3 big reasons your organisation should think about its language
- Does your organisation have a tone of voice?
- Oh yes, and we use it really effectively.
- Er, Iím not sure. Thereís a page on it in our brand guideline document I think.
- Whatís a tone of voice?
- Whatís the standard of writing like inside your organisation?
- Oh, itís great. We all write sharp, insightful emails and interesting PowerPoint presentations.
- We try to write in Ďplain Englishí but itís a losing battle to be honest.
- Help! Weíre dying of boredom and drowning in jargon!
How did you do? Most organisations donít really think about their language. Yet theyíre missing a massive opportunity to make and save money, and shape their organisationís culture. And I donít just mean in a vague 'it's nice to have nice words' way. I mean in a tangible bottom-line way. To go a little way to persuading you to think harder about this, here are three big reasons you should take your words seriously.
- Sharper words mean happier customers
There are so many ways companies measure how they interact with their customers these days that itís easy to change just one variable Ė like your writing style Ė and see the effect it has. That could mean rewriting call centre scripts to cut call-handling times (a whopping £6 million for one client of ours); changing the tone of your responses to complaints and watching the effect it has on your repeat complaint levels (a drop of 8% for the same client); or rewriting help pages or customer guides, and tracking calls from confused customers to your helpdesks (a 20% drop for another client). These days, whatever metrics you use, the chances are thereíll be a way to measure the impact that changing your writing has.
- Sharper words will engage your own people more
Itís not just externally that your words can make an impact. Sometimes you can see quite specific improvements. A large telecommunications company we work with saw a 20 per cent increase in people filling in their annual performance review forms after they re-wrote them in a more human way. Sometimes itís more general: after a whole series of workshops with social housing company Testway Housing, a spot check by Investors in People noted that their focus on making their writing less formal and more natural had had 'a significant positive impact' on the culture of their organisation.
- Sharper words mean bigger ideas
OK, so I lied. You canít stick this one on a spreadsheet in quite the same way. But thereís growing evidence that the language we use can shape the thoughts weíre capable of having. One great example of this is linguist Lera Boroditskyís recent study into how different groups came up with different ideas for combating urban crime, depending on whether she described the crime problem using the metaphor of crime being 'a beast' or 'a virus'. And we saw another great example of this at one of our clientsí head offices, where they found they got much better results for their 'operational excellence' initiative from the teams who binned the corporate 'operational excellence' label and instead talked about 'doing everyday things better'.
For more information, please visit: www.thewriter.com