Graham Jones
12th November 2018 - 5 mins read
A

fter all, I might be saying this with a smile on my face, in a light-hearted way so you’d know that I was mucking about. On the other hand, I might have a stern look, wagging my finger at you and making you realise I was rather forthright about this topic.

The written word can only communicate part of the way. Without vocal tone, facial expressions and body language, it’s all too easy to get the wrong end of the stick when we read something.

These days we write and read more than ever before. Emails, tweets, Facebook posts, blogs—the list goes on. Nowadays, the typical office worker actually writes around 20,000 words a week. That means you are writing the equivalent of a novel every month.

The result is that every office worker will have developed a style of their own; a way of writing that is unique to them. And therein lies the problem for business communication.

It means that the way in which one member of the team writes on social media, for instance, can be vastly different to the style used by another staffer. That leads to inconsistency among the readership and the followers; they are confused about your company’s personality.

Many firms realise this and so they develop a corporate style guide or tone of voice document. And that can often lead to another problem; the company’s communication on social media in particular is no longer human. Corporate style allows things to be consistent but it turns most text into boring, business-speak.

Companies are often afraid that if they allow their style to be more human they’ll be in danger of trivialising themselves on social media. They get a sense of the more human approach devaluing their operation.

These firms worry that you might get maverick behaviour, with staff saying things in all kinds of negative ways on Twitter or Facebook. They don’t want to be like Channel 4, for instance, that Tweeted “BREAKING: It's definitely better to be nice to people and not be a dick. We'll update you as and when we have more on this story.” Or, perhaps, the Tweet from KFC in Australia which said “Something hot and spicy is coming soon” above a picture of a woman looking down at a man’s genital area.




Social media activity like this seems fun and human, but it is the kind of tone of voice that puts off the corporate style police. That, though, is a problem. It means that millions of social media messages are just plain boring. People skim straight past them, meaning they are a complete waste of time for the companies in the first place.

So, is there a way out of this conundrum? How can your company come across as human without people going bananas?

One way is to train people in writing skills. Given that the typical office worker is producing a novel’s worth of material each month, it’s worthwhile taking stock and thinking “are they trained for that?” People get trained in the technical skills of using email, for instance, but how much training do people get for writing? These days, writing is one of the most common activities for office workers and few are trained in this skill.

A key feature of learning to write well is understanding how your material sounds, so that even though the reader cannot see your facial expressions they can still get a jolly good idea of your meaning through the way you use phrases, sentences and punctuation.

Staff that are well-trained in writing are going to be much less likely to make the mistakes of businesses trying—and failing—to strike that human tone on social media. That’s because trained writers tend to stop and think more before they commit finger to keyboard.

It’s also about seeing the reader in your mind’s eye. Professional writers visualise the people for which they are writing, rather than just focusing on the words. Skills like this can be taught and learned and can create a significant advantage on social media. That’s because, with everyone trained, the personality of the company can shine through and the maverick behaviour can be diminished.

Essential to getting it right is understanding your audience very well indeed. Taco Bell, for instance, does this brilliantly. Its social media posts are light, fun and humorous, reflecting the fact that what the company offers is a fast snack that is usually eaten socially.

Similarly, the airline JetBlue manages to strike a good balance between fun and being serious. It doesn’t trivialise air travel but it does emphasise that travelling itself should be fun and enjoyable. Its Twitter feed is consistent in that it contains a sprinkling of humour among the more serious tweets.

Another good example is the bookstore Waterstones. It provides informative social media posts as well as humour and conversation with its followers. It has a consistent tone that is light when needed and serious when talking about something that demands it. In other words, it understands the connection between the topic and the reader very well.

Fundamentally, what these companies share is a solid understanding of their readership. They may well be using trained writers, but their social media posts reveal that they truly understand their audience. You can only write in the right tone if you understand who is going to read your material and their motivations.

For some companies this will mean you can be light, fun and entertaining. For others it will mean that you need to be conversational and witty. And for a few it will mean you need to strike a balance between serious and light. The only “right answer” about tone of voice on the internet is “it depends”. It depends on your product, your sector and your audience. Two things will help you get this working properly—trained writers and a solid, well- researched understanding of your target audience. 


At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper. 

Marketing

Gold rush – the secrets of writing a winning awards submission

Adam Fisher 6th July 2018 — 3 mins read
W

e use the word ‘daunting’ because the entry process can seem time-consuming with no guarantee of a return.

So how can you ensure your awards submissions stand out and capture the judges’ interest?

Here are eight tips to help you ensure your award entry is a success:

 

Captivate the judges

If the award is worth winning, the judges will probably have hundreds of entries to read through.

So your submission needs to stand-out. This means you need a strong opening to draw them in and encourage them to keep reading.

The key is to get to the really strong part of your entry early on and not leave it until the end of your submission.

Some journalistic principles also apply here to ensure interest and focus is maintained. Ensure sentences are no longer than 30 words and start each sentence as a new paragraph so that judges don’t face daunting passages of text.

Also, think about what makes something ‘newsworthy’ to a journalist and apply the same principle. For example, what makes your entry unusual?  Is it because what you have achieved is a first, or the biggest, or the smallest? This will help you find that all-important ‘wow’ factor.

 

Storytelling

People love stories. They want to read and hear stories.

And your awards submission will be much more memorable if it includes a story.

Like all good stories, your tale will need a hero (you or your organisation) and a villain (the problem you have solved) and if it has an innocent victim (your customers) then it will be even stronger.

And it should have a beginning, middle, and end.

Get straight into your story in the submission - don’t feel compelled to introduce it by saying something like ‘here’s a story which shows that…’ or through a sub-heading called ‘our story’.

 

Put people in your story

People love stories that involve people, and including them directly in your award submission will help it stand-out.

Quotes from colleagues, customers, and stakeholders about the impact of what you have achieved will help bring the crucial human element into the entry.

 

Substantiate claims

It could be tempting to fill your submission with bold claims about your success.

But, unless you can back these up with facts, figures, and examples then they are just claims and ultimately are pretty meaningless.

Judges will be looking for evidence to ensure that claims are more than just rhetoric.

 

Show don’t tell

Do you always ‘put customers first’? Is your business ‘client-centred’, ‘visionary’ or ‘innovative’?

These tired adjectives are not only overused but they are also all rather hollow.

A much more effective approach in awards submissions is to show how you do these things, rather than telling us that you do them.

Show how you are putting your customers first and how you are being innovative. Examples, case studies, stories, quotes and testimonials will all help here.

 

Avoid the jargon

You may understand the technical language and acronyms used in your organisation and industry but there is a good chance it will not mean anything to the judges.

And that could cause them to lose interest.

Stick to everyday language that everyone can understand. Think about how you would explain what you have achieved to a friend or a colleague.

 

Paint a picture

A picture is a worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and that idiom is particularly true when it comes to awards submissions where there are often word limit constraints.

Images, tables and, infographics can bring entries to life and help make the complex easily understandable.  

 

Proof

You’ve told your organisation’s story. You’ve got facts and figures to support your points and some strong quotes from customers and colleagues.

What a shame it would be then if all that work was undermined by typos, spelling mistakes, and punctuation errors.

The simple fact is that these mistakes make award submissions memorable for the wrong reasons and can ruin otherwise strong entries. Details matter.

We love helping our clients with their award submissions. Our journalist-led approach ensures all our content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content, award submissions or a whitepaper.

 

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

 

Adam Fisher
29th January 2018 - 3 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.