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The Empire Writes Back

The Empire Writes Back

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Published by Richard Pelletier
A book summary of "We, Me, Them, It - How to Write Powerfully for Business"
A book summary of "We, Me, Them, It - How to Write Powerfully for Business"

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Published by: Richard Pelletier on Mar 29, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Empire Writes Back ~ We, Me, Them & It ~ John Simmons on Tone of Voice BrandingOriginally published at MarketingProfs.com©Richard PelletierPhoto of Tone of Voice Innovator, John SimmonsJohn Simmons - Author of "We, Me, Them, & It"This irresistible book with the charming title floats a simple answer to a difficult question. Your organization is struggling to emerge from an overcrowded marketplace and forge a separate and unique identity – to create an enduring and powerful brand. How do you do it? Simple, says the UK’s John Simmons in his latestbook, “We, Me, Them & It – How to Write Powerfully for Business” — write differently.Beyond the basics that most firms lean on to distinguish themselves – graphics,colors, logo’s – a visual identity overhaul – language, and more specifically, tone of voice, is a powerful way to forge a distinctive identity, writes Simmons.Branding, after all, is about differentiation. And describing a brand begins with words.Yet time after time, company after company, the same tired and worn-to-the-bonewords and phrases keep showing up. So your audience, (a word he prefers over stakeholders) faced with a company that has failed to engage, stimulate, humor, orexcite them, will decide for themselves who you are. Not bloody likely they’ll decide in your favor. Major opportunity lost.“The basis of the tone of voice process,” Simmons writes, “is a determination touse words that really mean something and take a risk.”We The company; the collective group that “you” as a writer work for.So how does Simmons – a well-established brand himself – get his message across?A deeply personal, knowing and assuring tone of voice. Strong openings. Dramatic closings. Risk.Chapter one is a jazzy tour of the Simmons working process. We open with the acerbic Dennis Potter; “The trouble with words is you don’t know whose mouth they’ve been in.” At that, Simmons is off and running like a passionate band leader, improvising here, reading the charts there, moving his audience through short solos on literature, advertising, politics, culture and creativity.Here’s David Ogilvy –“People who think well, write well.” There are classic openings from Jane Austen, Joseph Heller and from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera. There is much, much more.All of which is designed to push the boundaries of language. To lead, liberate,excite, educate and inspire readers (and, of course writers) – to toss aside theshroud of dreadful conformity that blankets most business writing.Words are living, breathing entities.They have a life and mind of their own. Inspiration is all around us and is there for the taking. And yet anyone who admires Dennis Potter knows words can causetrouble. “Words are your children,” he cautions. “They can inflict small unthinking acts of cruelty on your neighbors.” Key takeaways: Listen. Read out loud. Speak the words inside your head if you must, but careful listening will kill offa lot of bad writing.
And this will surely unsettle as many as it will thrill; “There is no such thingas correct use of language.”Me  My Individual Personality as a Writer“The places where water comes together with other water. Those places stand outin my mind like holy places.” – Ray Carver, opening chapter two. (Ed. note: WhenI landed on Ray Carver in this book, I was finished.)The tone of voice approach asks that we develop a more personal writing style within the overall framework of the tone of voice for whoever we are writing for.We know there are limits to how much individuality can emerge within any corporate or organizational narrative. Obstacles abound. So chapter two is about finding ways to do it, “gives permission” and offers several case studies (Oxfam and Royal Mail) that Simmons and his company Interbrand worked on.One method that Simmons created to help bridge the personal and public was to introduce poetry into the workplace. Why poetry? “What we show at work is the outer person. But what is really interesting in the inner person. Can we find ways to bring more of the inner person to work? If so, will we be more fulfilled in our total life? If so, will we actually do better work because much of our work needs to have an emotional content?”He offers poetry as just one method, but advises against trying to franchise theapproach. It worked for him. It may or may not work for you. The bottom line idea is that people are happier when they can be “more themselves” at work. Peoplewho are happier, do better work. Bringing more of yourself into your working life is a good thing, but no small trick.Poetry is one way.For people who write for a living, reading poetry is a way to stay fresh, to create anew and to think about and use language in new ways. Poetry may open pathways to emotions, and depending on the kind of work you do, that can be a very useful thing.Why is so much business writing bad? Neglect. Indifference. The corporate voicedominates the airwaves. Aversion to risk. The fear of offending. The turn of phrase or idiosyncrasy that might signal an individual voice – emanating from family or personal history, cultural tastes, a playful sense of humor, simple, plainspoken honesty, (or, god forbid, poetry!) have been deleted, scrubbed clean.And, “because all writing is conversation, not monologue,” a growing, long termrelationship with hordes of potential customers entranced by your unique and engaging way of speaking with them, slips from view.Them  The AudienceThe core idea here is about expanding traditional notions of corporate identityto include language, the words a company uses, and tone of voice, the way that language is spoken as part and parcel of an organization’s identity. As the definition of “brand” has expanded in recent years to now mean the company itself, rather than particular consumer products, then the company’s values, behavior andpriorities, as expressed by the people within this company are central to the brand.If the company is the brand, and the people are the company, then tone of voicebecomes an essential mechanism through which to define, enhance and clarify thebrand to the core audience.

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