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Using our own words in our own voice helps authenticity. Here's an example:
I called customer support to get help with a product I was using (and still use) inside my home.
The customer service rep who answered had a sense of humor and definitely did not stick with the company script. Now, that can cause problems, of course, and us marketing folks might not appreciate that at first glance. There's a script for a purpose, right? Stick to it! But seriously, that's the easy answer, of course. The message is spelled out, but can everyone (or anyone?) read it in an authentic way?
This guy, at first was caught off guard by my name. "Christian? No, Chris – what? Oh, Christoph. OK, I don't know a Christoph … just a Christian. But OK … how can I help you?" (Full disclosure: Quotes are paraphrased, but reflect the details as I remember them.)
Now, people have called me Chris or said things like "Oh, is it supposed to be Christopher and they forgot the E-R on here?" Usually, it's kind of annoying.
Sometimes when people online call me by the wrong name it can look like this:
"Oh sorry, Kristof, autocorrect got me there …"
But this guy pulled it off in a nice, conversational way. It helped his authencity. Plus, I felt like his day may have been as long as mine. (Who doesn't want to talk to a real human?)
Once I told him my problem he said: "Oh, that should be easy. People have been calling in here with much more difficult things all day."
At one point he was stumped: "Well, it says in here to do this… but that doesn't work for you?" I heard a groan. That probably wasn't scripted either, but I felt the same thing! So authentic again.
It was Valentine's Day and he even shared a Valentine's Day story from the call center. It was kind of fun and he built a connection and got the problem fixed.
This again reminds me: It's not important to memorize the talking points, or even read a script (unless you absolutely have to and there might be times for that), but the important thing to remember is the company's mission, your task to achieve this mission and to figure out a way to get there.
In this case, he helped me solve my problem and was fun. Perhaps, just as important: The call wasn't frustrating!
Being authentic while helping customers connect to a company's mission can build strong connections.
Most of the above story actually happened in 2014 but it was brought back top of mind to me recently when I was recording a video and was trying to stay on script.
And even though I wrote some of the script myself, it's still hard to stay on script word for word and make it sound like you're actually talking conversationally.
It's also not the first time I ran into this in video production. A few years ago I was producing training videos for the financial industry and I would write the scripts and then as I'm working with the actors in the field we would have to rework it. Because staying with the script in many instances makes it sound less conversational.
So back then my advice to them was to hit the keywords. If I needed them to talk about checking a driver's license when cashing a check those were the keywords necessary but exactly how they would say them really made no difference to me. But it was highly important to me that it's conversational and not robotic.
Now some people can pull off reading a Teleprompter quite naturally. But that's an extremely difficult skill to learn and not everybody knows how to do that. Plus how often do we have a Teleprompter handy?
Usually when I plan on using video footage of the subject matter expert that I'm interviewing I ask her questions and let her answer in her own voice, words and expertise. I may ask them to re-say something a certain way to get it as a concise soundbite but for the most part I let them talk like they talk. And then I later try to edit it together.
That's a fine line of preparing and staying real. Writing things out-whether it's the script or an outline-can help us align our thoughts and then help us practice. But typically stories don't come down to the exact words in the exact order. They come down to the overall message and the way it's delivered. The way it's delivered will determine whether or not it resonates with the audience and then more importantly if it's memorable.
For example, I used such an approach at my talk in Berlin and summer 2017 where I threw emojis at the audience. That's a highly unusual tactic but it also helped people remember the message.
What I also found interesting at that Berlin talk was what happened when I asked audience members to first tell a personal story in their own words and then tell an organizational story in their own words.
An overwhelming majority said that the share of the organizational story was much easier because they had the buzzwords and key tag lines down and memorized. That's actually a very different response than what I'm normally getting in the United States, where many say the organizational story was much harder.
Now at the Germany talk we didn't dive any deeper to see how memorable the tagline-filled organizational stories would be but nonetheless that was an interesting statement.
So in conclusion when it comes to scripting our stories, there is a benefit to writing them down and practicing them. But we don't want to take it to the extreme where we stop talking and sharing and engaging like humans and in a conversational style. Like most everything in life it's likely a mix of tactics.