By JONATHAN FINE
People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.
So said the French physicist, philosopher, inventor, and mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623–1662).
And part of the art of persuasion is using the right rhetoric. How can you show someone you understand them if you’re speaking another language?
How you speak will be different from how you write. And how you speak – or write – will vary according to context and who you are speaking to.
You only really notice this phenomenon of ‘accommodation’ when it doesn’t happen properly, when some one puts a kiss at the end of a formal email, for example.
One outstanding example of getting it right is Paddy Power, the controversy-loving gambling firm (just look at all its banned ads). Its Twitter administrator knew it was his lucky day when he got a text from a man who thought he was texting a girl he met in a bar the night before. It was the wrong number. Without hesitation the PR bod strung his unsuspecting victim along in a string of flirtatious texts, all the while tweeting excruciating details of the exchange to Paddy Power’s 400,000 Twitter followers. How did he know he was well within his rights? Paddy Power’s brand said so.
Getting it right is harder than it used to be because there are loads more fronts requiring more registers with which to engage: how do you talk to stakeholders, investors, employees and customers – and where? The way you speak has to be different on social media, mail shot, email, by letter and on PowerPoint.
For some dental practices, for example, having a down to earth, caring, informal style on Twitter is a much better idea than being formal and scientific, although it wouldn’t be a good idea on the CQC report.
All businesses have to find a set of registers that maintains the impression of a consistent brand yet speaks to different audiences.
So how do you find your registers? Imagine your business was a person. Write down his or her characteristics. Is she generous, caring, formal, honest, thoughtful? If she was a car, what car would she be? Sleak and powerful and showy, like an F-Type, or a humble Volvo estate – still high quality and reliable but really not showy at all. How does she act when she has been cheated, not paid, or overpaid? Does she work all the time or value leisure time as of equal importance to work? Is she a family person or a lone wolf?
Write down as much as you can possibly think of, and you will have started the mental process of consciously forming your businesses registers. From here it will develop organically, but if you ever rebrand make sure you do it again!