At the end of the 1978 horror film Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis is running from her assailant and bangs on a neighbor’s door for help. The porch lights are turned off and she screams “Can’t you hear me?!!” but is ultimately ignored. It isn’t that her message wasn’t understandable. It simply wasn’t clear. Her audience–the neighbors–couldn’t discern what her actual purpose might have been. They chose to simply ignore the messenger.
Trying to get your message out among all the digital chatter might feel like you’re screaming into the abyss–just like poor Jamie Lee at the end of a horror film: misunderstood and ignored. But there are ways to avoid that mess in the digital world.
The short answer? Skill… and science. Research and Rhetoric can make all the difference. Describing your services or product, understand that it has to be crafted in a way that your target audience will understand. It should be identifiable with the group you are speaking to. “Imagine you went to a dinner party and you’re chatting with all the guests. One person stands out because they’re great at storytelling in a distinctive, unique way. The flow of their words, the language they used and their personality all combined to make for a memorable experience. In fact, when you’re retelling that story, you immediately think of that person.” (Sprout Social) So the setting, the scene, and the context matters!
Create a conversation that shows you are listening as well as talking. In a conversation we aren’t just talking at our audience. You don’t want to come across like nothing more than an owner’s manual–simply describing without including the audience in the discourse. Create a connection. To connect to anyone, you have to have some understanding as to where they come from.
Give your demographic a reason to care about your services and do so in a tone that is not only informative, but conversational. Be helpful.Make your site easy to navigate and the message will be better received! Never assume your audience knows everything you know–and never talk down to them. If your readers feel stupid because they don’t understand part of your message, or they find navigating their way through it frustrating…your message isn’t working.
Readers want to feel that they belong in the conversation. Meet them halfway. That happy medium will be the key to determining your company’s voice. The language must be concise and easy to understand based on the audience. To target that audience, you have to understand them. That’s where research can help.
When it comes to who is interacting with your content, understanding what drives them matters. UX (user research) can help. Scientifically driven to help you resonate with your readers means understanding your potential users and their habits. How will they view your online presentation? Understanding the answers to key questions can make your message more effective. UX helps gain those insights with key questions about who will be reading and viewing.
Who are they? What are their concerns? What are you trying to tell them? Then–how do you say it? How do you present it? Don’t rely on just anyone to throw together copy and slap your brand on it. You’re going to need professional talent that can guide your decisions in everything from how you are presenting the message, to what you are saying.
After you’ve discovered a superlative corporate voice you must consider the various platforms to deliver your message to the masses. What platforms are most used by your target demographic? What problems can you solve? What expectations do they bring with them? Once you have that information you can better understand the type of messaging needed to reach them. “What is sometimes overlooked is brand voice. With the inclusion of social media in marketing efforts, brand voice has become more important than ever as a way to stand out from the crowd of digital chatter.” (Sprout Social)
This isn’t to say you need to be an avid user of every social media platform. Even if you only have a casual understanding of certain platforms–knowing a little about how they work can be beneficial. “You don’t need to have a million Twitter followers or a thousand Facebook likes, but you should have a good understanding of the different channels of communication, and how to use them effectively… Hiring talented writers is a crucial first step in this complex, hyper-connected world. Skilled storytellers can work across a range of platforms.” (World Economic Forum) UX can help guide every step of that process.
Once you identify your demographic and discover their interests, language, and digital habits, you can begin to craft powerful targeted messaging. “When we try to write for everyone we run the risk of reaching no one.” (University of Illinois) This is your company voice. It should be specific to your brand and most importantly–your audience. The value of understanding every aspect of what they perceive, and how to engage that perception… is everything.