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

Podcasts are the business

Mark Mars 3rd October 2017 — 5 mins read
G

etting people to listen to your story or message for 15 minutes to an hour is challenging when you think about how short our attention spans have become (just eight seconds according to recent research). But businesses are increasingly realising the power of podcasting.

Savvy brands are recognising that well produced podcasts differentiate them from many of their competitors.

The most successful are those where products and services are subtly woven into the story the podcast is telling rather than being pushed as a hard sell.

Here are some of our favourites:

 

InterContinental Hotels

The hospitality chain launched its podcast series exploring unique features about its hotels with the goal of tapping into a traveller’s passion for new discoveries.

For example, one episode revealed that deep within the InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel’s basement there is a hidden tunnel which was used to transport wealthy travellers to and from Grand Central Station in the 1920s.

The 20-minute Stories of the InterContinental Life podcast is aimed at reigniting the guest’s passion for travel and intrigue in discovering new places. It is produced to inspire travellers to experience the world and create their own stories.

The podcasts were created as part of a global marketing campaign to drive engagement by connecting the InterContinental brand to what is relevant in culture.

There are now a series of videos to go alongside the podcasts to really bring the stories to life.

 

General Electric

This multinational company which operates in many sectors including aviation, digital, healthcare, oil and gas etc. launched its first podcast series, The Message, in October 2015 and garnered 4.4 million downloads.

The sci-fi podcast show managed to reach the No. 1 podcast spot on iTunes and fans called for the series to be made into a film.

It was a huge success with an average of 450,000 people tuning into each episode. When the podcast series ended the episodes were collectively listened to another 90,000 times.

A new series, LifeAfter, was launched in 2016 and explored the question of what happens to our digital identity when we die, and the role AI can play in the grieving process.

The goal of the podcast series is to tell a really good story that touches on a theme that reflects General Electric’s work in science and technology.

It’s clear to see General Electric saw an opportunity in the story telling space and took it. They learned that quality generates an audience reaction and being clear on their objectives and not naming General Electic and its products in every other word builds value and trust. Something that clearly brings listeners back again and again.

 

Tequila Avión

The Rich Friends: The Elevated Conversation podcast by spirits firm Tequila Avión, launched in 2016 in association with GQ associate editor Mark Anthony Green and The New Yorker nightlife editor Matthew Trammell.

Its podcast explores current affairs, music, lifestyle, art, culture and fashion in New York.

Both men bring their own unique tastes to each episode with their experience in fashion and lifestyle magazines. The dynamic, enthusiastic and opinionated hosts make this podcast feel like you’re with them exploring the best of what ‘the city that never sleeps’ has to offer.

Tequila Avión’s forward thinking attitude combined with Matt and Mark Anthony’s cultural backgrounds makes this the perfect podcast partnership which has resulted in a unique piece of programming.

Topics are always discussed with a cocktail in hand and in any way the duo see fit. Founder of Tequila Avión, Ken Austin said “When we came in, we said, we’re willing to sponsor this thing, but I said to the guys, I don’t want to tell you what to say […] it was more about the audience and the listener versus a brand dictating anything”.

With 24 episodes under their belt, it seems the elevated conversation continues.

 

Slack

The Slack Variety Pack podcast launched in 2015 and is held to be the gold standard of branded podcasts. This is down to the fact it understands its audience very well.

As a result, the company – a cloud based collaboration tools and services firm - has grown dramatically, predominantly due to word of mouth in Silicon Valley and among other American workforces, and it is now slowly making its way across The Pond.

The podcast drew in the ‘tech-savvy, young, curious and light-hearted’ with their stories about ‘work, life and everything in between’.

The 20-40 minute long episodes that included work-life anecdotes and self-contained stories, as well as Slack’s signature quirky and curious personality, enabled the podcast listenership to grow with every episode.

With success like this, we can only assume that Slack will continue to create podcasts.

 

Shopify

‘Thank God it’s Monday’ is not something everyone utters as they walk into work (although we do, in case you are reading boss), but this is the title of Shopify’s podcast.

It was created for ambitious entrepreneurs who can’t wait for a new week to begin. Shopify aimed to inspire listeners by telling success stories of like-minded innovators.

In addition to a very successful blog, Shopify created the podcast in order to capture a part of this growing marketThey identified that many people prefer audio to text as a learning format, and as portable content, anyone can listen to it wherever they are.

By interviewing high-powered businesspeople including marketing guru Seth Godin, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes and serial start up entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk in 30-45 minute episodes Shopify creates quality content that people want to listen to.

Mark Macdonald, content manager at Shopify, said: “We would much rather be the content than the advertising. We are creating something that people want to consume, rather than interrupting them with something they wish to ignore.”

 

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content marketing 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 a podcast or blog post.

Mark Mars
3rd October 2017 - 5 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.