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Setting the Tone

You have a product. You know the value it brings to your customers, you know what makes it better than your competitor’s, and you know you’re offering it at an unbeatable price. There’s just one problem: you don’t know how to communicate any of that information to potential customers.

Setting the right tone in your content is essential. Now that most people discover new businesses online, your content strategy is essentially your chance to make a first impression. What impression would you like to make? Do you want to come across as a neighbor? A resourceful friend? A subject matter expert? Should you use an authoritative tone, or will that come across as arrogant? Should you play up your folksy charm, or will that scare away serious buyers?

Unfortunately, there aren’t any universal answers to these questions. Choosing the right tone for your content requires self-reflection, strategic thinking, and intuition. For many of our clients, we’ve found that starting with voice is a helpful way to begin. Here’s a guide to the three basic voice options:

First Person (I, my)

Writing your content in first person is a great choice if you’re running a one-man or one-woman business in which you are the brand. A masseuse, a DJ, or a personal trainer might want to use the first person because what you’re selling is, essentially, you.

In some cases, however, one-person businesses like private practices would be better served by a third person voice. In general, third person content writing provides a more professional and authoritative tone. First person writing tends to feel much more personal and warm, but it can come across as unprofessional if the content is poorly written.

Second Person (we, our)

The second person voice tends to feel more professional than first person writing, and it creates a more inviting tone than strictly third person writing. Most companies find an appropriate balance while developing a content strategy by alternating between the second and third person.

For example, “Company ABC has a long tradition of ingenuity. Our team has years of experience…” etc. The first sentence uses third person, while the second uses second person. If the writing remained in third person, the tone would become more formal, replacing “Our team” with “The team” or a repetition of “Company ABC.”

Third Person (The Company, it)

A strictly third person approach is best reserved for companies that do serious work, like law firms and medical companies. Third person usually sets an appropriate tone if your primary audience is other companies, potential investors, or high level executives. It generally sets an all-business tone that inspires confidence and respect, but it can feel cold if executed poorly.

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About the Author

Angela Bourassa
Director of Content Strategy for SCP Marketing. Screenwriter and story teller.

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