With a global shift toward “authenticity” in corporate communication, it might seem out of touch to harp on the importance of consistency and tone — but that doesn’t give license for authentic communication to be sloppy or unconsidered. In fact, communication with true “personality” must be considered and consistent for it to truly be authentic.
Companies are increasingly encouraging employees to serve as brand ambassadors on social media platforms by posting their own videos and images from work-related activities. Some even have their employees take over the bulk of the text production for internal publications. But to ensure they have a unique, recognizable brand, these companies will need a consistent voice.
You might be asking: What even is a corporate voice or style? When writers, editors and translators talk about the “style” of a text, there are several things they mean. Such as how long or short, simple or complex the sentences are; whether the tone is conversational or official; what point of view a given text is written from; as well as who the intended audience is.
But when creating texts for a certain customer or brand through ghostwriting, editing or translation, “style” can have a much more specific meaning — namely making sure things are consistent through a style guide.
Languages are alive, changing and adapting to cultural needs. English is a particularly indecisive culprit, and though there are some set-in-stone rules for grammar, spelling and word choice, numerous linguistic questions can’t be settled by saying something is “wrong” or “right.” In many situations, all we can say is, “That’s how we do it here.”
Take those quotation marks up there in the previous sentence. Is it correct to place the period inside or outside of them? That depends on a few factors, including where you live and which editorial standard you’re following.
In the United Kingdom and even in specific publications for other regions, it would have been perfectly “correct” to place the sentence punctuation outside the quote, but standard U.S. style dictates otherwise.
Make your own rules, but do it with intent
The most important thing when it comes to style is consistency. Flipping back and forth between adviser and advisor in a description of your team setup (or set-up) and capitalizing every word in titles but forgetting to do so in one instance: All of these things risk distracting your reader.
By staying consistent with spelling, punctuation and phrasing, you keep your reader’s focus on what you’re trying to say — not how you said it. The last thing you want is for your readers to get distracted away from the product, service or information you’re promoting because they’re trying to remember the grammar rules they learned back in school.
A strict, unique style helps define a company’s brand. If you come across the word “coöperate” in a sentence, for example, you don’t even have to check the byline to know you’re reading an article from the New Yorker. The well-respected American weekly uses the diaeresis to indicate when two vowels stacked next to each other (like in “coöperate” above) need to be separated into two syllables instead of read as a diphthong (in other words, as one sound). A helpful nudge to the reader becomes a low-effort corporate brand.
In content marketing, corporate communications and even your average personal blog, authenticity sells — especially in a digital world where readers have to actively dig through inauthentic content to find the good stuff.
When we perceive someone as being an authentic individual, in most cases it’s because they’re consistent in their actions. Maybe they don’t shy away from speaking their mind. Maybe they genuinely thrive from helping other people and do so regularly. Everyone has their own personality, and the more predictably they express these personalities, the more authentic we perceive them to be.
The same principle applies to written content and branding. And to emphasize authenticity at your organization, the best starting point is a style guide.