Here at the farm we have Jack Russells and a Border Collie. You couldn't get more different characters. The Russells are feisty, disdainful and disobedient, the Collie is loving, eager to please and overly sensitive. That's just two of the breeds. How many different breeds and types of dogs are there? We are drawn to different breeds because we see certain character traits that attract us. If all dogs looked and behaved the same then how would we choose between them?
It is the same in business. Almost every business sells products or services that are sold by countless others. One of the many things that influences the customer's buying decision is the 'personality' behind the business. We like to buy from people we like.
Your personality is your distinct personal character. You may be funny, serious, precise, laid back, irreverent, quirky, fastidious, sensible, bossy or reticent, warm, friendly, cool and calculated. You may hesitate to bring these traits into your business writing because you fear you may look unprofessional.
Forget what you learnt in those 'Letter of Complaint' classes
Much of the writing you are taught to do in school or college tends towards removing these personality traits so that you produce work that is 'objective' or 'professional'. An informal style is often discouraged. Can you remember letter writing exercises that encouraged you to produce work like this?
Dear Sir or Madam
I am writing to make an official compliant about the clock I purchased at your store last Thursday afternoon. When I removed the said item from its box, it was not as described. The key required to wind up the clock was missing and so the clock was unable to be used. Please requisition a full refund to the address above at your earliest convenience.
Would you ever go up to someone in person and speak like that? It sounds as if the person writing it is a grouchy, pedantic fuss pot. The language is formal, stilted and slightly archaic.
People who aren't very confident about writing sometimes feel that using more formal language will make them look more intelligent. This is misguided in business writing.
Using corporate language as a prop
Just as we might put on a power suit to give us confidence, sometimes we adopt corporate language to make us seem more important or knowledgeable than we are. If you are a management consultant you might be forgiven for doing this, but for most other businesses, corporate language is a barrier to communication rather than a help. What do I mean by corporate language?
The aforesaid objective of the XPNT project is to review and assess the output of the research undertaken by the ABC company, which analysed responses from 6500 participants in the sample. The sample represents consumers in the targeted regional area, which was judged to have the greatest capacity for increased purchases of foods in this sector.
This kind of writing does have a place, but it doesn't attract and engage customers. Again, any individual personality has been squeezed out of it.
Why showing your personality in your business writing matters
In business people people buy from people they like. People they feel a connection with. By removing personality from our writing we might hope to appeal to a wider audience. All we do is become bland.
If you have a small business, even if you dream of one day having a large business, you can improve response rates to your business publicity material by injecting some personality into it.Your personality – your character traits we mentioned – are likely to be key to your success and will affect the type of business you run. If you are a graphic designer, being laid back and irreverent is going to be an asset. If you are a physiotherapist, a bit of bossiness doesn't go amiss (bossy people are attracted to physio!). If you are producing and selling food, a warm and friendly personality will go down well.
How do you show your personality in your writing?
One of the simplest ways to get started is to speak about the topic you want to write about. Ideally get a friend or colleague to ask you questions about the subject and record the conversation (this can be done with e.g. the iPhone or you can buy a low cost recording device. Then get the recording transcribed (there are plenty of transcription services out there if you don't want to do this yourself).Once you've got the conversation written down, you can take out the 'ums' and 'aaahs' and you will have a piece of writing that not only shows your personality but also conveys your passion and enthusiasm.
Write more; write as if you are writing to an aunt; use Twitter
Another obvious way is to write more. Find time to write a blog or some articles, it will give you an opportunity to practice your writing and find your own style.
Another device is to write as if you were writing to an aunt or uncle. Choosing that type of relative will avoid the over familiarity you might use with a friend or partner but still has the required warmth and informality. Try it, it will change the way you write.
Twitter is a micro blogging platform where each entry can only be 140 characters long. Using Twitter can really help you develop your personal writing voice. It's free to sign up. Go and lurk there for a while and see how Twitter is used. The discipline of framing your thoughts in so few characters forces you to focus on the essence of what you want to say.
When is it okay to let your personality shine through?
Consistency is important, so if you begin to bring more personality to your business writing in one area e.g. your website, then make that change across all your material. If you are very formal in your letters but informal on your website, you will confuse your readers.
Where can you let your personality shine through
Everywhere – from a 60 second pitch in a networking meeting to the posters on your farmers' market stall. Developing a personal voice in business is linked to confidence. The more confident you feel about yourself and your business, the more you can step away from an overly 'corporate' or 'formal' style and the more you can engage at a human level.
Remember that people buy from people. If you have a big personality don't hide it away behind corporate speak. If your personality takes a little coaxing to come out, try recording your conversations. You'll hear your enthusiasm build. Get more personality into your writing and you will see a better response.
Until next time……….
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