The subjectivity or objectivity of tone is different from the voice in communications. Even institutional voices can be subjective and argue a position, as organizations can push an agenda. On the other hand, personal voices can be objective and convey just the facts. If a Speaker is representing herself, she can craft communications that are uniquely hers by using words, sentence structures and thoughts with which she is familiar. Alternatively, if a Speaker is representing her organization, she can remain herself but bring in the perspectives and positions of her organization. This may take the form of incorporating diction or tonal elements from the organization’s mission or directives into communications.
Voice is closely associated with the concept of brand. This concept is not strictly a marketing concept, though you may want to start thinking about it as such from the surface level. Television commercials for a particular product like laundry detergent may be serious or silly. They may highlight around a celebrity spokesperson, a holiday or a cultural event. Each commercial shows some differences but what they have in common is the brand. Every entity has a brand, whether it is a large multi-national corporation, a small governmental agency or an individual. The way to maintain that brand is through a consistent and unique voice.
Common adjectives to describe voice are human, expert, smart, fun, helpful, authoritative and straightforward. Some descriptors overlap with those of tone, but while tone changes for the audience, voice does not. Voice remains consistent to convey a steady Message of vision, mission and brand. Even images convey voice.
What voice does each of these images convey to you?
One of the great challenges of effective communications when representing an organization in official capacity is negotiating the role of personal and institutional voice. No organization exists without individual people, so personal voice can color the perception of the organization’s Message. At one end of the spectrum, this may be the difference between making a joke or sticking to your slides. At the other end, you may be in a position to suppress your personal beliefs in favor of organizational directives.
Effective communications grow from the relationship between the Speaker, the Audience, and the Message as strengthened or weakened by the medium of the Message itself. Even technical and corporate communications is not a science, and even after centuries of study and practice, there are no rules and regulations for rhetoric. However, with a foundation of strategies and continued practice, every Speaker can become an artist with language.
Images: “Microphones” by wellphoto via Shutterstock; “Women handshake” by ESB Professional via Shutterstock; “Professor with book” by Stokkete via Shutterstock; “Young man” by Krakenimages.com via Shutterstock; “Professional” by AJR_photo via Shutterstock