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Kate Kiefer Lee: Voice & Tone [Dec 2013]


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The best company voices reflect real people and real values. Kate will talk about finding your company’s voice and adapting your tone of voice based on the reader’s feelings. She’ll share the voice and tone guide her team created and explain how MailChimp’s content improved when they introduced accessible writing guidelines that work across departments. Kate will also share a few lessons she learned the hard way, and we’ll look at some examples of empathetic content (and not-so-empathetic content) from around the web.

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Kate Kiefer Lee: Voice & Tone [Dec 2013]

  1. 1. Voice and Tone Creating content for humans @katekiefer
  2. 2. Find your voice Speak onto the page Watch your tone Know when to keep a straight face Be honest
  3. 3. That being said, here are our TENTATIVE plans... 1. All the space left behind by the support team becomes a big open meeting area. For pizza days, for coffee hours, for events. Maybe some robot wars, I dunno. We’re already getting too big for the Paula Deen room, and we need the space. I’ve heard proposals for a big gym, and for yoga classes. But we already have a gym in the basement of the 530 bldg. If you complain to me that the weight equipment is old, shut up. Rocky Balboa trained with rocks and dead animals in a meat locker. Gravity is gravity, and heavy stuff weighs the same whether it’s old or new.
  4. 4. Ask questions What does your company do? Why did you start your company? Why do people visit your website? Who are your customers? What other companies do you admire?
  5. 5. Ask questions If your brand were a how would youhow would you person, describe them? If your brand were a person, describe him examples of content that suits your brand. Show me a few or her? What other companies do you admire? Show meyou fewpeople to feel whenof content that a want examples they visit your website? How do suits your brand. How do you want people to feel when they visit your website?
  6. 6. MailChimp is fun but not childish clever but not silly smart but not stodgy confident but not cocky informal but not sloppy helpful but not overbearing expert but not bossy weird but not inappropriate
  7. 7. Design persona (Aarron Walter)
  8. 8. Voice guidelines company's mission content types specific content examples brand traits reader/customer types visual guidelines
  9. 9. Yaaaawn.
  10. 10.
  11. 11. "It is insight into human nature that is key to the communicator's skill. For whereas the writer is concerned with what he puts into his writings, the communicator is concerned with what the reader gets out of it. He therefore becomes a student of how people read or listen." William Bernbach
  12. 12. Find your voice Speak onto the page Watch your tone Know when to keep a straight face Be honest
  13. 13. "A good teacher I know, Jennifer Auger, has a simple but effective technique for the writing classroom. When her students have blah voiceless writing, she makes them speak the following words to her before reading their text: 'Listen to me, I have something to tell you.'" Peter Elbow Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing
  14. 14. Jerrold, a Nerdbot
  15. 15. Find your voice Speak onto the page Watch your tone Know when to keep a straight face Be honest
  16. 16. Style guide: content types e app e application is MailChimp’s heart. Its language helps people along as they create, send and track email campaigns. People using the app already know and love MailChimp, so we can have a little fun with the language–though our priority is helping them get their work done quickly. Why we do it: Duh. Microcopy Microcopy is that small but oh-so-important instructional copy that you usually see in forms and feedback messages. It might remind a user that her password has to contain a number or explain that email communication will only be used regarding a specific order. We also call it “help text,” and you see it both in the app and on the public site. It’s short and to-the-point. Why we do it: To help users complete tasks. MailChimp newsletter MailChimp’s email newsletter is a company update written by our CEO, Ben. It’s full of photos, stories, experiments, links and announcements for customers who want to know more about MailChimp. It’s casual and entertaining. Why we do it: To give customers more MailChimp news and provide an occasional behind-the-scenes look at how the company works. We are an email service, after all.
  17. 17. Mascot’s jokes: an extra layer of humor
  18. 18. Compliance alert: bad news
  19. 19. Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions
  20. 20. "If advertising had a little more respect for the public, the public would have a lot more respect for advertising." James Randolph Adams
  21. 21. To determine your tone of voice, consider: 1. Content type 2. e reader's emotional state
  22. 22. Ask yourself What situation is the reader in that's bringing her to this content? What situation will this content put her in? How does the reader feel right now? How will this content make her feel? What can I do to maintain the reader's state of mind or put her in a better one?
  23. 23. Touchy Subjects health and medicine religion politics money and banking private information fundraising help docs contact page FAQ forms terms of service failure messages
  24. 24. Tufts University’s voice and tone guide Tufts University’s voice and tone guidelines
  25. 25.
  26. 26.
  27. 27. Macmillan Cancer Support’s writing guide
  28. 28. Gov.UK’s style guide
  29. 29. Wrong tone of voice
  30. 30. Unsubscribe notification (before)
  31. 31. Unsubscribe notification (after)
  32. 32. Playful tone of voice
  33. 33. Obama campaign’s unsubscribe screen
  34. 34.
  35. 35. Romney campaign’s unsubscribe screen
  36. 36. Photojojo’s unsubscribe form
  37. 37. Tea Muse’s unsubscribe screen
  38. 38. "e consumer isn’t a moron. She is your wife." David Ogilvy
  39. 39. Find your voice Speak onto the page Watch your tone Know when to keep a straight face Be honest
  40. 40. Current 404
  41. 41. 404 reject
  42. 42. Woot’s product description
  43. 43. Woot’s contact page
  44. 44. Find your voice Speak onto the page Watch your tone Know when to keep a straight face Be honest
  45. 45. Oh, really?
  46. 46. Warby Parker’s roots
  47. 47. Warby Parker’s library
  48. 48. Warby Parker’s writing guide
  49. 49. Warby Parker’s story page
  50. 50. "I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Maya Angelou
  51. 51. Thanks! @katekiefer