There’s no such thing as a flexible tone of voice

I’ve just been listening to a debate on the radio about Gareth Southgate’s approach to managing England. The thrust of it was that his tendency to tinker with his tactics based on who he’s up against is either: a) brilliantly pragmatic, or b) the end of the world as we know it.

At the heart of the debate there seemed to be a tension between flexibility and identity. As in, if you’ve got one, you can’t have the other.

I think those clever football pundits have inadvertently hit on one of the big debates in tone of voice circles. When we’re working on a tone of voice, we’re often asked to build in some flex. And we’re very happy to do that, but there’s a drawback. A flexible tone of voice is an inconsistent tone of voice. And an inconsistent tone of voice isn’t really a tone of voice at all. It’s just some writing guidelines.

So before you put the F-word in your brief, ask yourself what’s most important to you: identity or flexibility?

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