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Tone of voice

Why words matter

Language is one of the most important ways we connect with people. Sometimes it is the only way, so it is important that it sounds like it all comes from the same place, no matter how many of us are contributing.

Bringing our brand's purpose, position, and personality together is what makes us Airbus. This guide will help you do that through the language you use. You will discover how we write and just as importantly, styles to avoid.

But this is not a book of rules. It is a tool to help us be more persuasive and consistent.

Everyone who works for us or with us is a custodian of our brand. With your help, enthusiasm and commitment it can become stronger, smarter and special.

Purpose and brand position

Brand purpose

To apply our passion for aerospace to create a better connected, safer and more prosperous world.  

Our brand purpose sits at the heart of our brand. It is the central, aspirational theme that makes us unique. It reflects and influences everything we do.

It focuses on what we can do for others, not just for ourselves. It is about making a difference in the world. It is ambitious and packed full of hope and possibility. It is heroic and adventurous.

Brand position

We make it fly.

We sum up the brand purpose with a brand position that encapsulates what we do and what we stand for.

This is about having the energy and vision to turn ideas into action. It is about innovation and success. And because it is a message from us to the world, it comes from you too. That is why this guide is so important.

Brand personality

Our brand purpose and brand position are supported by our brand personality that makes our ideas interesting, ownable and distinctive. Our brand personality has three strands, listed below, that can be turned up and down like volume buttons, depending on our audience and subject matter.

Inspiring and Passionate

We try harder than anyone to make mankind’s dreams come true. Our shared passion for progress unites us in the search for a better way to connect, protect and support everyone on the planet. We go beyond what is expected and make positive things happen.

Determined

Our success is founded on intelligent innovation, but also hard work and tenacity. Everything we do contributes to our single-minded commitment to making our world safer and accessible for all.

Pioneering and Entrepreneurial

We are agile and innovative because we know that organisations at the forefront of change and evolution are the ones that ultimately survive and win. We adapt, adjust and respond to new challenges and opportunities by leveraging our talent, imagination and ability.

This is our personality and it reflects what we think and do. It also influences how we speak, but because it is not immediately obvious how to speak ‘Entrepreneurial’ or talk in a ‘Determined’ way, we have turned them into useable tones and styles.

 

Adapting

Tone Of Voice 1

Principles

Principle 01: Positive and Engaging

1. Always positive, never negative

We take pride in having a reputation for expertise, innovation and a passion for making a positive impact in the world. So, the way we speak and what we talk about should always be positive and progressive.

2. Show that you understand your audience

Engaging people requires us to tell them something new, interesting or relevant. Think about your audience. What matters to them? What do they need to know? How can you surprise them? What is going to make them sit up and take notice? Take a moment to think about the answers to these simple questions and your writing will be on target every time.

3. Interesting, relevant, surprising, useful

What you write should be at least two of these. Offer your audience more interesting solutions and relevant ideas. Try to add insight and wisdom every time you communicate – no matter how mundane that communication may seem.

4. Keep it simple

We avoid using complex language or complicated terminology. We prefer a simple style that is easy to understand for our customers and suppliers.

5. Active voice

We should always use the active tense when writing, as it sounds more positive and purposeful than its passive equivalent. It is also easier for non-native English speakers to understand. Write: ‘Airbus finds new ways to connect the world.’ Instead of: ‘New ways to connect the world are found by Airbus.’

6. Focus on benefits, not features

When readers understand the benefit of what you are talking about it is easier for them to relate to it. Innovation, expertise or opportunity might be the central feature of your story, but what does it mean in real terms and how will it benefit or impact on the reader? Find that and you will find a voice that resonates.

7. Give it some rhythm

If every sentence you write is roughly the same length then, no matter how great your content, the rhythm is going to get a bit monotonous. To keep your readers’ attention, break up sentences or shorten them.

 

10 words that capture the essence of Positive and Engaging

Use these words for inspiration or simply use them when you write:

• Intelligent

• Original

• Passion

• Upbeat

• Confident

• Inspiring

• Enlightened

• Unconventional

• Ingenious

• Aware

 

For example: ‘We are confident about our future because at the heart of everything we do is a vision for a safer, better connected world’.

 

Positive and Engaging is not:

Naïve, unrealistic or over-confident.

 

Avoid too many superlatives or overly descriptive sentences. Do not say: ‘We are exceptionally passionate about the future of aviation’, but ‘We believe that aviation is fundamental to humanity’s progress’.

Principle 02: Clear and Concise

1. Short sentences

The shortest route between two points is a straight line. Our language should reflect this thought, enabling our audience to quickly understand what we mean. Can you swap a comma for a full stop? Short sentences keep things more interesting and easy to read.

2. Get to the point

A clear, simple tone demonstrates confidence in our knowledge, experience and expertise. We tell it like it is and get to the point. Business-like when we have to be, but often quite conversational. We write as if speaking one-to-one with someone: down to earth and saying just enough.

