Published: 3 August 2011

How can you help an agency to understand your tone of voice and brand perspective?

At a CharityComms Brand Breakfast, I spoke about Oxfam’s recommendation to ensure your tone of voice (and overall brand) is understood widely – including by the agencies with whom you work.

Why do we think this is important? Well: if an agency (whether in-house or external) doesn’t understand your tone of voice, how can they produce materials that accurately represent it? The better their understanding, the better your communications will be.

So, how do you do it? Here are three simple tips.

1. Communicate.

Ensure tone of voice and other brand principles are included in your agency’s induction at the start of a working relationship. Provide examples of previous comms that are on- and off-brand so they know what to work towards, and what to avoid. Be available to answer questions and explore the grey area around the edges of any element of branding. We find that a written set of guidelines are helpful as a reference guide for those times when you’re not on hand to answer questions, but they’re not a substitute for discussion and learning.

2. Invest in a long-term relationship with your agency team.

The better the understanding, the better the comms. And better understanding is built over time, especially when you keep talking and learning over that time period – building the capacity of individuals within your agency to better utilise your tone of voice, and therefore better represent your brand.

3. Learn about what’s working, and share what you learn.

Share results and use your agency as a partner in understanding how to move forward – for example, when to maintain your brand, and when to evolve it. A tone of voice is not a one-off decision – it may change with topic, campaign or the times. An agency who understands your brand history, what’s worked (and not worked) in the past, and your decision-making process, is a very valuable partner.


Rachel Brown, assistant director of communications, World Society for the Protection of Animals

A senior communications professional, with a range of skills and experience, strong leadership ability and a passion for changing the world.