The written word has undergone a major transformation in the past two decades. With the advent and mass adoption of the internet, social media and SMS messaging into our lives, the way we write has had to adapt to suit the medium, making it even more important to ensure every word counts, particularly within the context of marketing.
As the digital age has brought us closer together, we now have access to billions of potential customers. Whilst this is positive, the danger of being generic or untargeted has also increased. As with all marketing assets however, the written word still needs to consider the audience first and foremost. Ensuring you connect with the right people is of course vital. Profiling the audience to gain a clear picture of who they are and the things they enjoy will help you write as if you are speaking directly to the customer.
Adapting your style
Developing content for the many different mediums we have at our disposal is also a challenge. Your writing style needs to adapt for each of them whilst at the same time, remaining on brand and consistent. For example, when writing for the web, you need to take a completely different approach compared to a physical brochure. Shortening paragraphs and sentences or factoring in the meta titles and descriptions that will support SEO, whereas the complementing Instagram post may include a bite-sized out-take presented as a meme.
When connecting with your audience, it’s important to consider tone of voice as this is an extension of your brand. The way you talk when catching up with friends, is likely to be different to how you talk when you’re in a business meeting. When you’re putting together your brand identity or (if you already have one), reviewing your website and/or collateral, this is the perfect time to examine the image you want to convey to your customers through your copy.
Tone of voice
Take a step back and look at your product or service to determine whether a conversational or professional tone is more fitting. This is important to establish for many reasons, but the top of the tree is that it will help you build trust. When your tone matches your offering and the way you express yourself through your copy is consistent, you reinforce reliability and are more likely to engage effectively with your target audience.
Your tone conveys your personality so make sure you pick the right one for your business. If you’re selling financial services for example, a frivolous tone is unlikely to do you any favours. Similarly, a party supplier who uses an overly formal tone, will not convey fun. Your brand values and personality establish a tone that is distinctive and ultimately recognisable as belonging to your business, making your offer more appealing and setting you aside from your competitors.
First, second or third tone?
Something which we have noticed businesses struggle with is which person to write in – first, second or third?
First person uses ‘I’ and ‘we’. ‘I’ is more personal, but ‘we’ refers to an organisation or a business. This tone appears regularly in blogs by smaller businesses but is also becoming increasingly popular in larger corporate companies as they move towards a more friendly tone in their marketing communications.
In second person, you’ll be writing using ‘you’ as if you’re speaking directly to the person in front of you. We use this a lot in marketing as it is an effective way to engage with the reader, particularly via emails.
The third person uses ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’ and ‘they’ and are usually reserved for official documents, academic manuscripts, newspapers and formal reports. Try to keep the third person out of your brand personality unless you are a more formal organisation.
Message received loud and clear
With audiences’ attention spans reduced when online, it’s important to keep your message clear and concise. Try to remove unnecessary words so sentences become more efficient at communicating the message, utilising strong rather than weak verbs. It is, however, important not to confuse or alienate the reader, so keep your word choices descriptive and understandable.
Brands that manage to attract, engage and inspire customers, are those who successfully communicate their personality using the written word. Make sure you use your brand positioning as a foundation and develop a character that represents this, building emotional connections and trust.