Tone of Voice

UC’s tone and voice is how we speak and write to our different audiences. It helps to build consistency around what we say and how we say it. Our UC tone and voice should be used across all channels and when communicating with all our audiences.

Speaking to our audiences

UC is a large organisation that communicates with a wide range of audiences and stakeholders, including current students, staff, alumni, businesses and the public. UC’s brand should be applied to all communications to promote, protect and reinforce our character and key messages to build a confirmed relationship with these audiences.

In 2019 the Strategic Vision 2020 to 2030 was established and informs how UC will promote and conduct itself as an organisation over the next 10 years. The key messages below are informed by the Strategy. Download the full Strategy Document.

UC’s voice

When writing on behalf of UC it can be helpful to consider the university like a person – how does the ‘person’ communicate? Like individuals there will be times when communications will be formal or less formal but the general personality of UC is outlined below. See sections below on how UC communicates with students and staff.

UC’s voice is:

  • inclusive
  • impactful
  • confident
  • focused on the future
  • contemporary

How we speak to students

The student tone and voice is focused on empowering students to seek out the support and tools they need to successfully complete their studies at UC.

The tone and voice has been developed with feedback from current students and is aligned with the approach outlined in the annual Student Campus Rhythm. It contributes to a positive, well-informed and self-directed student experience that prepares students for their futures.

Our student tone is:

Active, conversational/friendly, empowering and motivational, engaging, positive, honest/real, approachable, encouraging, inclusive, modern/contemporary, informative, clear/succinct, and supports diversity and bicultural goals.

Key words:

Positive sentiment

  • Embrace it
  • You’ve got the skills
  • Build on your strengths
  • Look after you
  • Take charge
  • Make the most of…
  • You can access…
  • Connect with others
  • You belong, we’re one big diverse community
  • Challenge
  • Opportunity
  • Future
  • Progress

Negative sentiment

  • Don’t forget…
  • To succeed you need to…
  • Get help if you’re struggling…

Principles of student communications:

  • Just in time – communicate when students need the information and are most likely ready to engage with it. Avoid bombarding students with information all at once (e.g. on their first week in the semester), they’ll ignore it or miss something important
  • Keep messaging short, specific and to the point – every word should have a purpose
  • Use insightful tips
  • Use words of encouragement, not commands. Alternatively, use questions
  • Use real student stories and quotes
  • Make it easy for students – have clear calls to action: what to do, where to go next
  • Inform, don’t ‘sell’ – give clear information and facts
  • Acknowledge the challenges of study in a constructive way – talk about making progress rather than avoiding failure
  • Conversational, but professional. Take care with the use of humour, ensure it doesn’t detract from the main message
  • Show rather than tell – where possible use imagery and student quotes to make a point
  • Write about what things are rather than what they are not
  • Acknowledge and celebrate student success

How we speak to staff

The staff tone and voice is aligned with the UC Strategy, Tangata Tu, Tangata Ora, the Internal (Staff) Communications Strategy and the Human Synergistics programme/Weaving the Rope cultural journey.

UC’s Internal (Staff) Communications Strategy supports UC’s strategic direction, contributing to an empowered, well-informed workforce who are genuine advocates of the organisation. 

Our staff tone is:

Warm, friendly, informative, engaging, respectful, peer-to-peer, collaborative, transverse, and supports diversity and bicultural goals.

Key words:

Positive sentiment

  • Empower
  • Discuss
  • Challenge
  • Innovate
  • Excellence
  • Impact

Negative sentiment

  • Let’s move forward together
  • Distressing
  • Not there yet

Principles of internal (staff) communications:

  • Inform staff first
  • Share knowledge and resources that facilitate people in their work and professional development
  • Leadership builds trust through transparency and consistency
  • Communications are embedded in the principles of Tiriti o Waitangi to support staff in moving toward greater awareness, understanding and use of tikanga Māori and Te Reo, and of Pasifika cultures
  • Feedback and peer to peer communications are facilitated through various platforms
  • Diversity is top of mind
  • Staff success is consistently acknowledged and celebrated
  • Staff are recognised as varied; a range of mediums reach different types of staff, and different needs are recognised and catered to.

Tone and voice examples across channels and audiences 


Staff (academic and general) Intercom, staff forums, all-staff email, intranet Warm, friendly, informative, engaging, respectful, peer-to-peer, collaborative, transverse and supportive of diversity and bicultural goals, accessible Intercom - Despite dull skies, bright smiles lit up the UC campus today - thank you to everyone who worked so hard to ensure the success of Herea tō Waka | Orientation Day (O Day).

All staff email - Kia ora koutou, Our annual 11,000 volt power system shutdown is programmed for Sunday 2 February 2020, to test the control system of UC’s back-up power generator. This will affect the entire campus….

All staff email – issues - Kia ora koutou, The wellbeing and safety of our staff and students is our top priority and now that we are back in full University mode it is timely to remind everyone of the key COVID-19 (Coronavirus) messages.
Students Insider’s Guide, UCGO, student guides, all-student email, posters/digital screens  Active, conversational/friendly, empowering, motivational, engaging, positive, honest/real, approachable, encouraging, inclusive, modern/contemporary, informative, clear/succinct, and supports diversity and bicultural goals  Insider’s Guide - ACE is a quick and easy way to check if you’re on track with your studies, or if you need to engage more with your course materials, assignments and tools like LEARN.

Student guides – Make the most of the academic support services on offer and tap into the expert knowledge of academics and support staff on campus.

At UC you have lots of opportunities to get involved and connect with new people who are on the same journey as you.

All-student email – After various student workshops and nearly 2000 responses to “The Future of UC” survey emailed to all students in July (facilitated by the UCSA), the three most important things you wanted prioritised were:

1. supporting student success and wellbeing
2. a sustainable university by 2030 (socially, financially and environmentally)
3. improving UC’s teaching and research. Posters/digital screens – New to UC? Check out your go-to guides for everything you need to succeed at uni. Pick up a copy from Student Services or view them at – search ‘student guides’

Tone and voice examples across channels and audiences


Media Release General public, external stakeholders, staff, media, prospective students Direct, impartial, inclusive, impactful, confident, focused on the future, contemporary. Brief and to the point. Less is more.  Without Paris Accord, emperor penguins are in dire straits Unless climate change is slowed, emperor penguins will be marching towards extinction, according to a newly published study co-authored by a University of Canterbury (UC) scientist.
Twitter Media, businesses, international students, academics, postgraduate students Warm, friendly, informative, engaging, respectful, peer-to-peer, collaborative, transverse and supportive of diversity and bicultural goals. Humorous, occasionally tongue-in-cheek. It comes but once a year and that day is here again... happy Herea tō waka | Orientation Day to all of our new and returning students!&nbsp "Education is an act of love, and thus an act of courage." - Paulo Freire #UCNow #FeelTheLove #ODay #ValentinesDay
Chronicle UC Alumni, friends of UC, external stakeholders Warm, friendly, enthusiastic, engaging, accessible When assessing someone’s health, one of the first things a doctor does is measure the patient’s vital signs. But how do you measure vital signs when your patient is a huge, endangered paikea humpback whale? New UC research suggests drones could be the answer.