Wednesday, 25 July 2012


The BBC decided that they didn't "own the tone" of the Jubilee Celebrations.

Tone will be the first thing on the minds of commentators and pundits during the Olympic Coverage.

Tone is often overlooked in journalism, as it is in most forms of communications work.

So what is tone? How can you define it's use in comms? Tone is more than syntax and paradigm; it's the collection of emotional signifiers that connect with an audiences own reading of the import, gravity, & significance of an action or event. It's all the bits in a message that aren't the words...

But, it includes the words...

Those who have completely misread tone include The Sun Newspaper's reaction to the Hilsborough Disaster in 1989 which centres around the collective shock of the event and the subsequent blame-storming.

The coalition Governments Omnishambles budget got the tone wrong. The Chancellor approached it from a "we have to do something about the economy" point of view, the electorate approached it from "I don't want my pasty to be taxed" point of view. The subsequent volte-face and insistence that The Government was listening to the electorate, once again got the tone wrong. At that point they just wanted them to admit to getting it wrong.

The BBC's attempted giddy, carnival coverage of what turned out to be a rousing, formal, slightly sombre celebration along the Thames actually turned out to be flippant and silly and a little bit disrespectful.

When looking at corporate comms (internal and external) the tone needs to be within a consistent framework. What does the brand stand for? What are the core values? How is that presented alongside the information that needs to be disseminated? If we have to comment on a pseudo-political matter what is the tone of the message? The tone becomes the driver of that message, the right words with the wrong tone is more damaging than the wrong words with the right tone...

Do we have to mention Fern Cotton here?

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