship, your business gives a little extra and becomes a welcome distraction from day to day cares as well as a provider of valued products and services. Let’s take a look at some more quick ideas for those new to adding the fun factor.

Where can you use the fun factor?

You can use it in a variety of ways or even better ask your audience to get involved. Use it to bring your staff closer together, build links with your community and lighten everyone’s day. Find your inner child and get silly. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

Photo competitions on Facebook – use a silly theme e.g. Tomatoes as you’ve never seen them before and let your fans find their funny bone.

Staff events – Enjoy a low cost, mid season morale booster with a Summer Pub Sports Contest choosing events everyone can enjoy e.g. beer mat flipping, pub quiz

Fundraising events (think Comic Relief), you’ve seen the bath of baked beans, the pyjama days, have a brain storm and dream up your own fun events and enjoy raising money for a good cause.

Naming new products: it’s easy to get too serious, so why not get your fans involved in naming new products. It’ll give you a great insight into how your customers think about your products. Facebook is the ideal place to do this.Set the tone with a few jokey possibilities.

Animal naming: a great way to get your audience involved is to ask fans on e.g. Facebook to name any new arrivals on your farm or workplace. Get a short list together and then ask fans to vote for their favourite, offering a prize for the winner. See what Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo, did with their new penguins.

Developing new products – attract attention by asking for outrageous, bizarre or innovative flavour combinations for ice cream, sausages or smoothies, e.g. Chocolate sausages, baked bean ice cream, beef and horseradish smoothies. Or perhaps a guess the ingredients taste test.

Go large – creating super size novelty products is great for exhibitions, events, farmers’ markets and farm shops. Try super size birthday cakes, cupcakes, chocolate bars, badges, footballs, mascots, teddy bears. You can offer prizes for guessing the weight, size or giving the product or item a name.

• Volkswagen used the Fun Theory to show how adding fun can change behaviour such as recycling more bottles, reducing speed and putting more litter in the rubbish bin. See examples in John Forde’s article re-posted here on my site.

Educate customers e.g. about food waste: set up a decomposition area (preferably away from your commercial kitchen!) and photograph food rotting one day at a time.

Competition: a bit of light hearted one upman ship can be fun. Ask for photos of your product in the most unusual places and let your audience have some fun and try and out do each other. Follow Halen Mon, Welsh organic sea salt company‘s example and start the ball rolling yourself. Take your product everywhere and look out for fun photo opportunities, every day or exotic.

I can hear your reservations.

“But I’m not a fun sort of person, I get easily embarrassed”

Many people do. And it’s an important consideration. Fun is about relaxing, laughing, forgetting yourself. Be careful you don’t come up with an idea that embarrasses people or makes them anxious. They’ll run a mile and never return.

Test out your ideas with others before launching them. Collect ideas from all walks of life: street performers, social media platforms, TV adverts, You Tube, fundraising events, fairs and shows. You might surprise yourself.

Llanwrtydd Wells, the smallest town in Britain, hosted an alternative olympics by adding fun to one of the last areas of wilderness on our shores. Brainstorm how you can add fun to your products, services, promotions or digital presence by finding the incongruous, adding an element of competition or going outsize.

*Report on The World Alternative Games 


If you’d like advice on marketing and promotion for your rural business, contact me for a quote.

Are you “fun”? asks copy writer, John Forde

 copywriting  Comments Off on Are you “fun”? asks copy writer, John Forde
Jun 042013

I’ve been getting John Forde’s Copywriter’s Roundtable emails for quite a while now and wanted to share his words of wisdom on the subject of “fun”. Here it is! I’d recommend you sign up – it’s one I always read.
Battle-tested Copywriting “Shortcuts” That Work:

June 4, 2013

Are You “Fun” Enough
For Your Customers?

The Secret to Selling Yourself as a Copywriter:

Are you “fun”? 

“So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.”

– Robert Frost

We talk here, Cupcake, about a lot of different ways to motivate people to do things… read things… and buy things.

Let’s see… “needs vs. wants”… resident emotions… social motivators… fear and greed… the list goes on.

And it’s all good stuff, really.

But let me ask you, how often has yours truly talked about getting people to want more, give more, and be more… just giving them a chance to have “fun?”

Because, before you reply, I think the answer is… never. And honestly, I don’t know how I missed it.

After all, don’t we all like to have a little fun, once in awhile? Of course we do.

Maybe even more than once in awhile.

Which is why I was surprised to come across a motivational idea that’s been around now for a few years, if not longer.

It’s called “Fun Theory.”


“Girls,” said the oddly dressed 1980s philosopher and chanteuse, Cyndi Lauper, “just want to have fun.”

She was, according to this theory, at least half right. Because it turns out gender doesn’t have much to do with it — we all like a good time.

How obvious, you might say.

Yes, but if it’s so obvious, then how come so many of us have missed so many opportunities to get more done by… making things more fun to do?

For instance, here’s an example:

It turns out, there’s this trashcan. It looks like the other trashcans nearby. Except, inside it has a sensor and sound system.

Drop in a piece of trash, and it triggers the system. Your garbage sounds like it’s falling a hundred feet or so before it hits bottom.

What happened?

The rigged bin collected over 158 lbs. of trash, nearly double the amount tossed in the un-rigged, regular bin nearby.

Here’s another good one…

Behavioral scientists want to see if they could get more people to forego a subway escalator and, instead, take the stairs.

So they made the stairs look — and sound — like a piano keyboard. Each step played a note.

What happened?

The escalator got lonely, as young and old alike — in fact, 66% more people than normal — opted to take the steps instead.

And here’s one more…


Surely, you’ve seen those green bins for sorting and collecting recyclable glass bottles.

