This week’s guest blog is brought to you by Paul Hassing from The Feisty Empire. Paul is a kick-ass copywriter and he’s sharing what it means to find your client’s “voice”. Get a cuppa and grab some paper. You’ll probably want to take some notes.
A client recently asked me to make my copy ‘exciting but corporate’.
As this request was part of a fifth round of conflicting instructions, I told them that in their case, the terms ‘exciting’ and ‘corporate’ negated each other.
They’ve not replied, which gives me time to talk about ‘tone’ (or ‘voice’).
Belinda says her focus is to write copy that: ‘Has personality and captures my client’s voice.’
While this noble quest is fraught with difficulties, you can work through them.
In my experience, the problem with voice starts at the top (i.e. the owner or senior manager).
Most think the voice they like is the one they need.
Yet this is only true if they’re talking to people exactly like them, which is rare.
The audience is listening
So, as with all writing, it’s about the audience.
An organisation can have several audiences, e.g.:
- (Current and potential) staff.
- Industry observers.
- The general public.
As it’s hard enough to set one voice; you’re asking for trouble if you try to maintain four.
So smart firms choose one voice that meshes with all their audiences.
Yet in offending no-one, you risk being so generic that you inspire no-one. This is where ‘corporate’ negates ‘exciting’.
So what do you do?
Walk the talk
My solution is to write to your audiences as you speak to them. For instance:
- ‘Corporate’ job ads talk about ‘the successful incumbent’.
- ‘Exciting’ job ads talk about ‘you’.
Even the stuffiest firm doesn’t introduce a new hire as ‘the successful incumbent’. They take her round the office and say something like: ‘This is Rachel; she’s our new Engineering Director.’
If you’re going to speak to and about Rachel like a human being when she starts work, I say use the same voice for every written communication aimed at her.
The same applies to your other audiences.
Be human. Be sincere. Be truthful. Be legal. Be consistent. Don’t get too freaky. And don’t make it all about YOU.
Do this, and the interesting elements of your corporate personality will shine through without upsetting anyone.
And that makes ‘corporate’ copy ‘exciting’.
Paul Hassing – Founder & Senior Writer, www.thefeistyempire.com
Paul has written, edited, proofed and produced print, radio, online, outdoor and business copy for well over 1200 organisations of every size and sector. He is extremely versatile and his work has been awarded three times and his articles have appeared in over 20 magazines worldwide.
Paul also writes numerous blogs for himself and his clients. As chief writer for MYOB, he has moderated hundreds of articles and thousands of comments. One of his pieces features in Seth Godin’s Purple Cow.