Your firm needs a voice and tone guide, a collection of technique, positioning, and words and phrases that anyone in your company can use to create work that is on-brand.
This is you: > Voice and Tone Guide!!? I’m not going to sing anything!
This is me: > Not with that attitude you're not.
But the fact is, your company's brand is stronger when everyone has agreement on how they speak and react to the outside world, and to each other. That's what the voice and tone guide is for. Trust me. This isn’t one of those wonky “marketing is everyone’s responsibility” tools. This is ground zero of controlling your brand and ensuring that your staff knows how to represent your company's brand.
This is you: > No. You should just write my letters for me.
This is me: > I can’t. I’m too drunk.
Why am I so drunk? Because I read your letter to the pheasant hunters who want to use your company’s property on the weekends. It drove me to drink. You can’t call people with guns names like that. And as a rule, you should avoid describing the company’s property as a “valued real estate asset” to anyone.
See, if you’d had a Voice and Tone Guide, you would have known what words, phrasings, and positioning to use when you wrote your letter. You would have known to position the response to the hunters around the safety and support of our clients. You would have known to offer the hunters alternative solutions because we’re well known as collaborators and supporters of the hunting arts. You could have used one or two of our stock letter templates to get you started, and most of the work would have been done for you. You would have known to use “hunter-first” language.
You would have known. You could have known. But you didn’t. And now there is a group of angry pheasant hunters running around town telling people that your company “kicked them off the land” because you told them “they are not safe people” and that they would damage the "real estate."
I’m not the only one who thinks you should have a voice and tone guide. Here is a list of five links that are almost literally the first five links that Google give you:
- Mailchimp’s vaunted Voice and Tone Guide
- Buffer pays homage to Mailchimp’s Voice and Tone Guide
- A simple tool to guide tone of voice
- Rocket Media complains about the popularity of Mailchimp’s guide, kind of.
- Harriet Cummings ‘Finding Your Brand’s Voice’ is the best of these articles.
Enjoy those links. I’m going to make some coffee and try to sober up. I have a make-good letter to the local Pheasant Hunters Society that I have to come up with now.
Hey: Just so you guys know, I'm not really drunk-- but I do really write voice and tone guides for companies. Hit up PrettyGoodContent.com for details.
I am a professional writer.
I use Grammarly.
This is you:“WHAT? But you should have impeccable grammar and never make a single typo! What do you need Grammarly for?”
Well, let me disabuse you of the damage your terrible third-grade teacher did to you. It’s ok if you don’t have impeccable grammar and never make a single typo. Nobody does. Not even some of the finest proofreaders I’ve ever worked with can make this claim.
I get your apprehension, though. Grammarly’s advertisements make it look like Grammarly is just for dingdongs who use the wrong “their” on their OKCupid profiles, but it’s much more than that.
As a professional, (and as a former leader of a creative department of seven) I use Grammarly, and I encouraged my staff. And I encourage you, too.
Even if you don’t think you need to, Grammarly can show you just how wrong you are about what you think you know about your writing. You probably have no idea how often a passive phrasing, redundant word, or overused, meaningless modifier appears in your writing. But Grammarly does. And it takes great delight in pointing them out. And then you can decide to fix them. Or decide not to fix them.
See, that’s the part that most people forget about writing, and what your horrible third-grade teacher didn’t tell you. Writing is a series of choices. Each rule of grammar is a specific technique for expressing a thought or idea. It’s the writer who gets to make those choices. Do I want to end a sentence with a preposition? Do I want to use the word “really” as a modifier, even though I know it’s pointless? That’s all the part of writing that comes into what is narcoleptically called “prose stylistics.”
And this is where Grammarly can help. Grammarly identifies what and where you have the opportunity to make different choices with your writing—choices that maybe you’ve forgotten are choices. Grammarly gives you a chance to take a look at your writing and learn a little bit about yourself. And then adjust your habits, accordingly.
That will make you a better writer. And that is what I love so much about Grammarly.
And as a bonus, and this is my favorite part, Grammarly sends you a weekly update on how you’re doing.
Those are some of my favorite emails to get every week, because at the end of the day, what I’m getting out of Grammarly is a pretty great robot pal who tells me that I’m smart. And remember how I feel about robots? That’s pretty important to me.
Last week, I goofed around a little about messing with code in online application systems. And we had a good chuckle together, but there was, actually, a touch of a method to my madness.
