I yammer on a lot about being “human” in corporate communication, both online and in person. But there is no point in developing a personal tone that encourages discussion and builds credibility if it is eliminated in the editing process.
Traditionally, corporate comms has focused on providing a single consistent voice to leave the audience with the impression of a united company, rather than a firm fractured into numerous departments.
It is an ingrained practice, and as such requires every person in the production chain to change their thinking, whether they provide the raw information, quotes or business sign-off, or are involved in the actual content creation. While they may not be physically making changes themselves, each of these roles takes part in the editing process, either by asking directly for changes or perpetuating the tacit understanding that any deviation from corpratese will never see the light of day.
Generating such a culture shift is not an easy feat. I’ve listed a few of the most common objections I hear and included some counter-arguments you can use to tackle them.
Quality will be affected
No one is suggesting content will be released without review. All checks and balances remain in place; grammar and style don’t change. Content in fact can largely stay the same, but where material is directly attributed to a real person – such as quotes, comment and analysis – it should sound like it came from a human, not cut and pasted from a strategy document.
We will end up sounding foolish
See above with the added kicker that sticking to what is now considered out-dated corpratese makes the company seem, if not foolish, at least out of touch with the needs of today’s audience (customers).
Arguments in this category seem to come from “more mature” managers who fear that injecting a personal touch means everything from swearing and slang to ROTFL-type acronyms will slip into the company’s annual report. Wrong. Ask the naysayer to think of how they would interact at a conference or similar gathering where peers, media, investors and customers could be present. That’s the tone you want to reproduce. Personal but professional.
This isn’t YouTube/Twitter/Facebook
Closely linked to my previous point, many people confuse being human with being social (hence the misguided reference to social media channels). They put content with emotion and personality in the same box as chit-chat over appetisers – something frivolous that is forgotten by dessert. A message coming from a real person with real-life examples however is more concrete and more memorable.
Whatever argument you come up against the show don’t tell approach is almost always the best. Be ready with examples from your own content, competitor’s content and content that has earned industry recognition. If nothing else the fear of being left behind is a strong motivator.
And of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a well-documented content strategy identifying your audience segments, their communication preferences, and the best way to address them, up your sleeve.