Brand Message

Pillars of the Brand Message

At the City of Toledo, we see the best in our colleagues and residents. People come first. We recognize the human story in every government decision, without losing sight of the bigger picture. We’re mindful stewards of time and resources and follow through on our promises. Nearly two centuries before have brought us here, but it’s our modern outlook that pushes us forward.

Mutual Respect and Trust
  • We see the best in our colleagues and our residents.
  • We work collaboratively to strengthen our weaknesses.
Mutual Accountability
  • We’re mindful stewards of time and resources who keep promises.
  • We implement sustainable strategies and track our success.
Diversity and Inclusion
  • We recognize and celebrate variety in identities, backgrounds and perspectives.
  • We advocate for equality across all disciplines, for all people, in all parts of Toledo.
People-Centered Relationships
  • We focus on serving our residents efficiently, effectively and comprehensively.
  • We strive to connect with people and see the human story in every government decision.
Customer Service
  • We put people first and work hard until needs are met and issues are resolved.
  • We think creatively on how to best serve Toleodoans.


If the City of Toledo were a person, how would they be described? This helps inform the brand voice and impact.

  • Driven to do what’s right
  • Willing to go the distance
  • Proud of the process

  • Uncomplicated style
  • Efficient communication
  • Clear expectations for self and others

  • Confident in the future
  • Working towards a better Toledo
  • How do we get to yes? mentality

  • Welcoming and friendly
  • Supportive of all people
  • Advocates for opportunity

  • Resident-centric attitude
  • Committed to finding solutions
  • Service-minded


Brand Voice

Every brand has a voice — a consistent style for written, verbal and visual communication. Much like a person’s voice, a consistent brand voice becomes recognizable and can be easily distinguished amongst a crowd.

When producing communication for the City, aim to maintain these four brand voice attributes:


Write like a living, breathing person, not a department or government entity.


The Midwest is known for being nice. Let’s not disappoint.


Transparency builds trust, so say it like it is. Don’t hide behind words.


Yes we’re friendly, but we also get the job done.

How to Use the Voice

A brand voice isn’t about using certain words or a templated writing style. It’s about authentically presenting the City in a way that’s consistent with who the City is and how the City strives to be understood. In order to do this, use the four attributes: human, friendly, honest, and responsible as a litmus test for brand personality.

Instead of simply writing ​“The City of Toledo is honest and responsible with bids,” a stronger brand voice shows how the City lives out these attributes. Try ​“The City of Toledo provides weekly updates, available online or in print, on any open or in-progress bid for government-contracted bid projects.”

In addition, rely on a toolkit of related keywords to identify more examples of brand attributes in action.

Human Friendly Honest Responsible
Relatable Down-to-earth Transparent Professional
Relevant Approachable Truthful Appropriate
Personable Resident-focused Proactive Reliable

Examples of Writing in the Voice

Example 1

Write like this: Our administration puts people first. Whether you’re seeking quality services, progressive policies, or the right economic foundation to launch your business, we are here to serve.

Not like this: My administration is focused on service for our citizens, progressive policies for our community and economic development as a foundation for our great City. — Excerpt from tole​do​.oh​.gov

Why? Add more human elements. Using ​“we before me” creates a sense of community right from the start. Breaking the content into two sentences produces a more conversational tone.

Example 2

Write like this: We maintain and operate many of the City’s public outdoor resources. Athletic fields and facilities, city pools, the ice rink and shelter house rentals all fall under our care.

Not like this: Maintenance of more than 50 athletic fields and facilities, which include baseball and softball diamonds and tennis courts. Maintenance and operation of city pools and the Ottawa Park Ice Rink as well as shelter house rentals. — Excerpt from tole​do​.oh​.gov

Why? Add more friendly elements. While the bullet-like writing style is quick to read, it can come across as cold and hurried. Balance being approachable with being brief.

Example 3

Write like this: The Office of Diversity and Inclusion informs and educates the public on the City’s Affirmative Action Plan: a policy that enforces equal hiring opportunities.

Not like this: The Office of Diversity and Inclusion also ensures the promulgation and dissemination of the City’s Affirmative Action Plan. — Excerpt from tole​do​.oh​.gov

Why? Add more honesty. While this statement isn’t being dishonest, its use of jargon creates a barrier to communication and understanding. Increase transparency by writing at a common reading level.


What is tone?

If message is what we say and voice is how we say it, then tone is how our voice shifts based on context. While there aren’t any hard and fast rules for tone, keep the following in mind:

  • Consider the audience and the platform, then write in a way that best serves the purpose.
  • Generally lean toward being more informal than formal, while still being professional.
  • Depending on the content, the tone may be heavier on one part of the voice but should always have evidence of at least one attribute.

Examples of Changing Tone

By Audience
  • An email about City programs going to:
  • Prospective commercial developers = persuasive tone
  • Senior residents = educational tone
  • Information on attending a meeting for:
  • An internal department = insider’s tone with familiar jargon
  • The general public = welcoming tone
  • Property tax instructions written for:
  • First-time home owners = supportive tone
  • Established home owners = directive and to-the-point tone
  • Presentation on recycling practices geared towards:
  • Elementary youth = educational and inspirational tone
  • Corporation leadership team = collaborative and directive tone
By Platform
  • Permit applications = professional tone
  • Social media posts = playful tone
  • State of the City speech = hopeful tone
  • Water safety mailing = reassuring tone
By Emotion
  • Asking for support or partnership = warm and earnest tone
  • Consolidating after a tragedy or natural disaster = empathetic tone
  • Reprimanding a negative action = directive and authoritative tone
  • Giving directions = to-the point and helpful tone

Editorial Styles

AP Style

For official communications, the City of Toledo follows the Associated Press (AP) writing style. AP Style outlines widely-accepted standards for formatting written content. Detailed information on AP standards can be found at apstyle​book​.com.

Here are a few high-level guidelines to get started.

  • Use figures for dates and years
  • Do not add -st, ‑nd, ‑rd or ‑th to the figures
  • Skip the comma if a year and month are given
  • Add the comma if a date, month and year are given
  • Abbreviate the following months if used with a date: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out all other months.
  • Use a.m. or p.m.
  • Use a colon to separate minutes from the hour
  • If the date is on the hour, remove :00
  • Use Noon and Midnight
  • Write numbered addresses as figures 
  • Abbreviate Ave., Blvd. and St. when used with a numbered address 
  • Capitalize and spell out all other road types (Drive, Alley, Road, etc.) in all other occasions
  • Abbreviate directions like E. and W. when used with a numbered address
  • If a street name is a number less than 10, spell out the full number (ie. Fourth, Sixth). If it’s more than 10, use figures (ie. 10th, 11th).
  • Capitalize the first word
  • Capitalize all proper nouns
Ampersands (&)
  • Do not use shorthands like “&” or “+”
  • Always write the full word “and”
  • The only exception is if the ampersand is part of a company or organization’s formal name.
  • Use a single space after a period
  • Commas and periods should be within the quotation marks


If you're not sure on something or need additional materials, please contact the City of Toledo Information & Communication Technology (ICT) Department.