Blog in 06 2013.
Pretty regularly I’ll get an email that makes me chuckle. Other times it’s just something I completely agree with. Whatever it is, I just want to clap the writer on the back and congratulate them on their stellar work.
They don’t ask me to – I just get the urge to let them know we’re on the same page. But weirdly, companies have this odd habit of asking us to applaud them.
Comedians don’t ask for laughs
If someone tells a great joke, we laugh and clap. ‘Ah yes, I acknowledge your intelligent quip, and it’s caused me mirth. Thank you.’ Or we all cheer and well up over a fantastic singer.
On Facebook we have the like button. When you see something funny or something that makes you think, you hit the thumbs up. ‘Yes, I like what you did there. Here is my appreciation.’
Sometimes we’ll go as far as to share, but that’s stretching it. You have to do something really awesome for me to litter my timeline with your words. (Otherwise you’ll bury all my witty posts.)
So why do businesses ask us for likes?
That’s why it’s so irritating when businesses have Facebook pages asking you to ‘like if you enjoy our product’. Or Twitter accounts asking for retweets. You’d never ask someone to give you a standing ovation or to laugh at your joke. So why do you feel the need to ask us to share, like or retweet? If we like you, we’ll do it anyway.
Sure, you’re trying to find out how many people read your post or tweet. But telling us what to do annoys the ones who might have ‘liked’ it anyway, and makes it arbitrary for the others. You skew the results. Instead of a conscious effort to praise you, it’s just a meaningless click.
Not only does it show you’re ignorant of the etiquette on social media, but it doesn’t give people a chance to genuinely show they liked what you did. You shouldn’t be telling us to appreciate you – you should be making us want to by giving us great content. You should be earning those likes.
So stop it.
Brighton is covered in rubbish. The dustmen are on strike, the bins are overflowing; torn open by seagulls and other vermin. And people have stopped caring.
There’s dog mess, fly-tipping, and just this morning two people chucked a whole bed atop what’s now a landfill site on my once-lovely road. Why care when the whole city’s a dump? It’s as if the broken windows theory has been brought to life. Bad behaviour is contagious.
Bad writing is also contagious. When companies have a culture of bad writing (formal emails, long-winded PowerPoints, jargon-infused customer letters, internal newsletters no one reads), the chances are employees will do little to change it.
The linguistic tipping point will happen when their customers start going elsewhere; to companies who speak like humans, who excite and empower their employees, who tell their story well, who do things differently.
So how do you avoid the linguistic apocalypse? By using the right words, of course. (And that’s where we come in.)
When we ask people in workshops which brand they think has the best words, an awful lot of them say First Direct. ‘They sound so friendly and nice and – y’know – direct,’ they say.
And we agree. First Direct’s tone of voice isn’t just distinctive for a financial services brand – it’s distinctive full stop. And what’s brilliant about it is that it gets right into the nooks and crannies – small print, disclaimers, Ts and Cs. (They have the best ever ‘translation’ for that stock phrase about recording calls for training purposes: ‘Because we want to make sure we’re doing a good job, we may monitor or record our calls. We hope you don’t mind.’)
Which is why we were a bit disappointed by this print ad we spotted in the Evening Standard the other day. ‘We’ll give you £100 when you join and £100 when you leave. Which is highly unlikely,’ it starts off, cheekily. Great. So far, so First Direct.
But then what happens? ‘If you do not pay in at least £1,000 a month into your 1st Account, you may have to pay a monthly fee of £10. There is no monthly fee for the first six months.’
Hmm – it’s all starting to sound a bit like bog-standard Ts and Cs.
Then: ‘This offer may be withdrawn at any time without notice.’ Oh dear. And that’s not even the small print. It’s the main body of the ad.
Let’s have a look at the small print, then. Again, it starts off well: ‘Still with us? Good for you.’ Then the brilliant ‘we hope you don’t mind’ line.
But then: ‘Applicants must be 18 or over. £100 offer is limited to one per customer or joint relationship. We reserve the right to decline to open an account.’ Not so friendly now.
Come on, First Direct. We love you. Don’t let us down.
Last week, our Neil wrote a blog about the gay marriage debate. He argued that people who weren’t very comfortable with the idea of gay marriage were more likely to avoid even using the word ‘gay’. And he challenged someone to see if there was any evidence to go with this hunch.
Well, it looks like there might be.
The House of Lords has been debating the gay marriage bill – or the ‘marriage (same sex couples)’ bill, to give it its proper name – over the last couple of days. Lords have been giving their speeches for or against the bill, and you can read them in full on the parliament website. I’ve been through some of those speeches, and here’s what I found.
In the first twelve ‘pro’ speeches, the Lords in favour use the word gay a total of 50 times.
And in the first twelve ‘anti’ speeches, they use it a total of five times.
Almost too perfect to be true, right? I laughed out loud when I counted them up, but them’s the breaks.
Now, of course this is far from conclusive. There are plenty of other speeches that I don’t have the time to look at, and the House of Lords isn’t the only place this is being discussed. But it is pretty telling, don’t you think?