I recently read an article with the controversial title ‘Don’t Be Human – Just Be A Better Brand’. I couldn’t disagree more.
To be fair, the author went on to admit that coming across as human is ‘a pretty good thing’ in this era of social media marketing and the main thrust was that developing the integrity of your brand is more important than communicating on a human level. However the premise of the article still irked me.
I think the reason the article, and particularly the title, got to me so much is that communicating in a human way is one of the key aspects of what I help organisations do. Whatever sector they’re in and however large or small, I always advise and help my clients to communicate in a friendly, engaging and authentic style, and ‘human’ is a great way of summing that up.
The people responsible for marketing growing businesses often feel the need to convey a sense of gravitas in their communications by writing in a formal style. Common techniques include:
- using impersonal passive phrasing
- including long, impressive words
- relying on industry-specific jargon
- and avoiding contractions (eg ‘we’ll’).
Unfortunately, rather than impressing people, writing in such a formal way can actually alienate them – the exact opposite of what you want to achieve. It also tends to give the impression that the organisation is traditional, stuffy and bureaucratic.
Compare the two paragraphs below:
Bob Blackthorn Builders Limited specialises in providing construction services for discerning individuals, especially those of high net worth. The company was established in 1992 by experienced construction professional, Bob Blackthorn, and has since gone on to garner an enviable reputation for construction excellence within the Thames Valley region.
At Bob Blackthorn Builders we provide high quality building services for discerning customers across the Thames Valley. Since experienced builder Bob set up the company in 1992, we’ve earned a strong reputation thanks to the high standard of our work.
But writing in an informal, human way isn’t just about being cool. It’s about portraying your organisation as one that sees its customers as equals and wants to relate to them on a person-to-person level. Writing corporate communications in a natural, conversational style, conveys friendliness, warmth and approachability.
If you write your web copy, social media posts and other marketing materials in a friendly, human style, you should ideally follow suit with your other communications.
Coach your staff in writing as they would naturally speak, adult to adult, so their communications feel real and warm. Writing letters and emails like one adult talking to another can make a real difference for the recipient, especially if you’re responding to a complaint, making them feel valued and listened to. I would also encourage your team to avoid stock phrases like ‘at your convenience’ and ‘do not hesitate to contact me’, which can create a cold, corporate feel, however sincerely they’re meant.
As part of the process of humanising your communications, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s as quick and easy as possible for people to get in touch. In these days of automation, customers really appreciate a prompt response from a real person, whether on the phone, by email or through a live chat facility.
I’d even suggest reviewing your terms and conditions and making sure they’re clear, easy to understand and use everyday language, rather than legalese. Banks and financial services companies have started taking this route recently, rewriting their terms in plain English, laid out in a way that actually encourages people to read them – a huge contrast to the typical reams of small print.
So whether you’re writing web content, sales letters, customer services emails or even contract terms, focus on communicating in a straightforward, human way. You might find it’s harder than you’d imagine, but the response you get from your customers will make the effort worthwhile.
PS: As I put my thoughts together to write this article I searched for the terms ‘human’ and ‘brand’ and came up with another article that sat much better with me. ‘Consumers are people too: Three steps to a more human brand’. I’d definitely suggest reading it for more ideas on what it means to be a human brand and how to put it into action.You’re a group of individuals communicating with other individuals, not a faceless corporation. Click To Tweet