I was giving a talk to a business group a few weeks back, and after I stressed the importance of keeping marketing communications conversational, one of the attendees posed a question about how much of conversational tone is enough. It was a great question.

I responded that the answer depends upon the message-sender, the recipient, the medium, and the environment. For example, if you’re responding on social media to a longtime customer, you can be far more conversational and fun than you’d want to be in an initial message to a conservative prospect.

Since the focus was on conversation, I suggested using the idea of how you’d converse in person to guide the formality of the materials. Everyone knows that we behave differently in job interviews than we do while downing a couple drinks with friends. As you write to an audience, consider the tone of voice and degree of formality you’d use if you were in person, and then weave that through your copy.