2 min Read
October 11, 2013

One voice, many communicators

Katherine Lindstedt

The thing I like best about my job at Big Duck and what I find most challenging about it are one and the same: learning how to speak—by which I mean write, of course—in an organization’s distinct voice. Once you develop that voice, it’s one of the most powerful tools you have to connect with people and leave a lasting impression.

It’s challenging for any writer to develop his or her own unique voice and bring it to the page time and time again. (I certainly struggle with that in my own personal, outside-of-work writing projects.)

But it’s perhaps even more difficult for organizations to develop their voice, simply because different people are the voice of their nonprofit at different times. And the question is, with so many people speaking on an organization’s behalf, how can you be sure that they’re doing so consistently? How can you be sure that one singular voice comes across in all communications?

There are few things more satisfying than hearing a client tell me, “This really sounds like us.” While there isn’t any cut-and-dried formula that makes it any easier to sound like them, there are tools we use at Big Duck—which any nonprofit communicator can use—that are helpful in evaluating the effectiveness and consistency of language.

I usually start writing for an organization not long after we’ve refined their personality—that’s the tone and style that you want to come across in all communications—and keeping that list of traits nearby is a great way to assess whether or not any given piece of writing accomplishes its purpose, reflects the strategy we’ve laid out, and evokes the personality we want it to evoke.

But even then, personality is ultimately subjective in that it means a variety of things to different people and lends itself to diverse interpretations. So even if your website’s headings or your emails align with an established personality, how can you be sure that your organization’s singular voice is coming through loud and clear?

We often develop audience personas, fictional profiles of typical members of an organization’s target audiences, which can be helpful in reminding anyone developing communications of any kind that there’s a real person on the other end who’s reading it, and ideally the message should be targeted to that person.

Lately, I’ve been wondering if it might be valuable to develop a fictional profile of the person doing the writing. Keeping that profile nearby as you write an email or update your website is a helpful reminder that those messages should sound like they’re coming from a real person—with a unique voice.  

Have any tips that you use to make sure your organization speaks in a single, powerful voice? Share them with us in the comments!