Finding your voice(box)

26 member Nick Parker has come up with a simple method to help anyone find their tone of voice, and it all comes packaged up in one lovely box. Intrigued? I was, too. So I got in touch to find out more.

In a nutshell, what is Voicebox?

It’s a sort of ‘do-it-yourself’ tone of voice kit – everything you need to find and define a tone of voice – in a box! So, there’s guides to all the process stuff of who to involve, how to run workshops, what materials to gather. Then loads of creative tools to help you find a distinctive voice.

How did you come up with it? Was there a lightbulb moment, or is it something that you’d already been using yourself in some form?

A bit of both. I’d always been a bit surprised by how many copywriters – often really good ones – still seemed to find the whole tone of voice thing a bit of a ‘dark art’, so I’d been half thinking about whether there was a way to make it more accessible. And then a friend of mine who ran a design agency asked how he could explain tone of voice to a very straight-laced client of his. And in thinking about what would be a helpful way for him to explain it, that’s when I had the idea for the ’11 primary voices’.

Can you tell us a bit more about the 11 primary voices?

So, they’re at the heart of Voicebox really. I’m saying that there are 11 fundamental ‘styles of brand writing’. They’re things like the ‘playful child’, the ‘straight-talker’, the ‘sensualist’ etc. I call them the ‘primary voices’ because – like primary colours – I think once you have a good feel for them, you can mix them together to create any shade, any voice, you want. So the whole Voicebox process is about finding out which of the Primary Voices are right for your brand, how to blend them together, then how to bring that to life and apply it.

Voicebox seems to de-mystify tone of voice – making it more accessible and empowering even those who wouldn’t class themselves as brand writers. Would you agree with that? Was that your intention?

That was a big part of it. It’s ironic really that us writers – supposedly so good with words – seemed to be finding it difficult to explain this whole tone of voice malarkey! When I use it with clients I notice that it makes them bolder in their decisions. There’s something about seeing how your voice fits in on the spectrum of voices that gives people confidence.

It also looks very fun! Do you think that’s an important part of the process?

Yes! So, I deliberately wanted it to feel like a game – comes in a box, is very tactile, has cards and things for people to play with in all sorts of different ways. While Voicebox can help ‘de-mistify’ tone of voice, ultimately I made it to help make the process of finding a brand’s voice as creative and distinctive as possible. So it has to be about getting people together to enjoy the process, not just turning it into some digital tick-the-box process.

And I’m intrigued by the promise of tone of voice tarot cards. How do those work?

Haha! So – the tarot cards are 100 cards, each with a different word on – that you can play with in various ways, to help you suss out which of the 11 primary voices you should be considering. I started calling them tarot cards as a bit of a joke, but then it occurred to me that it was actually kind of true. Voicebox and the 11 primary voices isn’t a science – you do need to ‘read’ the cards, to add a bit of magic. It’s the bit people seem to really love in workshops. I think because everyone instinctively knows how to play with cards – shuffling them, sorting them, etc, so they just get stuck in.!

Could you reveal any brands that have used Voicebox to shape their tone of voice?

It’s probably not right for me to say directly. I can say, though, that a few big brand and design agencies in London use it, so it’s already influenced several household name brands I’m sure!. And there are people literally on every continent in the world using it now, from New Zealand to Nigeria to – damn, was hoping somewhere beginning with an N in America would have one… to North America!. So its influence is growing.

If you want to buy a Voicebox, use the code ‘500’ at the checkout to get it for £500, not £600. (nearly but not quite 20% discount!)

Valid until end of Sept. – Nick Parker, interviewed by Sophie Gordon

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