I recently received an email announcing an event that was being held by a prestigious organization in San Francisco. It was riddled with grammatical errors, confusing punctuation, and enough exclamation points to suggest that I wasn’t doing my part if I didn’t immediately spring from my desk and prance around my office in a frenzied dance of unbridled enthusiasm. The copy was so bad, in fact, that I felt compelled to visit the company’s website to see if I’d find more abominations. Surprisingly, I discovered just the opposite.
The online copy is well written and sophisticated, reflecting the image that I imagine the company is trying to project. It appears to have been created by a professional—or at least by someone who’s read a page or two of The Chicago Manual of Style. The email blast, on the other hand, reads as if it was cobbled together by someone trying too hard to be trendy, edgy, and cool. The upshot: the dramatic inconsistency between the two voices severely compromises the organization’s marketing message.
It’s a safe bet that you recognize the importance of maintaining a specific design style in your website, ads, and collateral. You likely have a carefully chosen color palette and a (probably expensive) logo. You’ve invested in these things to create recognition for your product or service—and it works.
Take a look at the following images, which I’m sure you can easily identify. Over the years, they have become part of our daily lives—thanks to ad agencies and media coverage. No names are necessary. You know at a glance what company, organization, or group is represented.
The words you use in every aspect of your advertising and marketing strategies should be given the same calculated attention. It doesn’t work if you’re polished and refined in your Web copy and flippant in your social media. It doesn’t work if you’re solemn and zealous in your print ads and goofy in your email marketing. That sort of dichotomy sends a mixed message to your reader about who you are, and in this competitive marketplace, that’s the last thing you want or need.
Instead, determine a voice that sounds like your company…that reinforces your image and philosophy…that is clear and appealing to your target audience. Use it consistently—whether you’re writing your annual report or posting on Facebook. Be as diligent with your copy as you are with your graphics. What you say—and how you say it—truly matters.