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‘Tone of voice’ has earned a seat in Britain’s boardrooms, with CEOs kicking off programmes to transform their businesses’ language and senior management getting behind it, according to new research by Illuma on behalf of the world’s largest language consultancy, The Writer. The research also showed that financial services firms are leading the way.

Tone comes from the top

The report into the attitudes of leading UK businesses towards tone of voice found that the arrival of a new CEO was the second most important trigger for defining an organisation’s tone of voice, the first being a complete rebrand. The research also found that 91% of senior management were engaged to a great or fair extent with implementing the new tone of voice.

The study revealed that financial services businesses are most likely to have a defined tone of voice, and to spend the most on developing it, with an average outlay of £146k, followed by telecoms, media and technology businesses (£129k) and health and pharma companies (£123k). The average spend for all organisations was £116k.

Based on this spend, the current value of the UK tone of voice market is £11.6m, with the market potentially more than doubling to £26m over the coming years.

Culture change in disguise

Neil Taylor, creative partner at The Writer, says: ‘Most CEOs want to shift their customers’ perceptions, and to do that, you usually need to shift the internal culture, too. Some of the cannier ones have sussed how huge a role language has to play in both of those jobs, so have made their organisations’ tone a priority. That’s particularly true in financial services firms, who’ve been desperate to show they’re worthy of our trust again. Well, the words you use are a big sign of that intent. So tone of voice shouldn’t be a fluffy marketing thing; it’s just as important in delivering bad news, or complex legal information.’

‘We’ve seen brands increase clickthrough rates by 100% by switching a single word. And BT has saved nearly £6m by rewriting call centre scripts. Money talks, so it’s not surprising that senior people are getting behind tone of voice.’

Illuma Research spoke to 197 people working for UK businesses on behalf of The Writer. All of them were involved with the visual and/or verbal identity of their brand. Half (99) had a tone of voice already, the other half (98) didn’t.

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