Here in the twenty-first century, everyone claims to “have no time.”
The accepted wisdom, therefore, is that if you want anyone to read your newsletter, watch your video, attend your presentation, etc., it’s got to be super short. Busy, busy, busy – none of us has even a minute to spare.
Unless … it’s a podcast. In that case, we all suddenly have three hours available.
I don’t understand it, but I admit that I am not immune to this trend. Like you, I now have a handful of podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis.
One of these is WTF, hosted by Marc Maron.
He has a comfortable, “guy you smoked weed with during freshman year of college and have now just run into at your local dive bar” manner that I find appealing.
He interviews lots of high-profile people – actors, athletes, musicians, etc.
I find this particularly interesting, since in his standard hour-plus format, his guests share a lot of detail about how they got started, what goes on behind the scenes in their work, etc., all delivered in a relaxed manner.
How relaxed? Well, in the last week alone, I’ve heard Matt Damon, Jackson Browne, and Helen Hunt all drop multiple F-bombs.
At first, I found it a bit surprising; it’s not something you hear when these same people appear on network television.
But it did get me thinking: When is profanity okay and, more specifically, as a small professional service firm or independent, can you ever use it in your newsletter?
I’m going to ask you to weigh in at the end – I don’t claim to know the answer – but here are some thoughts on the topic to get you started…
“Is it offensive?”
I’m not sure to whom. You can hardly read a novel, open a magazine, or watch any movie or streaming series north of Disney, without encountering profanity everywhere.
As my son Jonathan used to joke when we tried to shield his then 13-year-old self from all of this, “Have you been to middle school?”
“Is it unprofessional?”
This feels closer to a reasonable objection. Even though most of us use profanity in “everyday life,” when it moves from a private conversation into something written or spoken to a business audience, maybe it’s crossing a line?
It’s interesting, though, how things evolve. Words that were once off limits – hell, damn, etc. – are now barely noticed. Who knows what the next 10 or 20 years will bring?
“Is it authentic?”
To me, this is the key question. The perfect “voice” for your newsletter is your voice.
I have a number of clients who drop the F-bomb into casual conversation (don’t make me name names).
I actually find it kind of charming when a smart, successful, respected professional uses profanity to make a point. It cuts through the jargon and feels real.
Last week, while talking with a new client about the voice of their soon-to-be-launched newsletter, I asked the two principals (both extremely successful, highly educated, and well-respected) if they use profanity with their prospects and clients – since they use it all the time with me.
Their immediate answer was a resounding (and profanity-laced) affirmation. “That’s who we are.”
Should they use it in their newsletter? It’s certainly consistent with their brand and anyone who would be bothered probably wouldn’t be a good match for them anyway.
And yet… after pondering it all week, I’m still not sure what to recommend.
So, here’s where I’m going to stop and ask you to weigh in:
Where’s the line? Is there a line? What are the tradeoffs and considerations involved?
Share your thoughts below (but no profanity please; it’s not part of my brand, so I’d rather not have it in the comments!).