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How your words shape what people think about you

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Words are powerful things, and it’s in your gift to use them to shape what others think about you. More than that. It’s your responsibility to do so.

This is true of companies, of brands and of organisations, every bit as much as it’s true of people. Because what are these institutions if not collectives of people, forging an identity to advance their purpose? To promote their “why” – why they do what they do.

Consider the cocktail party rule: “If you want to be boring, talk about yourself. If you want to be interesting, talk about something other than yourself.” Talk about what those you want to impress, to influence – to become your friends and advocates – are interested in. Or run the risk of being the bore talking to themselves in the corner at the end of the evening.

And be sure you talk in a dialect that many business folk, academics, lawyers and bureaucrats find very hard to master. Talk human.

Do this simply, clearly, authentically. Be you. If you’re Eric, be very Eric. Not Jeremy or Bobby-Ann.

In our ever-more digital world, when people want to find out about your company or brand, they look online. Whether they’re about to buy from you or they just want to comment on your customer service, most people find that what you say in your own (or owned) media channels says a lot about you. About whether you deserve their loyalty or the sharp edge of their tongue.

The language you choose is a critical first step in shaping perceptions of your organisation, as it is for your competitors. Sure, it’s important what influencers say in editorial, blogs and in social media – in what communicators call earned media – but brand understanding really starts with the story you tell about yourself.

At Insight Agents, we help companies and brands develop better brand language to tell more impactful stories. We know that simpler, more readable content is not only more engaging. It’s also more authentic, providing a boost in good times and protection when things go wrong.

That’s why we’re proud to bring to the world Bird’s Eye View, a diagnostic service that assess how readable and engaging readers find your owned media content, across your website, blog, and social media. We compare the readability of these channels with each other, and also with the same content from three of your competitors.

We use the well-validated Flesch Kincaid scale to work out how readable your content is. The following table gives readability scores for different media sources – popular and very readable at the top, with scores approaching 100; unpopular and clouded in a fog of legalese towards the bottom.

 

MEDIA SOURCE FLESCH KINCAID SCORE
Buzz Feed

96

Harry Potter and the

Chamber of Secrets

85

Cosmopolitan magazine

78

Guardian homepage

64

The Economist

43

Apple iTunes terms & conditions

33

Standard insurance policy

10

How the language behind a company’s story is depends in part, of course, on the sophistication of those the story is intended to persuade. Consider Apple, officially the world’s biggest and coolest brand. A firm whose very purpose it to make technology make life easier. We find it unbelievable that Apple hasn’t “done an Apple” on its iTunes Ts&Cs. Our friends at The Writer recently wrote a brilliant open letter to the company, encouraging them to do just that. Watch this space, once they’ve ironed all the wrinkles out of IOS9 and OS X El Capitan, that is.

Insight Agents’ Bird’s Eye View gives you a quick and straightforward understanding of the impression you and your competitors make with the language you use to describe what you do and why you do it.

And it makes informed recommendations about how you can make your language simpler, more readable, and more engaging, representing the true values of your business.

Like everything we do, it helps you start making sense.

 

For reference, this blog scores 63.4 on the Flesch Kincaid scale, just below the Guardian homepage.

Sam Knowles
Sam Knowles is Founder & MD of Insight Agents. He helps companies, brands and third-sector organisations to find simple, true and authentic language. This gives them the tools, permission and confidence they need to communicate more effectively. His mission is to eliminate jargon and corporate multiple personality.

Sam is currently writing a book called How To Be Insightful, the history, psychology and application of insight. The book is based on the Insight Agents’ STEP Prism of Insight (TM) model of generating ideas. It will be published soon.

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