"We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us." — Friedrich Nietzsche
WHAT does the voice of your organisation sound like in your head, or to others? Is it tiny, plaintive and annoying, or is it loud and booming, commanding our attention and perhaps in the long run earning our respect? As employees of the company, are you proud of your company's voice or do you experience cringe-worthy moments with every exposure in the public domain?
Every organisation or company has a voice and a presence in the marketplace, and this does not refer solely to that of the CEO. The voice should consistently represent to the world who your company is and what it stands for in a sea of competing messages. When this happens it builds trust, both internally with employees as well as with external stakeholders. Trust builds relationships and earns money for your business. This voice is what people hear from a brand, from the company through the visual and verbal messages that it sends through the media, online, and through community conversations. It is what we connect with and what pulls us, in or repels us making us run like that bat out of hell whenever we hear the company's name or even a advertising jingle. It can also be confusing, beguiling, enticing, and disguising its intent and trying to persuade us to believe untruths.
There are companies which have, over the years had a consistently credible and authentic presence. We believe in the information presented by the brand because it has a proven track record of speaking truths or publicly acknowledging when it makes a blunder, manning up to its responsibilities. These companies earn our trust because they do not double-speak, or use high-flown, ambiguous language intended to confuse and leave us deeper in the dark.
When advertising copy or messages for the public is being written, for example, one often wonders if anyone from some companies really think about that end-user in Mocho, Clarendon, or that hard-working yam farmer in Troy, Trelawny, who is a consistent customer? 'Maas Francis' might not have finished the traditional school system, but his consistent purchase of your company's goods has allowed your children to benefit. Don't talk down to him, instead, try to make that human connection. I once heard an advertisement from a company whose trucks had a roadside spill, warn persons not to use the products that might be peddled by pilferers of the overturned trucks. I can guarantee that no one understood that highfalutin message. Unfortunately, there are not many companies which fit the bill in many instances, but we give kudos to the ones who try.
Then there is the company who plays fast and loose with the truth in their advertising. they are the easiest to spot as their ads are usually a cacophonous jumble of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The jangle of music that frames their 'message' is usually used to try to camouflage the bundle of half-truths and half-baked promises that they peddle to us poor unsuspecting fools. If you can barely hear, let alone understand the words behind an advertisement or message, it might be a good idea to give any such potential purchase deeper thought. There must be something to what we're taught as common sense wisdom about buying "puss inna bag".
A company's presence is also felt in its online voice as well, and this includes the language used on our websites and on the social media sites to which your company subscribes. Managers often think that, as it is a relatively new phenomenon, they should relegate this aspect of the company's voice to one of its most junior staff, an intern who usually has not much exposure to the company's history nor corporate culture. I am sure if said manager visited the sites often enough they would be surprised at what is posted on their company's social websites as part and parcel of their connection with this media. The messages are sometimes inane and meaningless and do not seem, in some instances, to reflect the serious tone of the organisation that they represent. The truth is that presenting the voice of your company on a social media website might not be the best avenue for your company's expression at this point in its existence. This should not be a problem because there are certainly other serious avenues for connecting that companies can use to match their own culture, style and voice.
Indeed, the company's presence, influenced by the voice, is a strong part of our connection to the companies we love.
Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson, (MBA, ABC) is a Business Communications Consultant with RO Communications Jamaica, specialising in business communications and financial publications. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.rocommunications.com and post your comments.