3. One, clear idea

Do not over-complicate your writing with lots of unconnected ideas. Decide what the main point is and then stick to it. With one clear idea, your audience will get it.

4. Be precise

The machines, aircrafts and products we build are precise pieces of engineering. Our language should be equally measured. Crisp, neat and efficient.

6. Put your main point first

What is the most important thing you want to say? It sounds obvious, but deciding that and then putting it up front means your readers will not miss it. It is surprising how often this simple rule gets ignored.

7. Edit ruthlessly

Write your first draft, then re-read it, cutting out any words you do not need. Good writing does not just happen, it requires effort and a ruthless red pen. But the art of great editing is knowing when to stop. Strive for efficiency, but do not cut it back so far that the language has no personality.

8. Be specific to be convincing

Words like ‘freedom’ and ‘inspirational’ can make your writing sound vague. Think of specific examples of where these qualities have come to the fore and how they have been successful, then describe the outcome rather than glossing it over with empty, familiar language.

10 words that capture the essence of  Clear and Concise 

Use these words for inspiration or simply use them when you write:

• Straightforward

• Transparent

• Definite

• Uncomplicated

• Succinct

• Lean

• Compact

• Efficient

• Helpful

• Practical

 

For example: ‘Our practical brand guidelines document will be available to download from our intranet.’

 

Clear and Concise is not:

Simplistic, terse, charmless, blunt or generic.

Avoid sacrificing meaning in an attempt to be concise. Do not say: ‘Only print double-sided’, instead, try ‘Help us achieve our sustainability goals by printing documents double-sided’.

Principle 03: Bold and Dynamic

1. Go beyond the ‘what’

Do not just communicate what we are doing. Express why we are doing it. The ‘why’ is our purpose and should reinforce our brand’s point of view.

 

2. Be bold

Bold language is fresh, surprising and challenges conventional thinking. Writing with energy and purpose is key.

 

3. Avoid clichés

We are open to new ideas and at the forefront of experimental, blue-sky innovation, so it follows that our language should be equally imaginative, with no tired clichés or over-used words and phrases.

 

4. More verbs, fewer nouns

Use verbs to paint pictures. Go. Do. Look. See. Have. Use. These words give writing energy. Using too many nouns means your writing will lose its energy. For example, the verb ‘use’ is shorter and more energetic than the noun, ‘utilisation’. Watch out for words that end in -ion, -tion, -ment and -ness. There is probably a shorter verb you could use instead.

 

5. Find new ways to describe familiar things

We offer fresh approaches and new perspectives on subjects that have become stale and familiar. Finding new ways to describe what is already well-known will make our language fresh and interesting to read.

 

6. Talk about innovation and possibility

We want our readers to feel the same sense of possibility that we do, so always try to use language that celebrates growth, direction and ambition.

 

10 words that capture the essence of Bold and Dynamic  

Use these words for inspiration or simply use them when you write:

• Evolve

• Challenging

• Daring

• Pioneer

• Progress

• Advance

• Thrive

• Hope

• Aspiration

• Fresh

 

For example: ‘Being hopeful and daring about what’s possible will usually solve problems faster than dwelling on what has happened.’

 

Bold and Dynamic is not:

Shocking, presumptuous, aggressive, forceful or offensive.

 

Avoid being melodramatic in an attempt to get noticed. Do not say: ‘The world will never be the same again’, instead, try ‘By challenging convention, we present the world with better choices and help everyone live safer lives.’

Guidelines

  • Do not use academic words that sound overly formal – we are a modern business.
  • Unless you are writing for social media, try to avoid contractions. E.g. ‘we are’ not we’re.
  • Make sure you spell using British English rather than American. E.g. ‘colour’, not ‘color’; ‘centre’ not ‘center’; ‘analyse’ not ‘analyze’. In copy British English is our standard for company wide communication (e.g. internal/external comms.) except in circumstances where American English is the worldwide standard (e.g. technical publications for commercial aircraft). Where necessary, countries (e.g. USA) should apply the local standard for regional communication. Trademarks or legal entities are always written in their registered form.
  • Do not over-use commas – think about them like a quick pause or breath that add a natural rhythm to your words.
  • Avoid slang – it is always a bad idea in a business context.
  • If you use an acronym, always spell out abbreviations the first time they are used. Put the abbreviation in brackets. E.g.: ‘Airbus has extensive cooperation heritage with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’. We do not spell out abbreviations that are widely known, e.g. NATO. Abbreviations that are specific to a certain area do not have to be spelt out if they are used with the appropriate target group. E.g.: The abbreviation UAV does not have to be spelt out in a brochure issued by Airbus Defence and Space. However, using the term in Airbus’ annual report would require to spell out the abbreviation: unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)
  • If you are writing for an international audience, avoid local idioms.
  • Never use exclamation marks.

