May 7th 2020


The world is a confusing place at the best of times, before you throw in a global pandemic. People are scared. They want clarity. They want to be spoken to like a human. Even if you can’t, in all honesty, tell them everything’s going to be alright, you can reassure.

It’s always important that the tone of communications from a business reflect the values and messages of the brand. And in a time like this, that matters more than ever.

Babel – as well as any other PR agency looking to navigate the current climate – needs to approach the crisis with trepidation. Marketing and ad agencies too, are adapting the way they communicate their message (and those of their clients), and the tone of voice they use.

Sensitivities are heightened in these times, with previously innocuous adverts understandably getting pulled. Suddenly, a population isolated becomes a population spending more time on social media, or perhaps more inclined to idly flick through branded emails they wouldn’t usually open. That doesn’t necessarily mean these people want to hear from your brand, though, especially if what you have to say is irrelevant or insensitive.

The tone of voice of non-verbal content (written, video, imagery etc) is difficult to get right as it is completely open to subjective interpretation. At times when stress levels are heightened, people are more likely to misconstrue messaging if the tone of voice is unclear.

Whether you are communicating across social media, traditional media or one to one communication, the tone has to be right:


Although this platform gives the chance for a more human touch, the line is thin and blurry as to what works. Keep true to your brand and your audience will remain with you. It might be tempting to try to ‘lighten’ the mood, but ultimately your business customers want fact, not funny, when it comes to decision making.


Traditional media is struggling under the burden of negativity right now. Most stories are based on trying to communicate the facts of the crisis we are facing, and additional FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) will not be well received. Keep it factual, and ensure the communications you put out are adding real value to up level the conversation, not add to the uncertainty.


Face-to-face and in-person contact may not be possible at present, but individualising communication still matters. Chasing new business remains critical for the survival of many organisations, but right now it has to be about people and supporting your prospects, before it is about profit. You may have one core message for your campaign, but within that it is important to tailor strands and tone of voice for each audience segment to hit their personal needs.

Tone of voice is one of the critical pillars of communications at any time, but even more so now. If you would like to talk through your communications strategy with us we would be very happy to help and give you guidance on how to hit the right note.

Susie Wyeth
Susie Wyeth DIRECTOR