Have you ever received an email from a friend or colleague that struck you as angry or attacking? And only later did you find out that that was not the intent of the sender? Or maybe you received a message with a request that didn’t seem that important but ended up being very important to the sender? Hopefully, we have all learned by now that the words we choose when sending messages can convey very different feelings or reactions based on the tone. Usually we learn this lesson the hard way!
Check Your Tone!
Tone is very important in getting the right message across. Tone is also very important in creating the right feelings and eliciting the right reaction. With written words, be it an email, blog, advertisement or letter, you do not have the opportunity to use your tone of voice or facial expressions to reassure the reader. You can’t give an angry glare if need be or punctuate your message with a sharp tone. You must rely on your words and how they are arranged. Tone in the written word can be tricky and yet is so important.
Let’s look at an example of two similar fitness studios who both recently sent me similar messages but with very different tones. Both studios require students to reserve their spot in classes online ahead of time. Both studios limit class participation to a predetermined number. Both studios also require students to cancel within a predetermined time frame or students will be charged for the class. And finally both studios reserve the right to cancel classes if not enough students are signed up. As you can see – we are starting with the same information and message.
A Few Studio Reminders – Remember to Cancel
If you are unable to attend a class, please remember to cancel your spot. Many classes are full, and canceling your reservation opens up the slot for another client. This also helps prevent you from being charged for the class.
Everyone MUST sign up for classes. Classes must have a minimum of 2 people per class. If this minimum is not met, the class will be CANCELED for the day (2 hours prior to the class). We have to charge you for classes that you have signed up for and not canceled 4 hours prior to class. Clients can be graced only once for a late cancel. Classes are subject to change based on popularity of time/day.
These are both the actual messages as copied exactly from their e-newsletters. Can you see the difference in the tone despite an attempt to share the same message?
Studio A is offering what appears to be a friendly reminder that classes are generally full so I better sign up early. (That’s a positive way to remind me to sign up!) If I can’t make it, I should be courteous to others who are hoping to take a class. (another positive – others want to to do what I am doing!) And there is an almost apologetic reminder that we really don’t want to have to charge you for this class. (This message puts me in control and let’s me know they don’t like charging me any more than I like being charged.)
Studio B – Wow – I don’t know about you but I feel like I just got reprimanded! The use of capitalized words is negative and reinforces that there are consequences for my actions or lack of actions. By starting off talking about canceling classes, I am lead to believe their is a good chance my class will get canceled and the studio must have trouble filling their classes. There is nothing positive in this message.
These two similar yet different messages show just how important tone is. It can make a huge difference in how your message comes across. What does one do if they aren’t sure what kind of tone their messaging is sending? ASK! Find someone who is your target and have them read your message – with no set up or explanation! For the above examples, I would want to share my messaging with someone familiar with how a studio works. If I choose a friend who is unfamiliar with the need to sign up for classes or how classes work, I run the risk of getting irrelevant feedback. (ie. I don’t like the idea of signing up for classes.) Ask your test subject to tell you the following:
- What did the message tell you?
- How did the message make you feel?
- How do you feel about the sender/writer?
Listen with an open mind to what your test subject has to say. That can be the hard part! Often times we are quick to want to correct our test subject and explain what we really meant. Just remember – you won’t get the chance to explain or clarify once you hit send on your e-newsletter, letter, message or ad. Ask several people if you question the answers you are getting. And if you still aren’t sure – ask an expert copywriter to help you set the right tone. At Crunch Consulting, LLC., we are happy to help define and create the tone that best exemplifies you and your intended message.
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