Part 2: say it with conviction

‘We’re committed to endeavouring to attempt to support our customers. Um, where possible. Subject to change.’

If your biggest fear about reactive messages is sounding inauthentic, don’t just pay attention to what you say. Pay attention to how you say it. Certain words, clichés or types of language signal to readers that you’re not being genuine. Here’s how to keep it real.

Stop being ‘committed to’ things – and start doing them

In businesses’ responses to the pandemic, two words probably cropped up more than any others: committed to. Brands have told us they’re committed to our health and safety, to continuing to bring us great service, to getting back to business as soon as possible.

The trouble with those words is they don’t actually mean anything. You could be committed to going for a run – but until you’ve actually laced up your shoes and forced yourself out of the front door, that commitment is just hot air.

So look out for hedging language like that in your writing – other common culprits include endeavouring to, aiming to, and caveats like where possible – and cut it. Get straight to the action you’re taking instead.

Use concrete language

When you do get to describing the actions your brand’s taking, use concrete language to make those actions sound clear and convincing. Concrete language is tangible – words we can see, hear or touch.

On UK supermarket Sainsbury’s website, they say they’re ‘working to feed the nation’ throughout the coronavirus pandemic. That sounds much more solid and believable than if they’d said something abstract that we can’t picture, like ‘we’re continuing to provide for our customers’.

Don’t tell customers you understand – show them

Showing empathy in language is hard – and the easiest route can feel like relying on phrases like ‘we know times are difficult’ or ‘we understand that you may be feeling uncertain’. But telling people you understand them isn’t the same as… actually understanding them.

Instead of reaching for these phrases, show that you get it by listening to customers, and giving them the content they need and want from you now.

Like this nice and simple message on Airbnb’s website:

They haven’t said ‘we understand that travel abroad may not be possible right now, and you might be feeling stir-crazy at home’. They’ve shown that they get it by pointing customers to staycations and online experiences.

By avoiding hedging language, abstract terms and those ‘tell’ phrases, you’ll come across as more genuine, and make your messages stand out from the dozens of brands saying the same thing.

Now that we’ve covered the what and how, in our final blog in this series we’ll look at the where – how to filter your new messaging through everything you do.

This blog is part of series on communicating topical messages, without sounding like you’re just jumping on the bandwagon. Watch out for the final blog here. Or go back to the first one.

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