Writing

Voice and tone

Voice

What we mean by brand voice:

The authentic personality of our brand:

  1. If Sprout were a real person, what would we sound like?

Why do we need this:

A consistent, distinct brand voice sets us apart from competitors, builds trust and familiarity with our customers and eventually leads to long-term brand value.

How do we achieve it:

Our voice is an expression of who we are as a company, so in order to define it we must start with our brand positioning, company beliefs and values.

The Sprout brand voice

Above all else, Sprout aims to remain personable in our communication.

Because at our core, what’s most important to us is fostering relationships.

Creating real connection between brands and their consumers.

Between people.

With the goal of fostering relationships and creating real connection, our voice is:

Smart

Confident

Compassionate

Of course, just as in your own day-to-day communication, there are nuances we should be careful to observe:

Smart

Sprout messaging should always feel conversational, but the type of conversation you have with a smart, well-spoken professional. We want to build up a reputation of authority and leadership. Responses should be well thought out. Avoid slang and flippant language.

However that doesn’t mean being overly formal or unduly technical. We’re not trying to impress others with big words and jargon.

Too casual: “Access tons of Tweet deets like @mentions and siq search results with Sprout’s social listening tools.”

Too technical: “Analyze the sentiment of your Tweets with intentional, automated search queries using Sprout’s suite of enterprise listening capabilities.”

Just right: “Sprout’s social listening tools give brands deeper insight into consumer sentiment on Twitter.”

Confident

Conversations with confident individuals give you the impression that you’re talking to someone who knows what they’re talking about. Confidence builds trust. Sprout communication should always be assertive, clear and concise.

There’s a fine line between confident and cocky. Take care to avoid coming off pretentious or arrogant. Avoid boastful communication and remember to always keep the focus on the customer.

Too arrogant: “We did it again. Yet another world-class tool for our customers.”

Too timid/unsure: “We hope you’ll find our latest new feature helpful.”

Just right: “We heard your requests and are happy to announce our latest feature release.”

Compassionate

What sets the Sprout brand apart from others in the industry is our heart for people: both internal and external. In essence, no matter how smart or savvy we may be, we still genuinely care about the success and well-being of our customers and our customers’ customers. We like to have fun and be playful, but we should never be snarky or sassy. In our communication we should always strive to remain respectful, considerate, inclusive, caring and empathetic.

Be careful to balance this compassion out with confidence and sophistication, or else we run the risk of compromising authority by being too agreeable and/or apologetic. Also be careful not to patronize or condescend.

Too snarky: “Hold your horses will ya? We’re doing our best to get it back up and running.”

Too apologetic: “We are so unbelievably sorry about this. Glitches are completely unacceptable.”

Just right: “It looks like we’re experiencing a temporary glitch. Please know we’re doing everything in our power to get the platform back up and running. Thanks for your patience.”

Tone

What we mean by brand tone

While our brand voice will always remain consistent, our tone may vary slightly depending on the situation, audience or content type.

By situation:

When Sprout talks to media, we may take a more authoritative tone. More confident, definitive statements, fewer questions, fewer apologies. We want to come off as an expert or leader in our field. No unnecessarily big words here, but calm, clear and concise.

When Sprout posts on social, we can unbutton a few buttons. Here we can be a bit more playful, use emojis, use (some) exclamation points, and be a bit more empathetic and compassionate. Remain confident, but feel free to keep it casual.

When Sprout handles customer issues, we dial up the empathy and compassion. We want to know how we can help them succeed. We talk much less about ourselves and our products and more about their unique challenges. Avoid being overly apologetic, stay cool, calm and confident the whole time. Focus on the fix, not on the fail.

By audience

NoviceIntermediateExpert
Leader:
Responsible for social in addition to other marketing channels
Our voice will remain smart and sophisticated, but our tone here should be a bit more empathetic and helpful. Avoid using industry jargon or niche terms.

You’re a teacher here. Be patient, calm, clear and friendly.
Here we can take a more authoritative tone. A bit more buttoned up. But still helpful and friendly.

You’re a mentor here. Be encouraging and empowering.
Dial up the confidence, authority and sophistication. Don’t be afraid to use niche terms and phrases.

You’re a peer here. Assert your opinion, engage confidently and build your audience up.
Manager:
Focused on social strategy but removed from the day-to-day management
Our voice will remain smart and sophisticated, but our tone here should be a bit more empathetic and helpful. Avoid using industry jargon or niche terms.

You’re a teacher here. Be patient, calm, clear and friendly.
Here we can take a more authoritative tone. A bit more buttoned up. But still helpful and friendly.

You’re a mentor here. Be encouraging and empowering.
Here we can take a more authoritative tone. A bit more buttoned up. But still approachable and friendly.

You’re a mentor here. Be encouraging and empowering.
Practitioner:
Handles social content publishing, engagement and measurement
You’re talking to an entry-level novice here, so it’s important to remain very clear and concise, as well as avoid industry-specific or niche terms. It’s also okay to be more casual here.

You’re a teacher here. Be patient, calm, clear and friendly.
Here we can take a more authoritative tone. A bit more buttoned up. But still helpful and friendly.

You’re a mentor here. Be encouraging and empowering.
Here we can take a more authoritative, sophisticated tone. Don’t be afraid to use niche terms and phrases.

You’re a mentor here. Be encouraging and empowering.

By content type

Content typeUser typeGoalTone
GuideProspect, customer

Novice, intermediate
To educateKeep it simple, clear and concise. Avoid niche terms and stay empathetic.
Adapt articleProspect, customer, industry

Intermediate, Expert
To demonstrate expertise and authority.Dial up the confidence. Make assertive and definitive statements.
Insights articleProspect, customer, industry

Novice, intermediate
To educate and empower.Keep it simple, clear and concise. Keep it customer- focused. Avoid over-simplifying.
Case studyProspect, customer

Intermediate, manager
Customer storytelling, success stories for sales use.Button up a bit, but stay personable. Dial up “smart” and “sophisticated.”
EmailProspect, customer

All
To communicate.Be personable and friendly - write 1:1.
Web copyProspect, customer, industry

All
To differentiate.Keep it simple, clear and concise. Button up a bit, but stay personable. Brand first, product second. Solutions over features.
Sales presentationProspect, customer, industry

Intermediate, Expert
To persuade. Be straightforward and precise. Avoid niche terms and stay empathetic.
Sell sheetsProspect, customer, industry

Novice, intermediate
To educate and persuade. Be straightforward and concise. Remain professional and instructional.
Product announcementsProspect, customer

All
To inform and educate. Keep it clear and concise, but avoid over-simplifying. Button up a bit, but maintain enthusiasm. Communicate authority and expertise.