Is your timing on point and your tone on brand?

published 31 March 2020

Our Director of Creative Strategy and Language James shares his insights on the importance of timing and tone while communicating in a crisis.

“This is not a marketing opportunity”.

Those were the words of Alex Josephson and Eimear Lambe, Global Head and Director of Twitter Next – the platform’s team dedicated to helping brands create human-centric ideas worth talking about. Right now, every 45 milliseconds a Coronavirus tweet is sent from the platform, while #coronavirus is the second most used hashtag of 2020. That leaves many brands asking the question, “what do we say?”.

Without a doubt, the sheer pace and unprecedented nature of the crisis has made decision-making, and communicating on these decisions, especially difficult for brands. As the situation continues to unfold, we look forward to helping out not only our clients, but our global business community make more confident brand decisions around not only what to say right now, but also how to say it.

To get things started, James shares his insights on the importance of timing and tone while communicating in a crisis.

When communicating in a crisis, every second counts. I often observe clients coming to us, struggling to land effective and meaningful brand communications for both their people, and their own clients and customers. The way I see it, if your brand doesn’t have a voice, your audiences won’t hear you. Not only can this have a real impact on performance, but in a crisis, it can have a real impact on people’s lives. I believe the biggest reason many brands struggle with timely communications in times of crisis is because they spend their precious time worrying about how they’re going to say what they need to say. Perhaps the most important advice I ever received on brand voice came from my early career mentor, friend, and fellow brand writer, Chris Lamont. Chris said, “brand voice is 50% what you need to say, and 50% how you say it”.

Let’s break that down (cue the 90s RnB):

Brand voice = 50% what you need to say (message) + 50% how you say it (tone).

In an increasingly ‘always-on’ world, for brands to be fumbling around trying to figure out how they’re going to say what they need to say signals both a lack of relevance to the role of the brand in the real world, and a lack of acumen from those running it. On the flip side, knowing what to say (the right message) comes down to having a clearly defined framework for messaging, covering all kinds of possible content and conversations (both good and bad), that when put together with your voice ensure communications are not only delivered on time, they’re delivered on brand.

If your brand doesn’t have a clearly defined voice and messaging framework from which to communicate at this time, we recommend engaging your audiences with empathy and understanding. Remember, empathy isn’t found through writing and speaking – it’s found through listening. Listen to what your people, and your audiences are saying – and write in response to their needs. I appreciate how open that advice is, in such challenging circumstances. So, if you’re needing some questions answered, please don’t hesitate to email me directly at – I’m more than happy to help in any way that I can at this time, even if it’s just to have chat.