In most cases, humans never see the first layer of your resume onion. Most online resume parsing is being done by robots. Well, here's the thing:
Once you've become a commoditized meat bag by the robots, you have to change your whole game if you want to stand out. All the fancy font choices and nifty designs you've got on your resume are meaningless to the robots who are reading your documents. The robots only see text, interpret according to a vague set of rules and don't care if they get it right.
Let me show you what I mean:
This is how the robots see this exact same resume.
I sent my resume off to one of those "we evaluate your resume" services. Granted, their whole job is to make you feel like your resume is garbage and that you are garbage unless you give them $125. So take this next screenshot with a grain or two of salt.
So what are we supposed to do with that? Well, you can fight the robot. Tell the robot your wrong. Try to hurt the robot's feelings. Give it a logic puzzle that will burn out the robot's circuitry. But most of that won't work. You have to adapt. Edit. Talk to the robots. Win the robots over. Find out the robot's secret language and learn to speak Robot.
But ultimately, you can't beat the robots. There are more of them than there are of you. But here's the one secret trick, and if you read all the way down here, you deserve this:
Robots suck at networking.
I mean, they get networking but they don't get human to human interaction. And that's where you win. Because you're human. And you get to interact with other humans in ways that robots cannot. Ultimately, your best shot to beat the robots is not to play their game. Pick up the phone. Send the hiring manager an actual letter. Put something sassy in their application system. Find a way to differentiate yourself. Becuase just being good isn't enough. You have to be memorable. The robot is going to lump you in with 55 other human meat bags with 10+ years of mostly clerical experience and disregard that you're an award-winning journalist and writer. The robot doesn't care that you're charismatic and engaging. But that hiring manager does. Hit them up on LinkedIN.
Make them remember that interaction by being so incredible that you stand out among the other meat bags
Ultimately, your only other choice is to toil in the robot's underground sugar caves.
And that's just fine by them.
“You’ve been working really hard. You should take a break.”
If someone told you that, would you believe them? Would you allow yourself a few minutes of respite-- an actual break?
For so many people, break time means just stopping looking blankly at the section of their screen called “office” and instead looking at the section of their screen called Facebook. And that’s no good.
You should take a break. You deserve a break. A real break. Stand up from your desk—even if your watch hasn’t told you to yet—and walk around a little. Go outside. Go down to the atrium. Every company has an atrium; you just haven’t found the one at your company yet. Use that funny little bathroom that’s tucked in behind the stairs in the old part of the building. (True story. Can’t talk about it here.)
The point is, taking time off from working on your work doesn’t mean doing something else that is like work, but isn’t. Checking your personal email is a shitty way to take a break from checking your work email. Taking a break – a really good break— makes you a more productive worker.
Here are five quick links to some internet articles I just googled that say the same thing.
- Fast Company, People Magazine for Entrepreneurs, says you should Stop pretending you’re too busy to take breaks.
- Taking a break at work makes you a better employee, according to Health.com, which (according to their fine print) is practically Time Magazine, and is not intended to constitute medical advice.
- The Huffington Post, creeping ever closer to becoming Buzz Feed for adults, has Five Very Good Reasons to Take A Break At Work Today.
- There is a great infographic about the importance of taking breaks at work published on Lifehack.org, who is hoping you’ll confuse them with Lifehacker.
- Want to know how taking time off is the secret to increased productivity? You’ll have to check out this Entrepreneur Magazine article, which is written from the unique perspective of a rich white businessman.
I'd like to make this list longer, but frankly, I'm ready for a break.
If you’re reading this from LinkedIn, you have any appreciable frame of reference for how Facebook makes money from organizations, or you're some kind of fancypants social media guru, this post is not for you. Well, maybe you can use this post to show your parents or your dumb bosses or something. I dunno. This post is attempts to talk through at a very, very basic level why even small orgnaizations should be advertising on Facebook.
Let the advertising begin!
This post is a quick rundown of the first set of Facebook advertisements I ran for The Watertown Players, a local theater group on which I serve as a member of the Board of Directors. I had a $25 budget (that I was donating on my own) and that’s it. I also had a passing familiarity with the content of the show we were putting on, and I knew we sold tickets through BrownPaperTickets.com.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
I decided, kind of at the spur of the moment, to spring for a few “advertisements” for the Watertown Players. We've struggled to "get the word out." We don’t have a marketing strategy beyond sending press releases to the local daily paper, posters, and word of mouth. Our website’s kind of broken. (Long story-- I won't link to it until I get a chance to fix it.)
But we do have a pretty good Facebook account. It’s got a few followers, and they're dedicated, and we probably know all of them between those of us on the Board of Directors. We typically use Facebook to tell people about events and promote the heck out of the good work we’re doing at the theater.
