Tone of voice


To maintain the integrity of the brand, tone of voice should be consistent across all our online communications. However, there will be semantic differences in the expectations and language preferences between our key audiences and communication streams.

There is a ‘core personality’ for the NIHR constructed from four key ‘traits’ that will resonate across our audiences, and reflect the strategic communications goals and brand values of the NIHR.

This guidance describes how this core personality can be extended and tailored to suit the stylistic differences and expectations relating to each audience stream

NIHR core personality

The NIHR is communicating with a broad range of audience types, who engage with the organisation for many different reasons. But there are broad thematic similarities that arise from their expectations, which, if encapsulated as ‘core’ brand personality traits, would allow the organisation to present a unified, coherent tone-of-voice.


The NIHR encourages open dialogue, invites participation, and seeks out opportunities to collaborate.


The NIHR is a source of inspiration for others to follow. This is evident in the positive impact that the research delivers, and in the quality of talent that the organisation attracts, develops, and retains.


The NIHR is a global leader and centre of research excellence, highlighted by the tangible benefits that the organisation has generated for healthcare systems, patients, and society as a whole.


The NIHR represents the leading-edge of health research, regularly breaks new ground, and actively explores new ways of thinking, aiming to establish the long-view on the future of healthcare.

Personality trait - Collaborative

The words and phrases below illustrate how the theme of collaboration can be conveyed and should be used as a guide to inform choice of language.

What we want to be

What we don’t want to be



















Personality trait - Inspiring

The words and phrases below illustrate how the theme of inspiration can be conveyed, and should be used as a guide to inform choice of language.

What we want to be

What we don’t want to be





















Personality trait - Authoritative

The words and phrases below illustrate how the theme of authority can be conveyed, and should be used as a guide to inform choice of language.

What we want to be

What we don’t want to be



















Personality trait - Innovative

The words and phrases below illustrate how the theme of excitement can be conveyed, and should be used as a guide to inform choice of language.

What we want to be

What we don’t want to be








Too Niche


Not attached to the present








Tailoring the tone of voice



Collaboration should be the most prominent personality trait on the Community audience channel. Language and tone should communicate the ‘One NIHR’ vision, focusing on how the NIHR is connecting, and championing HCPs and Researchers working within the organisation.

  • HCPS and Researchers both respond well to language and content that mirrors a broadsheet newspaper; formal, expert, inquisitive, encouraging debate. Make use of headlines to grab attention.
  • Keep the tone authoritative and professional, but unpretentious. Technical language can be used, but be wary of assuming knowledge of a specialist subject.

Example language:

  • Interest
  • Latest
  • Understand
  • Help
  • Together
  • Identify
  • Opportunities
  • Unified
  • Improve
  • Share
  • Support
  • Vision


“New #braincancer #research funding opportunities open, and the deadline is 6th August. Help us make another breakthrough in understanding this disease.”

“Have you got a research idea that could create a #braincancer breakthrough? Apply for funding on our website.”

“CRN research has identified an effective new drug that could improve the quality of life for people living with #braincancer. Explore the findings of this latest health breakthrough:”

“People who are obese are more likely to develop cancer, but little is known on whether weight loss reduces this risk or whether obesity in cancer survivors leads to a poorer prognosis. Dr Amanda Cross outlines the pitfalls in conducting research in this area and how the NIHR is helping.”

“Applications are invited for research proposals that are concerned with the day-to-day practice of health service staff, and that have the potential to have an impact on the health or wellbeing of patients and users of the NHS.”

News and Research

The News and Research audience stream is a similar audience to NIHR Community, but it’s important to recognise the difference in motivation. This audience may not be as engaged, and may have established perceptions that need to be challenged, so language and tone should be focused on reinforcing the positive, beneficial nature of the NIHR.

  • Content should be benefit-driven, and convey the relevance of the NIHR to the healthcare system, industry, and society.
  • Tone should be inviting, intriguing and inclusive. Care should be taken not to come across as ‘pushing an agenda’.

Example language:

  • Discover
  • Outcome
  • Reduce
  • Influence
  • Important
  • Efficiency
  • Benefit
  • Change
  • Survey
  • Improve
  • Effective
  • Achieve


“It’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. We’ve helped thousands of people since our inception, and our research team has made progress in understanding the impact of mental illness. This is what we’ve achieved in the last year:”

“Our partnership is improving #mentalhealth care delivery within the NHS; find out more about how we help our patients:”

“We’ve developed an online mindfulness course to help people manage stress and anxiety. Find out more about our support:”

“We prioritise the questions that are most important to doctors, patients and other evidence-users and the areas of research where the need and opportunity is greatest. We accelerate translation of discoveries into improved treatments and services.”

“NIHR Biomedical Research Centres are leading the way in developing innovative new techniques to restore vision.”

Take Part

The Take Part audience stream is focused purely on patients and related public. The content, language, and tone should clearly reflect this distinction. Copy should be non-technical and convey concepts in simple terms, avoiding language that might be misunderstood.

  • The focus should be on positioning the NIHR as a trusted, supportive, organisation that understands the concerns, anxieties, and day-to-day challenges they face.
  • They will not be able to dedicate significant time to engaging with the brand. So messages will need to be conveyed quickly, and complex information broken down into easier-to-digest chunks.

