What does corporate mean to you?
Jargon heavy? Hard to read? Boring? No character? Dry?
Most of us assume that anything corporate will feel, look, and sound different to other interactions.
There seems to be an unwritten rule of business that we need to adopt a certain tone of voice in order to achieve anything. To be taken seriously.
We all do it. Think of the last email you wrote to someone you wanted to influence. If you didn’t know them personally you’ll have included words and phrasing to add weight to your message.
Those words and phrasing vary depending on where you work, your profession, and industry. It’ll be influenced by the buzz words you hear most.
When we’re communicating in a corporate tone we tend to repeat ourselves in slightly different ways. We also use a lot of words, more than we need to. Because somewhere along the road we’ve all been taught that we need to do this when we’re communicating something that’s important to us. We want to make sure we’re understood, so we reiterate our point in many different ways to make sure what we’re saying makes sense to who we’re communicating with. In an effort to sound clever we inadvertently waste our reader’s time.
Kinda like I just did. It would’ve have been easier for us both if I’d simply written:
When we’re sounding corporate we tend to repeat ourselves. We use more words than we need. We’ve been taught that we need to do this when we’re communicating something important. But it wastes everyone’s time.
This isn’t limited to emails. There are many things we expect to use this unnatural tone of voice in: Reports, policies, and governance documents to name a few.
We also adopt this weird tone of voice when we’re complaining or defending ourselves. Lots of serious corporate words are more powerful, right?
Yes and no.
A general rule of thumb for good writing is: if you wouldn’t say it out loud as part of a natural conversation, don’t write it.
It’s important to remember the context in which you are communicating and the characteristics of the person you’re communicating with. Our colleague in the creative department will respond to a different vocabulary to the professor that lectures physics at university.
The professor will expect you to talk to them in a certain way using specific words. If you don’t they may not take you seriously. Whereas, speak to your chum in the creative department in the same way and they’ll definitely not take you seriously.
It’s a tricky balance. You need to use the right words and tone of voice, while not over egging the message pudding.
The person you’re talking to will only have one question on their mind: how is this important to me?
They’ll also have their own business to be getting on with. And probably an inbox full of emails trying to get their attention, just like yours.
So how can you make sure that yours is read, let alone be effective?
You need to use words sparingly and use the ones that are meaningful to the person you want to read them. The right words.
You can only do this if you understand things from the point of view of the person you’re speaking to.
The idea of swapping bodies with someone to experience their point of view, ultimately understanding them better and discovering how to communicate with them, is a little impractical for most of us.
But it’s the most valuable concept you can hold onto when it comes to any form of communication, particularly corporate communication.
As communications professionals we learn how to write in the best way for our audience, but even for the most hardened of communicator it’s easy to lose our way and believe we need to sound more corporate to get the job done.
This can be due to a number of things: The pace we need to work at to hit deadlines. The pressure from stakeholders to include soundbites they believe are important. Lack of clarity around who our audience is. And god forbid, no clear outcome for us to achieve.
There is an important morale to the Freaky Friday story. It’s the reason the story is reimagined and retold over and over. And rather handily, it’s the key principle to writing effective communications.
What’s important to me is not important to you.
Say this to yourself when you write. When you’re done ask yourself one simple question with your recipient in mind: Is this important to you?
Then delete everything that isn’t.
We’d be happy to talk to you about your corporate communications, for free. And then, if we think we can help you and you like the cut of our jib, we’d work together to make sure what you need people to understand is coming through loud and clear.
Can we help you with your corporate communications? Pop your details in below and we’ll be in touch.
You have limited energy. It’s criminal to waste it on being anyone but you.
If the design meets its objective to get the recipient to do something (or not do something), then you’re on to a winner. It becomes timeless.
Changing your visual identity or re-branding will not fix or save your business. It won’t increase sales, it won’t improve loyalty, and it won’t increase the productivity of your people.