Shelter: brand development and tone of voice

Case Study



Type of Work

Brand articulation
Tone of voice

Repositioning an iconic British charity

The challenge

In 2012, Shelter was facing a perfect storm. Significant elements of its funding were being axed at exactly the time when the pressure on housing was reaching a peak.

At the same time, the charity was struggling to communicate what it did and how it could help.

Shelter needed to be able to raise more money than ever before from individual and corporate donors – and it needed to be able to speak directly to the people who needed its services.

What we did

To bring about the transformation, we did a number of things:

  • Audit – established where Shelter’s language was
  • Brand and competitor review – helped us to suggest a positioning, and how their language would need to change to achieve it
  • Tone of voice – we created an approach to language that evoked the organisation’s gritty, campaigning beginnings – and documented the tone of voice in easy-to-follow guidelines
  • Language clinics – we held surgery sessions where anyone could book half-hour slots to discuss a project they were working on to get guidance and feedback
  • Writing key pieces – to help get the ball rolling, we rewrote a series of documents including letters, campaign materials, legal correspondence, fundraising emails and brochures
  • Articulating the organisation’s proposition and values – we worked with KPMG to help define and articulate statements to describe what Shelter offers
  • Six-monthly MOT – we offered continued support to Shelter’s brand team, reviewing communications on a regular basis and giving feedback to individual team members to help them keep on track
  • Refresher training – a year later, we ran refresher training sessions. These were also attended by people who were new to the organisation
  • Ongoing – this programme has established itself fairly well, and we continue to offer light-touch support. We’ve also written the company’s Impact Report for the last two years


Within months of adopting a new approach to language, unprompted recognition of Shelter and what it does increased. Teams were able to remember and talk about Shelter’s values and purpose. Crucially, Shelter has also been able to shift its funding model.

A small thing – but Shelter has also reduced its print bill, because its messages are now much more succinct.

Want to learn more? Check out our FAQs on tone of voice.