Example language:

  • Simple
  • Ease
  • Specific condition i.e. dementia
  • Thanks
  • Living with
  • Understood
  • Take part
  • New opportunity
  • Appreciate
  • Better
  • Find out
  • Evidence


“People living with #dementia will increase 204% by 2050, and we need your support to learn more about this disorder. We run studies to help us understand dementia, from memory games to drug trials, please sign up to help us learn more about this disorder:”

“This is what happens when patients take part in #dementiaresearch:”

“One of our studies has found evidence that a new drug can ease problems with speech for people living with #Alzheimers. Thanks to all the patients who pledged their time and support.”

“Pregnant women will now be offered a simple blood test to detect pre-eclampsia, a common and potentially fatal pregnancy complication, thanks to research funded by the NIHR.”

“NIHR researchers have worked with people with autism to create unique self portraits, as part of an initiative to bring together autistic people and scientists to share ideas and influence the research agenda. “


Language and tone on the Industry audience stream should highlight how the NIHR provides benefits to partners, focusing on openness, and how partnerships work from a practical perspective.

  • Content should be clear, uncomplicated and easy-to-understand.
  • The Language should be tailored to the correct audience, for example:  life sciences industry, research charities, or other funders such as research councils and overseas governments. This may include sector-specific phrases  and terminology.
  • audience will be put off by complex, jargon-laden language; uUse facts and figures to impress and demonstrate benefits and outcomes. Show understanding of a commercial mind-set where relevant.
  • Tone needs to be confident, collaborative and celebratory of success: think how NIHR can be relevant, useful and add value to the work of these customers to make the difference to the wider healthcare industry.

Example language:

  • Collaborate
  • ROI
  • Industry-led
  • Initiatives
  • Partnership
  • Economic benefits
  • Call/apply
  • Knowledge exchange
  • Support
  • State-of-the-art
  • Applied
  • Innovation
  • Deliver
  • World-leading
  • Develop
  • Available resources


“During the 2014/15 financial year, the economic benefits of CRN supported clinical research activity included £2.4 billion GVA, and almost 39,000 new jobs.”

“Imagine what could you could do with access to state-of-the-art facilities, world-leading scientists and an extensive research network? Discover the business benefits of partnering with us.”

“Our industry-led infrastructure helped to achieve 94 new licences, improving the health and wealth of the nation. Partner with the NIHR and help us to ensure research discoveries are turned into tangible outcomes.”

 "New EU #MedicalDevice Regulations #EUMDR are on the horizon requiring:

  • more clinical evidence
  • more health economic data
  • more post marketing clinical follow-up
  • and therefore more research sites." 


The audience for the Evidence stream is wide-ranging, from patients and carers to health and social care professionals so the tone must reflect the wide audience and be clear and concise avoiding jargon.

  • Unbiased and critical. Content shared by the account must not be ‘promotional’ in tone. It must critically, honestly appraise the evidence.
  • Content must work for social i.e. it must be digestible, understandable to a broad audience and conveyed in such a way

Example language:

  • New Study
  • Evidence shows
  • Study reveals
  • Read or download
  • NIHR-Funded
  • Latest research
  • Stay up-to-date
  • Research suggests
  • Summarise
  • Read in full
  • Important
  • Implications


“There is currently considerable debate as to the best treatment for a torn Achilles tendon. There are risks and benefits with the different options Research suggests similar outcomes if treated with or without surgery.”

“Here are last week's Signals. Signals explain why studies were needed, what they found and what the implications may be. Read them in full and get up to date with the latest #research now: #surgery #exercise #newborn #HealthResearch”

“Study shows that increasing registered nursing staff by an hour for each patient per day could reduce the risk of death by 3%. #nurses #wardstaffing #safestaffing”

“Results from a study update revealed that a higher omega-6 fatty acids intake showed no effect on overall risk of cardiovascular disease or death, these foods are recommended as part of a balanced, healthy diet. @TheBHF”

Global Health

The audience for the Global Health audience stream is largely professional, including researchers based in the UK or abroad (who are existing NIHR award holders or potential applicants), and other professionals in the global health space (e.g. policy makers, people who work in NGOs and organisations allied to global health). 

Collaboration should be the most prominent personality trait. Language and tone should communicate how the NIHR is enabling equitable partnerships and bringing together researchers from across continents to work together to improve health outcomes in low and middle income countries (LMIC), and how the NIHR champions the involvement of LMIC communities in all aspects of the research. 

  • Content should be inclusive and mirror the diversity of the global health research community;
  • The tone should be authoritative and professional, but unpretentious. Technical language can be used, but be wary of assuming knowledge of a specialist subject.

Examples of language:

  • Applied
  • Equitable
  • Life-changing
  • Deliver
  • Discover
  • Take part
  • Capacity building 
  • Global health
  • Partnership development
  • Co-production
  • Innovation


‘Our Global Health Research Centres programme funds high quality applied health research in low and middle income countries and supports the development of sustainable and competitive research capacity. Apply on our website’ 

‘Swab testing patients for #COVID19 before major surgery helped surgeons identify asymptomatic infected patients and postpone their operation, avoiding the severe risk of coronavirus complications after surgery. New research from @NIHR_GSU’.

‘#NIHRGlobalHealth funding is available for research units that have an existing track record of delivering internationally recognised applied global health research and wish to consolidate and expand this work’. 

‘NIHR-funded review published in @TheLancet highlights key challenges around the prevention and management of chronic respiratory diseases in low and middle income countries. Read the key takeaways on our website’.

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