Considerations

 

  • Before you write anything, plan and think about who you are writing this for and what you want them to think, feel and do when they read it.
  • Consider the context; is it being read online or as a physical printed object? How do people engage with websites versus a piece of paper in their hand? The way you write should reflect the medium.
  • Think about which of the three Tone of Voice principles are most relevant to your audience. Is it an opportunity to dial up ‘Clear and Concise’ or is ‘Bold and Dynamic’ more appropriate?
  • Think about what you should not say and highlight any possible contentious areas early on.
  • Get a second opinion – if you are writing an internal or external piece that really matters, always share it with someone who knows the subject area before publishing it to a wider audience.
  • Ask yourself if it is easy to read – if it is not, you need to go back to the drawing board. Writing might be hard for you, but it should not be hard for the reader. 

Examples

Recruitment advertisement

Status Quo:

Digital Accelerator – Big Data Engineer – Solution Deployment (m/f) Airbus Toulouse

Description of the job

Are you passionate about IT, experienced in Big Data and convinced by the business added value of the digitalization?

Several vacancies for Big Data Engineer – Solution Deployment (m/f) have arisen within Airbus in Toulouse. You will join the Big Data Platform & Data Extraction department.

With the Digital Transformation of Airbus, the information technology of the company is completely redesigned, looking for creating added value for the business. Big Data is one of the main enabler of this transformation. In that context, Airbus IT teams are entirely reshaped and looking for new skills & potentials.

Challenges are numerous and exciting!

You will combine engineering experience and an innate drive to improve existing systems and processes with the creativity to develop novel solutions to evolving challenges.

You will be able to shape & design, to implement, to manage & deploy our digital transformation where the Big Data Cloud technology is a key enabler, providing means for our businesses to further innovate and/or speedup innovation.

 

Recommendation:

Digital Visionary1

Big Data Engineers (m/f) – Solution Deployment Airbus Toulouse

Job Description

IT is your passion, you know Big Data inside out and believe in the business value of digitalisation.1

If this describes you, then this could be the perfect opportunity you have been waiting for. We need Big Data Engineers (m/f) to work on Solution Deployment in our Toulouse headquarters2.

Digitalisation is transforming our business and intelligently using Big Data is central to this continuing evolution3.

This is a fantastic opportunity for those who thrive in exciting, challenging business environments4.

Ideal candidates will have relevant engineering experience, a meticulous approach to systems and processes and a creative approach to problem solving.

If you want to be instrumental in designing, managing and implementing the digital transformation of one of the world’s great companies, this is for you5.

 

Footnotes:

1 Straight to the point. This job title and sentence self-selects candidates

2 Energetic and dynamic

3 Use of strong concise statements – bold and clear/concise

4 Positive/engaging, challenging and dynamic, full of energy

5 Confident, bold, positive, engaging, compelling

Social media

Status Quo:

Meet the faces behind our freshly opened Tianjin Completion and Delivery Centre. 

Recommendation:

They make it fly.Meet our newTianjin Completion and Delivery team.#WeMakeItFly5  

Status Quo:

Today we have delivered our 50th #A350 XWB of the year. Ramp up is on track to produce 10 aircraft a month by end 2018. 

Recommendation:

We delivered our 50th #A350 XWB this year6 Our monthly target 10 is on-track.7    #WeMakeItFly 

Footnotes:

1 Humanises the corporate proposition

2 Engaging

3 Concise

4 One Airbus

5  Inspiring and passionate 

Clear and shorter 

Positive and engaging

No acronyms or jargons

Magazines

Airbuzz Magazine

Status Quo:

Welcome

You are reading your first edition of Airbuzz, the new in-­‐house magazine for Airbus. The main focus is on you – the people who make Airbus fly, by developing, producing and delivering the company’s products and services.

Think of Airbuzz as the Airbus colleague you always dreamt of – the one who explains everything you always wanted to know about the company, telling great entertaining stories and connecting you with the other people who work here. Airbuzz will guide us on our journey of truly becoming Team Airbus.

Airbuzz is your magazine and we want you to play a part in shaping it. We always look forward to your feedback and topic suggestions, so please get in touch with us at airbuzz@airbus.com

 

Recommendation:

Hello1

Welcome to Airbuzz, our new in-­‐house magazine. You should find it interesting, because it has been written for you, about you2.

We want this magazine to inform, unite and inspire3 and become a vital source of information about what you and your colleagues are doing. It is just one more example of our vision for ‘one Airbus’, united in our vision to lead as the global pioneer of aerospace.4

This is your magazine, so we want you to help shape it. Drop us an email to let us know what you think5 – all thoughts and suggestions welcome: airbuzz@airbus.com.

 

Footnotes:

1 Warmer and more positive/engaging greeting

2 Straightforward and to the point

3 Positive, clear and dynamic

4 Boldly stating our vision with confidence

5 More engaging, inviting comment and dialogue

You might be interested in:

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