Pitch perfect: Tone is crucial in storytelling

UK Director at Vested

Katie Spreadbury

UK Director

There have been quite a few conversations and comments recently, which have spurred conversation for our team around an element of storytelling that is a bit more difficult than many communicators anticipate: tone.

It’s all about tone. Getting tone pitch perfect is crucial.

A few weeks ago, I explored some other aspects to successful storytelling, but pitch felt so important, we decided to devote a blog to it, specifically. Most frequently used in the musical sense, tone is a synonym for accent, emphasis, inflection, resonance, strength, timbre, force, intonation, modulation, stress and tonality. But when it comes to marketing and communications, it’s typically used as a way to describe how a campaign has landed, how audiences have reacted and how it’s been discussed on social media.

Unfortunately it’s often a negative reaction, ‘the tone just wasn’t right,’ ‘the tone didn’t sit well with me,’ ‘why have they said it like that?’ And that’s not what any of the hard working professionals involved in any campaign launch would have been looking for as a reaction. There might even be a phrase or sentence in this blog that doesn’t sit well with you, where your perception of the tone of my writing is negative and where my intended point misses the mark for you.

So, back to what drove this conversation amongst the team at Vested here in London. It was the recent work by Natwest and Stylist about banking for women and Santander’s new partnership with Ant and Dec. With plenty of women who love finance represented on the Vested team and a similarly vocal male contingent, the Natwest work didn’t sit comfortably with some of us. We don’t want institutions to apologise … Just act! The sentiment was absolutely right, but was it delivered badly? Maybe. The tone just didn’t work for us. But for some Stylist readers, the man in a bowler hat will have been spot on, drawn them in and made them think about their finances on their commute home. And that’s definitely not a bad thing.

Now Ant and Dec have undeniably had their ups and downs over the last few years, and we’re sure Santander would see their addition to the roster of celebrities they’ve worked with as a great coup. But we’re just not sure why any celebrity or sportsperson is the right choice for selling current accounts or reducing mortgage payments. Do we trust them? Are they experts in this area? Or are they just raking in the fee and doling out the same advice of not buying expensive coffee to improve your financial future? In this case, perhaps it’s just somebody getting carried away with a pun … Santander or Antandec, where would you rather bank? We all know that big celebrities, which with more than six million Twitter followers Ant and Dec undeniably are, will raise awareness and get people talking, but will the tone deliver better financial outcomes for Santander customers? We’re not so sure.