The message your website gives has two components, the voice and the tone. The tone of your content will change depending on what is happening. However, the voice of your website is always the same. This singular direction guides all the text on your website. In contrast, different scenarios call for a unique tone. Your unified voice and empathetic tone reduces confusion and helps users feel at ease.
The voice is the consistent message of your website. It should the be the same throughout your entire site. Plus consider your other communications. Email newsletters, social media, web content, and offline communications all need to be in sync. The same voice needs to speak for your church. It can be fun, serious, brief, verbose, plain, explicit, or peaceful. Whatever your church leadership determines fit is the right voice. Why? This is a strategic decision that will affect many areas. I suggest that once you determine it, document it. I imagine that a word or short sentence will capture what your voice will be. If you have staff offices, display a printed copy for everyone on your web team to see; including pastors. If they are active on social media, they need to keep that voice in mind.
The tone of your message should change depending on the scenario. Your tone should change depending on the situation. Error messages are different than success messages. Copy on a page about marriage is different than a page about divorce. You would not talk the same to someone celebrating the birth of a bay as you would someone who is planning a funeral. These may seem like extremes. Yet to your audience they will not. Their current situation will be important to them. So the appropriate tone will be all the more impactful. Your content strategy document is a great place to start documenting your tone. If you have a tool like this, it already shows the value a page has, and who owns it. Adding another data point of the intended tone should not be a troublesome problem.
Importance of Consistency
Imagine if your pastor greeted a new member like a stand-up comic routine. Imagine they gave them a myriad of impersonations. What if a marriage counselor varied between serious to joking comments? They would eventually miss the mark and offend or upset someone. Your website and social media presence is no different. If you are inconsistent, you are bound to miss the mark somewhere. Whether it be too serious or too lax, you will find a situation to offend a visitor. I suggest building content audits into your website maintenance calendar. Incremental updates will keep the task from getting too large.
I imagine at no point during this article were you disagreeing with me. You should have a consistent voice and appropriate tone for your website and social media presence. The big question you now have is "what is my church's voice?". A great starting point to throw out to your pastor is quite simple. Look at Jesus. Read those red text excerpts from the gospels and how he handled situations. Imagine the jokes with the disciples, and the sternness while rebuking pharisees. Dig into some scripture, pray, and discuss your findings with your committees. Then move on to adding the consistent voice and tones to your content.
Image courtesey of Thera