What? You're Worried You're a Lying Robot?

Sorry Blade Runner fans. A copywriter can do a lot of things, but we can’t be expected to administer a Voight-Kampff test to your business.

Seems like you ask us to do that a lot though. Because something keeps coming up when I hear other copywriters mention tone-of-voice. I heard it at Copy Cabana. I heard it at the Copywriters’ Conference. I hear it at DMA meetings.

You all seem to be worried. Worried that you’re a lying robot. Or an untrustworthy ape, or deceitful end tables.

You’re so worried that you’re hell bent on being recognised as two things.

Human and Honest.

It doesn’t matter what you do, it seems that businesses are desperate to be viewed as honest humans.

Solicitor? Human and honest.

Coffee shop? Human and honest.

Battery manufacturer? Human and honest.

As opposed to what?

Human and honest is obvious and unsettling.

Presenting yourself as human  is obvious. Until a goldfish successfully learns to climb a ladder, your customers are going to assume that the person running your roofing business is a human.

And the second half? Think to everyone you’ve met. Who goes out of the way to explain just how honest they are?

Two types of person. The sort who’ll try and take you for a ride, and the sort who think being insulting and snide is just “refreshing honesty.”

The rest of us just assume that honesty’s not a virtue to be signalled at every opportunity. It’s a default.

And worst of all, everyone in business is saying human and honest.

If all you've got to say is exactly what everyone else just said, you're best staying quiet.Click To Tweet

It’s Difficult to Think Past Human and Honest. But You Should.

Don’t get me wrong. Tone of voice can be bloody hard to define.

I do this for a living, and here’s a brief glimpse into the tone of voice “document” for the re-write of my own website:

That’s the result of a good hour’s worth of soul-searching, and some of the stuff I wrote either wasn’t appropriate or wasn’t true.

I know it’s hard, but a copywriter can’t just assign you a voice out of nowhere.

If we do, it just rings hollow.

I’ve written before about the disconnect between the way your business comes across on the page and in person destroying your credibility.

So I can’t just say “your new tone of voice will be THIS.”

I need you to meet me halfway. I need you to think beyond words like human and honest and think about those little traits and quirks that define your business.

A Short List of Tone of Voice Words That Are Better Than Human and Honest

Some of these are conflicting. Try as I might, even Manchester’s number one copywriter can’t make you sound serious and fun at the same time.

Plain-speaking or Highly Technical
Serious or Fun
Laid Back or Dynamic
Quirky or Professional
Established or Challenger
Caring or Results-Driven

These aren’t the be-all and end-all of tone, but if you want to be the quirky, plain-speaking challenger brand, then that’s going to give you a much more distinctive tone than someone who’s only defining feature is that they’re just like everyone else.

So next time you’re asked about your business’ personality, or your core values, don’t default to human and honest. That won’t grab your readers’ attention. And they’ll slip away, gone forever.

Lost, like tears in rain.

If you’re on the lookout for more blockbuster content, make sure you’re subscribed to the 603 Copywriting newsletter. It’s got free advice, you’ll be the first to hear about my upcoming ebook that’ll teach you how to write a website, and I drop in the odd special offer too.

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