On staying in character

Posted on 12 September, 2017 by Paul Walden

Many companies spend millions on building a brand image – a brand personality – through advertising. Yet the same companies hand out policy, procedures and training manuals that are completely devoid of any personal touch. The manuals are impersonal and full of big words that aren’t understood by the readers, who cannot identify with the text. And these are the manuals that are supposed to tell the employees how to embody the brand! How are they going to do that if you don’t build any personal rapport with them?

You need to engage your readers, and the way to do this doesn’t go through legalese. Unless it’s strictly necessary, avoid legalese like the plague. Be as straightforward and personal as you can. Immerse the reader in the culture of your brand. You can still be crystal-clear in what you’re saying.

Remember how efficient advertising copy really grabs the audience. Your readers – including those in your employ – should not only understand what you’re writing, but also relate to and remember it. Don’t be afraid to use creative writing. It’s what makes a text stay with the reader.

Creative writing sometimes makes orthodox grammarians tear their hair. That’s ok. Orthodox grammarians specialise in grammar – not in communication. Writing incomplete sentences, for instance, is a big no-no according to rules of grammar. But it often makes for very powerful writing. Just think of your favourite novels. They are probably full of sentences starting with “Or”, “And” or “But”. Still you don’t doubt that the author knows proper grammar.

People are not likely to judge you because you dare to be personal and creative. They are much more likely to do so if you try to impress them by using big words and an exceedingly formal approach (most people harbour a private contempt for such language). Simply show that you are confident and be consistent in style, and creative writing can lift your whole game.

There are naturally as many business cultures as there are companies. Some companies do require the use of more formal language – because that is the language that actually fits their brand image. It’s all about speaking your particular language. Of being your brand.