I don’t know what happens with these things in the States (or if they even have them), but when we’re here in Europe, we see many people cruise right past. Glass, it turns out, is just a pain to sort.

But what if you add arcade sounds and lights, and a game where you get points for dropping bottles in the right slots at the right time?

When someone tried it, locals crowded around, cheering for each other and waiting for a turn to dump their own glass into the box.

Nearly 100 people used the “arcade” bottle bank in a single evening. And the regular bottle bank nearby? In that same span, just two patrons. Two.

If all this sounds familiar to you, that’s probably because you watch more TV than I do — this was, apparently, a big ad campaign put together by Volkswagen a couple years ago.

Their point was, people would do things more readily if you up the fun factor — even if it’s something they might have hesitated to try before.

In Volkswagen’s case, the “fun” was driving a new line of eco-friendly and fuel-efficient cars.

People will not, VW reasoned, just drive the cars because it’s the “responsible” thing to do.

Rather, they’ll drive the cars willingly only if they actually enjoy doing it. Focus on the fun.

Again, you say… obvious.

And again, I counter, then why do so many of us try to sell stuff by focusing on what’s so boring?

Or worse, why do so many of us… try to sell so much boring stuff, period?

My point is this: Often the thing that’s missing from a pitch… or a product… is just this fun factor. Plain and simple, your prospect doesn’t feel excited about what you’re saying or selling.

So try simply asking…

What would my prospect find… fun?

Be careful here, because it’s easier to find the wrong answer than it is to find the right one.

You could, for instance, try to force your version of “fun” on the prospect… rather than appeal to his or her sense of what makes for a good time.

If you’ve ever dragged a kid into a wine store (depending on the kid)… or your wife into a guitar shop (depending on the wife)… you know what I mean.

You need to start inside the prospect’s mind, first and foremost. From there, you can make the connection to what you sell… or say to sell it.

This might mean something small, like the “take this quiz” trick often used by master copywriter, Gene Schwartz.

Or maybe it’s something bigger, like showing other customers having a good time using the product… or even redesigning the product itself, so it delivers more of a good, rich “feeling” experience and not one that’s just a bundle of lifeless features.

(In info products, for instance, that might mean something so abstract as a much richer, deeper relationship with the readers… using humor, stories, and personal details… that’s “fun” for a lot of readers, more so than info by itself).

You get the picture — be fun or die!

P.S. Here’s one more example…

A local speed camera used to just snap pictures of your face when you zipped by too fast.

But someone had an idea, what if it snapped everyone’s picture… and rewarded the good drivers with a chance to win some of the fines that bad drivers had to pay?

They called it the “speed camera lottery.”

In the tested span of time, drivers slowed down overall by 22% — from 37 km/h to 25 km/h, on average.

Clever, yes?


Are you looking for a way to “escape” the 9-to-5 rat race? Do you feel chained to your desk – at a job you don’t like – by the reality of having to earn money?

Most of us trade our time for money.

We may make a very nice living doing that … but we are never truly free as long as we punch a time clock – or have a boss telling us what to do.

We have to get up early in the morning every day … commute in the cold and dark … and put in long hours making money for someone else.

But now, Bob Bly has discovered a safe, sure-fire way for you to completely retire – within 18 to 24 months from today – even if you haven’t saved a dime for retirement.

In his new audio program, “The Internet Marketing Retirement Plan,” Bob will show you how he did it.

Wouldn’t you like to be in a position where you can do anything you want each day – rather than having to get up early and commuting to work every morning?

To discover the 3 simple steps to building an online “retirement income” just click here now:



Here comes summer. Summer means beach.

It also means unveiling all that hard work you did over the winter, building a healthy store of flab.

(I find I’m very good at that.)

For most of us, that’s not fun. Worse, though, is actually doing anything to get rid of said flab.

Fortunately, I happened to be in the Apple app store poking around… and found some pretty good examples of today’s principle, turning the not-fun into fun.

Just in case you’re interested…

* Nexercise: http://www.nexercise.com

Here’s a cool idea. The more you move and lose weight, this app “pays” you. That is, you can earn gift certificates to Amazon, etc. or build up credits that you can cash in for donations to charities and more.

* Gympact: http://www.gym-pact.com

This is kind of the opposite idea. You put up cash to start and lose it if you don’t exercise. The good news is, you can get money back — from the other non-exercises — when you get up off your rump and move.

* Zombies, Run: https://www.zombiesrungame.com

You pay for this one ($4), but it might be worth it if you find running boring… but need to run. Because… zombies. As you run, the app plays a “mission” in which you’re chased by the undead.

* Teemo: http://goteemo.com

Ever want to challenge your brother to a race up Mount Everest… or your office mate to trek across the desert? Maybe not in real life, but in this app, it’s possible. Compete with your friends in adventure-fitness challenges.

There are more out there, but that’s certainly enough to pick from. Now all you need to do is download one and give it a try…

THE MISSING LINK: Your Instant Fitness Plan

Speaking of fitness apps, here’s just one more. This one has helped users lose 21.6 million lbs.



The CR, full of rich creamy goodness… CRcomment@jackforde.com

With ample enough portions to share with friends… http://copywritersroundtable.com/signup

And yet…

Almost always, 100% calorie free. Still, chew on this: All the above is © 2013 by John Forde.

BY THE WAY, if you ever want to reproduce one of these CR articles in a blog, in an email, in a book, on a milk carton… or on one of those banners they hang on the back of airplanes at the beach… GO AHEAD!

You’ve got my blessing.

Just promise you’ll make sure you’ll include a link back to my website and encourage your readers to sign up for $78 worth of free gifts.


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