The problem is, if you’re an organization, Facebook pretty much doesn’t care what kind of good work you’re doing. Facebook mostly just wants you to put money in the money hole.
So, if Facebook is only going to show your posts (and only some of them) to people who already like and follow you, how do you get new people to know what you’re doing?
The answer: You pay Facebook to show people what you’re doing. It’s like any other kind of advertising. It’s not complicated, and Facebook makes it incredibly easy for you to do it. (No surprise: It’s in their best interest to make it easy for you to put your money in their money hole.)
So, I figured, why not? I do this kind of thing all the time as part of my professional life, why not give it a shot with the Watertown Players? I built and ran some quick ads that invited people to go to the Brown Paper Tickets website where we sell our admissions online.
The ads ran for about four days in total, and in exchange for about $20, I know the following facts:
- 1337 unique individuals saw my ad at least once. (Facebook calls that “Reach.”)
- 560 people decided to do “something” as the result of my ads. (Facebook calls that “Engagement.)
- 51 people clicked on my ad. Which took them to Brown Paper Tickets, where I hope they bought tickets, but I honestly don’t know because I didn’t track that. I didn't have access to Brown Paper Tickets at the time. (If I knew how many people went ahead and bought a ticket because of my ad, Facebook would call those “Conversions.)
Did it work?
In all, I call the experiment a success.
Mostly because the only thing I wanted to know was if I could get $20 worth of ads to serve to theater-goers within 25 miles of our theater. And the answer is yes. That’s great. Now I can refine who I want to target, make changes to how we’re tracking the conversions, and start thinking about Facebook ads sooner in the promotional phase of our shows.
I expect the theater group’s board of directors will talking about better ways to integrate our online ticket vendor into the mix so that I can track conversions automatically. Once I can automatically know when advertising spending is converting to income, I can make meaningful choices about how much money it's worth putting into Facebook ads for our upcoming shows.
At the end of the day, even infinite posters up in infinite windows across town won't be able to do that.
The best way to tell if your inbound strategy has staying power is to keep a close eye on the number of champions you have.
There are a couple of assumptions in that sentence, so I’m going to lay them out.
- I’m assuming your inbound strategy is legit. One of the ways you can tell it’s legit is that you’ve got a documented and agreed-upon methodology for moving and converting your leads into customers and then your customers on to champions.
- The end goal of your inbound strategy is about filling your customer with delight.
Delighted customers tell their friends and relatives. Delighted customers come back and become brand champions. Brand champions aren’t born, they’re made. By you.
And that's a good thing. When people love your brand, they're loyal, they're advoactes, and they come back again and again. When you're growing champions -- when the the trend line in the "delight" phase of your strategy is upward-- you're doing it right.
But what happens when it all goes wrong?
But if you're not growing champions, what then? Or worse, what happens when your champions are fleeing?
Here's the best advice I can offer you: It's not because your champions are doing something wrong.
Early on in my career, I was something of a Bob Ross of email marketers. Don't get me wrong, I love Bob Ross, but, just like how he would sometimes paint "Happy Little Clouds," sometimes, I was just sending "Happy Little Emails."
Like Ross' little clouds, my emails were fluffy and pretty and made me and my bosses feel good. At the end of the day we made little reports we could show off. We were so proud.
Don't get me wrong; I looked at the analytics-- in all cases, I had a pretty respectable readerships and click through rate-- but what I didn't have was any kind of inbound or follow-through marketing strategy.
And that's where the real power lies in email marketing, right? I mean, I know I'm preaching to the choir here. None of you would ever send out a huge smash of emails to everyone on your list just because.
Of course not. That would be crazy.
The problem is, people do just that all the time. If you've ever had your email address fed into the spam machine by a group of angry script kiddies (long story) you know just how large of a problem this is.
Five ways to be a better email marketer
So what are responsible inbound marketers to do? Here are five suggestions for how we can be better stewards of our email marketing efforts.
- Don't buy Lists. Ever. And refuse to work with those who do.
- Understand how email works. Not just server to server, but understand the peering and reputation systems at play behind the scenes.
- Segment, Segment, Segment. Don't send email to people who don't want it. People who already bought your product probably won't want to see that email that tells them you're having a sale on the thing they just paid full price for.
- Understand your audience Not just to the demographics of your audience, but understand all the ways your audience wants to interact with you, and what your unique value proposition is to them. If you don't have audience personas written down somewhere, you're probably not really marketing.
- Take a class or get a certification. You probably don't know as much about this as you think you do, and this stuff is changing all the time.