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Measuring the impact of 'tone of voice' in interactive marketing

Over the years, I've spent a lot of time arguing with clients about the tone of voice in their communications, and in the end, I decided not to pursue work as a copywriter. I'm not a playful writer but I'm committed to being accessible, using down-to-earth and conversational language. Clients seem to think I was devaluing their products and services by not being serious enough. And I just hated writing boring, pompous stuff. 

Now the Nielsen Norman Group has produced some research over the tone of voice used on web sites, finding that casual, conversational tones performed best most of the time. (Of course, casual is wrong in some cases but conversational is almost always good.) 

Nielsen Norman Group: The Impact of Tone of Voice on Users' Brand Perception, 2016-Aug-7 by Kate Meyer

In a two-part study, we tested pairs of nearly identical website content. In each pair, the only aspect that we varied was the tone of voice used. We found that there are indeed measurable effects of tone of voice on users, specifically on users’ impressions of an organization’s friendliness, trustworthiness, and desirability. We also found that a user’s impression of an organization’s trustworthiness is a strong predictor of their willingness to recommend that brand... 

Across all of the tone samples tested, we saw that casual, conversational, and moderately enthusiastic tones performed best, though they do not necessarily need to be combined. ...[A] conversational but serious tone can be successful for a bank.

Choosing a tone of voice is a tricky game of balancing your brand’s personality and priorities. There’s no one solution for every situation.... [I]t’s possible to choose a tone that makes your brand seem friendly, but still doesn’t make your potential customers more likely to choose you.

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Trying to keep trying harder

Feeling stalled is a dangerous perspective. We have to see the possibilities and not the obstacles. Or see the obstacles as possibilities.

Seth's Blog: Effort, 2016-Jul-12 by Seth Godin

Usually, what we do is, "try our best under the circumstances."

So, you're getting good service, but if the CEO's daughter was here, you can bet she'd be getting better service.

So, you're running hard as you train, but you can bet that if you were approaching the finish line at the Olympics, you'd be running harder.

The trick: don't redefine trying. Redefine the circumstances.

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How telling better stories can make us happier

We are hearing more and more reasons to develop our storytelling skills. This article includes quite a few helpful tips. 

Wall Street Journal: Why Good Storytellers Are Happier in Life and in Love, 2016-July-4 by Elizabeth Bernstein

Tell stories of the past, present and future. Highlighting great memories or successes that you had together in the past helps you reconnect. Narrating recent events that have happened to you, or telling a story about a challenge you are facing, helps illuminate what matters to you. Weaving a story of a future event as you’d like it to happen—a vacation, a child’s wedding, the dance at your 60th anniversary party—can help you visualize what you want for your relationship.

Include your emotions. Show, don’t tell. (“She was wearing a red silk dress and my palms got sweaty.”) “Details can unlock the emotional truths that until now were never spoken out loud,” says Lauren Dowden, a social worker at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, as well as a Second City alumna and teacher. She runs a storytelling group for couples where one partner has Alzheimer’s.

Conversely, good stories avoid certain things—cliché, digression, saying too much, not saying enough, lack of attention to the audience and preachiness

Practice. Storytelling is an art form, like playing the piano or creating a garden, says Dr. Winter, the literary critic. “You can start with something simple and it might be satisfying, but it might not be as good or as true as it can be.”

Dr. Winter suggests the three Rs: Reflect on the events. Refine what they meant to you. Read. “Learn from the masters,” she says. 

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Why getting to NO is a better start than fishing for a YES, via Chris Voss

We can enjoy a terrific interview with Chris Voss published by Talks at Google. Chris is the reigning educator on negotiating skills, and his book is Never Split the Difference

  • Yes is a commitment, no is protection (not a problem, just a good beginning)
  • Make your counterpart (not adversary!) feel safe, and they grow more creative
  • Hesitate and let your counterpart think
  • Don't ask for a 'few minutes to talk,' instead say... 'is now a bad time to talk'?
  • Summarize the other person's point of view, even if it's not in your favor. Get them to say 'That's right' because that means they know you've recognized their interests. Now you have a shared truth.

And so much more, and it's fun as well as informative. 

 


The more important a change is, the more time we ought to be willing to give it.

Seth Godin is very good at reminding people to keep going even though they are not yet seeing results.  (I highly recommend The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)

Recently he reminded us that we can't reason our way into cultural change. No matter how good the reasoning, we have to expect slow change based on our commitment. If we trust our reasons we have to trust that time is on our side. We have to be role models and cheerleaders and analysts, and we have to figure out how to sustain ourselves. 

Seth's Blog: The Flip is Elusive, 2016-Jul-14 by Seth Godin

If you want to change people's minds, you need more than evidence. You need persistence. And empathy. And mostly, you need the resources to keep showing up, peeling off one person after another, surrounding a cultural problem with a cultural solution. 

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