Brand Language

Tone of Voice

Our tone of voice – what we write about, how we write it and how we speak – is the way we bring our Brand’s personality to life in words. We also want to sound like one DHL, whether we’re writing to start-ups, multinationals or consumers. We may well be writing to these audiences about very different things and have different objectives, but we want everything we write to consistently sound like DHL.

Tone of Voice
  • Examples
  • How our tone works
  • How to write in our tone
  • Thanks for calling DHL
  • How to use our voice (and how not to)

Examples

 

 

Our new DHL Tone of Voice is based on the DHL Brand personality, which is described in more detail in the related guide Brand Strategy.

How our tone works

1. Unpack logistics

To get things from A to B, a lot of amazing things have to happen behind the scenes at DHL. Let people know what we do and the lengths we go to to get the job done – whether that’s operating state-of-the-art warehouses, navigating the complexities of crossing borders, making sure a parcel is delivered on time or staging a major event.

2. Show there's more to every delivery

Show people that we don’t just deliver parcels, we deliver the smile on someone’s face when they open a birthday present. Don’t say we provide “e-commerce fulfilment”, talk about the excitement of helping people grow their business from one country to sixty. Write about the emotions we stir in people and the difference we make to everyone – from families to entrepreneurs to Formula 1® fans.

3. Make it personal

It’s easy to think of what we do as a series of steps in a supply chain. But writing about DHL like this makes us feel distant and technical. Put our people and personality back into our words by writing more like the way we speak. That means swapping formal words for more natural-sounding alternatives and avoiding lifeless technical terms by explaining what we mean instead. And do this for all our audiences – don’t put on a formal “business voice” when you’re writing to a CEO. Remember, they’re people too.

How to write in our tone

Writing for different audiences

If all our customers are different, shouldn’t we change how we write for them? 

Not as much as you might think. You don’t need to put on a “business voice” for business customers or a “cool” voice for young consumers.

Most of the time, you can change what you’re writing about (the content), but keep our tone (how we write). 

That way, you’ll always sound like DHL and make sure our company speaks with one tone, no matter where people read our words.

Watch out for broad business phrases

Try to avoid overused business words like “solutions” (unless it’s part of a product name), “needs” and broader technical-sounding phrases like “complex logistics challenges”. They make it harder for our customers to understand what we do.

Show don’t tell

“Sustainability” and “innovation” are key to our brand personality. We want to be known for them, along with the role we play in making “global trade” happen.

But we don’t want to simply say we’re “innovative” over and over again. Instead, give examples of the innovative things we do (or plan to do).

It means looking at what we write as much as how we write. For global trade, that might mean writing about the lengths we go to (and the challenges we face) transporting goods from one country to another. For sustainability and innovation, we might write about how we’re making our warehouses more carbon neutral or how our innovation helps our customers.

See things from the customer’s point of view

Instead of writing about our process or procedures, put yourself in the customer’s shoes: what do they want to do, what are they thinking about? This heading on a tracking page (below) works because it starts with what a customer might be thinking (and it’s easy to scan).

Write in the first person, not the third

Write “we are...’’, not “DHL is…” and use more personal pronouns (we and you) in your writing. They’ll make your words warmer.

Show we’re hands on: use more verbs

Use verbs to show we’re doing things and to put our people back into our writing. They also help our words flow more smoothly.

Examples of formal words (and what to write instead)

Short vs long on screens

We want to strike a balance between short, snappy text – especially on emails and screens when people scan – and words with more personality. Because shorter isn’t always better. Sometimes taking a few more words or adding a little warmth will work harder for us overall (just make sure the words don’t get in the way or make it harder for someone to find what they’re looking for).

SEO – write for people first and search engines second

Often we’ll want to include SEO keywords, but we want to do this without sounding forced.

First of all, it’s easier – and better for your writing – to write your first draft and add in any keywords afterwards.

But always do your research and check analytics before you add keywords to make sure they really are phrases people search for. Then choose one or two main keywords rather than trying to include everything. Search engines rate keywords higher in headlines, so a well-chosen keyword in the right place will work (and sound) better than a page with lots of keywords.

In the rewrite above, we’ve written a more engaging headline (“Just in time. All the time”), but kept the keywords underneath. SEO needs good search tactics and writing to work together. We’re assuming here that “warehouse logistics” will be a popular keyword. (And that it will be easier to get a higher ranking for that as a search term than a broader phrase like “warehouse solutions”.)

Thanks for calling DHL

How we speak

1. Enjoy sharing your knowledge

We want to make sure people have a better understanding of what we do and how we can help them. Make it especially easy to extract the important information. When we speak, we carefully select the places in the text where we want to put an emphasis – no more than one message per section – and place them where they serve the content, not where they "feel right“. We show that we like to share our knowledge by speaking at a moderate, deliberate pace.

2. Encourage excitement

The things we do at DHL fill us with pride, and that should also resonate in our voices. Fill your sentences with energy and speak with physical body. Emphasize passages that focus on emotions in particular – be it ours or those of the people we supply. This helps the audience to stay connected to what we say. Use inflections to charge the words with meaning – rather than becoming louder.

3. Make it sound personal

We want to speak in a way that feels conversational and gives the audience the impression that they are being addressed personally. Do this by finding a moderate basic volume – no shouting or pressing – and a natural voice setting. Do not disguise your voice, but let it vibrate smoothly and freely. Pronounce words vividly and clearly, without overarticulating – especially with technical terms. Strive for an even flow of breath on the voice, which suggests care and closeness.

How to use our voice (and how not to)

Dos and Don’ts

Do: Try to speak at a natural and deliberate pace. Take pauses to structure the text.

Don't shout or press. Avoid rushed, loud and aggressive speech.

Do: Strive for a clear and vivid pronunciation and speak at a fluid pace.

Don't over-articulate and don't make your voice creak.

Do: Speak at moderate, deliberate pace. The voice vibrates smoothy and freely.

Don't use multiple emphases per sentence and use inflections only where needed.

 

Female voice examples

 

Male voice examples

 

Contact

Would you like to work with one of these speakers in your project? Feel free to contact Group Brand Marketing, Martin Knapp, martin.knapp@dpdhl.com