We were up in Maine last week, cat-sitting for my wife’s friend Lori.
I have to confess, the sudden switch to “pet care” was a bit of an adjustment.
It’s not like I haven’t done it before; we had a dog for more than ten years.
But having to suddenly deal with food, hair, vomit, and poop again … well, it was like having someone hand you a toddler and say, “Feed her twice a day; I’ll be back on Thursday.”
Fortunately, it went pretty smoothly and with few surprises. In fact, the biggest surprise of the week happened at the local supermarket…
I walked in the door and sitting at a folding table was a young supermarket employee.
Next to him was one of those small, glass, hot dog-warming machines, along with a handwritten sign: “Hot Dogs: $1.50. All proceeds donated to the American Heart Association.”
Come again? You’re selling hot dogs in support of heart health?
I’m no Oscar Mayer, but it seems to me that the hearts of America would pretty much break even if they just threw away the hot dogs and sent the kid home for the day.
Needless to say, I did not buy one (that’s why, as of this writing, I am still alive).
But it did get me thinking about you and the things you write, and the problems that arise when there are inconsistencies that make readers scratch their heads.
Find Your Authentic Voice
As a small professional service firm or independent, you are the brand. It’s not your logo or your tagline or your web site.
When I think of your company, I’m really just thinking of you – who you are, how you talk, how you interact with people.
Interestingly, as a species, we are pretty good at speaking to others in a consistent, authentic way. Go to any networking event and you’ll run into nothing but nice, friendly, engaging people (well, except for that one guy).
The place where this tends to break down, though, is when people sit down to write – especially when they sit down to write “marketing things.”
That’s when two diametrically opposed but equally bad things happen:
Thing One. The writing is nothing but facts, figures, diagrams, and other dry-as-dust, jargon-filled, sleep-inducing paragraphs of soulless mumbo jumbo.
Thing Two. People who are otherwise normal (and nearly always middle-aged), assume a hyper-animated, look-how-cool-I-am persona, making them sound like they just wandered out of a nearby frat party at which they sampled mushrooms for the first time.
The problem with both of these approaches? Neither is an accurate reflection of the authentic you. And it’s the authentic you that people like and want to hire.
So, if you are having trouble ringing the authenticity bell when you write, try this…
While writing in a natural voice can be hard, speaking naturally generally isn’t.
Maybe it’s because we speak every day. Or because when we talk, we hear what we actually sound like.
Whatever the reason, try recording your thoughts first and then transcribing them.
You’ll have a solid foundation of “normal” to work from and from there, are less likely to stray to either extreme.
#2. Tell Stories
We tell stories all the time.
What happened at lunch; where you went on vacation; what it’s like to take care of two cats.
There are many benefits to telling stories beyond just finding our voice, but that’s certainly one of the biggest. There’s something about relating an actual experience that encourages us to sound the way we really are.
At first, few people are good at this authentic voice stuff.
If you’re older than about 35 (and if you’re not, you may be too young to be reading this newsletter), you learned to write long before we all carried phones in our pockets and spent all day texting whatever thought just popped into our heads.
Writing was a formal activity; it was a thing you set aside time to do (often in the shadow of a red-pen-wielding teacher).
So don’t worry if it feels unnatural and stiff. No one is good at pushups when they first get started, either.
The more you write, even if it’s just in a word doc that nobody else but you will see, the better you’ll get.
Here’s the bottom line.
Like it or not, when you work in a teeny-tiny company, you are the brand.
That’s a fantastic advantage relative to your larger competitors – but only if you learn to display the authentic you in the way you write.
P.S. I am organizing a bake sale for the American Diabetes Association. Let me know if you want in.
- When was the last time you ate a hot dog?
- Have you ever wielded a red pen?
- How hard or easy is it for you to write?
Share your answers below…