30 Nov

Mum? Is that you??

Bless my mum.

In fact, bless both of my parents, who gave me the content for the post I’m writing now.

To explain…

My mum is in hospital. Nothing life-threatening – she’s just had an operation on her hip.
She’s in a bit of pain, and she’s not going to be able to get around easily for a while.
With that in mind, between myself, my two sisters, and my dad, it’s ‘all hands to the pump’ to help her recover, get her food, and generally look after her.

I went to visit her, yesterday, and found her in good spirits.

Later on, I texted her and said I’d be visiting tomorrow, and asked if she wanted me to bring her any food, books, or blankets.

She replied several times (a few texts between us), the gist being: ‘I’m fine, but maybe pick me up a sandwich on your way in tomorrow’.

I did think that the texts were a bit odd. They were quite blunt and matter-of-fact, whereas her texts are usually all flowery, containing lots of unnecessary detail. I put this down to her still being in pain, not feeling great, plus the effects of the drugs they’re giving her.
At any other time, I might’ve text back asking if she was feeling okay, as her text(s) just didn’t sound right.

My dad phoned me when he got back from the hospital, and gave me an update. I told him I’d be visiting her tomorrow, and taking some food, to which he responded; ‘I know. I was texting you back from her phone. She was too tired.’
This made much more sense. My dad is practical, logical, matter-of-fact, and just sends what needs to be sent. That’s why the texts came across as strange – it wasn’t my mum who was texting.

I took two points from this, which I can work into a blog post:

1. Every person has their own, unique tone of voice, whether they like it or not: a way of talking, texting, emailing, writing Facebook statuses which is distinctly them.
Likewise, every business/brand has a distinctive tone of voice. If you change that tone of voice suddenly, to something very different to the usual, people will notice. If that change is too extreme, it’ll come across as odd. If Virgin suddenly switched to a cold, austere, corporate tone tomorrow – across all advertising, their web content, their emails – people would notice … and they may start to move away from that company.
If you’re going to have a major rebranding, including a complete change in tone of voice, have a think how that will come across to your existing and potential customers/clients, and how extreme you’d like that change to be.

2. Use the right person/people for the job. My mum was in hospital, too tired to text back, and my dad was next to her – there was no other option than to have him text me back from her phone.
But… in the case of a brand – if you hire people who can’t write in the tone you want (or can’t write in your existing tone, if you’re not changing it), all of your content/copy will sound odd.
You may decide to ‘just keep things in-house’ or cut corners and write your own copy (or have a member of staff write it, who isn’t a copywriter). However, if the person given the job can only write as themselves, and their natural tone doesn’t match what you ask for, or they can’t write in your existing tone, that copy/content won’t sound like ‘you’ – it’ll sound strange to your customers/clients.
You need to make sure that the person/people writing your copy can write it in the tone of voice that suits your business (you may even ask that they can prove this).

Learn from my mum: don’t get people to speak on your behalf, unless you’re absolutely sure they’re representing you as you’d wish them to.

I’m now going to take her that sandwich, and a bar of Dairy Milk.

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