How to botch your corporate tone of voice

The way your company communicates with employees is just as important as how it speaks to customers. Avoid these five messaging mistakes that will quickly alienate workers.

5 tone of voice mistakes

Does your internal communication reflect your brand and culture—or does it sound like generic corporate-speak?

If you’re keen to turn employees into brand ambassadors, and if you want workers to feel personally invested in your company, you must engage them in a meaningful, personal way. Your corporate “tone of voice” plays a major role in whether employees feel warmly welcomed, or distant and disconnected.

Avoid these five messaging mistakes that will quickly annoy, alienate or agitate your workforce:

1. Don’t talk down to employees. Many pieces of internal communication read as if they were generated by a robot—or perhaps dictated by a strident schoolmarm intent on instructing her unruly students. When your tone of voice speaks to employees as peers instead of subordinates, it levels the playing field and shows respect for staffers.

2. Ditch the corporate-speak. Would you use the word “synergize” in conversation with a friend? Let your tone of voice reflect the way real human beings speak to each other. Edit out mindless or potentially confusing business jargon, and communicate with clear, straightforward language.

3. Avoid a cultural disconnect. Not every corporate culture is fun, breezy or conducive to lighthearted content. Adapt your communication to fit your culture—including the length, layout and publication strategy of your pieces—and make sure your messaging matches the bedrock ethos and essence of your operation.

4. Don’t talk at The goal is to have an ongoing conversation—not to dump an avalanche of information onto workers each week. A friendly, warm tone of voice that prioritizes staff feedback, ideas and suggestions can do wonders for morale. Just make sure you have the channels and response protocols in place to keep the conversation going.

5. Don’t equate “conversational” with “unprofessional.” Writing can be breezy and professional at the same time. Don’t dumb it down—and don’t send out typo-riddled copy—but do feel free to communicate in plain, simple language. Clarity supersedes formality every time.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin is CEO of Tribe. A version of this post first appeared on the Tribe blog.

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