Authentic or corporate?

January 7, 2010

In terms of your online voice, an interesting question.

Following meeting the guys at funky digital Agency Yucca today, we discussed this poser amongst other things. And it can be a minefield, of course.

If – like Yucca – you’re a cool, young and savvy operation, with a great client base, some stunning corporates on board, as well as quite an edgy Brand, the question of what tone of voice to have online can be tricky.

The Yucca example is a good one: they have maintained an authentic, but knowledgable, voice online, via their blog and twitter feeds. Not an easy task, after all, the pressures to deliver a voice which is more pleasing to a corporate ear must be tempting to any developing and growing Agency which is attracting the attenton of some heavyweight marketing directors in corporate UK boardrooms.

However, authenticity does, of course, have its own value, as the Yucca management team have discovered. Whilst there is a time and place for corporate language, it all comes down to the requirements of the target audience, doesn’t it? They’ve certainly got no qualms about delivering fresh, original, authentic content to their audience. Not all regional Agencies are as brave.

Authenticity is a scarce commodity these days: just look at the anodyne corporate blogs out there, the hollow twitter feeds being delivered by PRs for clients, the dry and brittle blogs which are being updated weekly. Nothing authentic, Nothing inspiring. Nothing to make one think, get creative, be informed, educated, entertained. Basically, nothing to make the reader stay.

Checking out the Yucca blog, there is a real slice of life there: the Christmas party, for example, the building of a snowman: it gives an authentic slice of life in the Agency, which brings us the audience closer to the team and how they interact in real-time.

I think this is hugely valuable in these anodyne times. It shows us that authenticity is still alive. Still surviving.

So, the next time you feel pulled between using an authentic online voice and going ‘corporate’ to try and write what you think you should…my advice is simple. Authenticity rules, every time. Bravo Yucca, keep it authentic, the blog‘s a fantastic read. It’s also great to see creatives delivering awesome work outside of Soho – proving, again, what a powerhouse Bristol really is.

Attitude. Insight. Expertise. Passion. Authenticity. When these things are lost, what hope is there for the creative industries?


8 Responses to “Authentic or corporate?”

  1. Fiona said

    I totally agree brands need to get away from the yawny corporate voice – but don’t think Yucca’s approach would work for lots of brands. It’s desirable for a digital agency to put themselves out there like this. Check out Tak in Birmingham – their About page is a lovely 24-hour speeded up video of their office goings on. The far bigger challenge is how a big organisation, or for example, a global investment bank, puts themself out there ‘authentically’. ‘Office party hangover’ posts would be authentic but terrible PR…

    • bristoleditor said

      Tricky isn’t it, Fiona?

      Thank you for your comments and insight – your blog is fantastic, by the way. Multi-skilled indeed. Nice link to Take in Birmingham, too.

      I guess with authenticity, the challenge will always be who says what and how. The main issue should be, I feel, what will spark the audience.

  2. Good post! I agree with you absolutely. I’ve been agonising over this very thing for ages: I have a new service in the incubator right now, and am having to determine the tone.

    My instinct is for authentic, obviously, but I may be dealing with corporates who lack imagination.

    The trouble with a lot of ‘authentic’ sites is that this comes over as ‘unprofessional’, so there is a challenge there.

    I’m seriously considering having a kind of bilingual site: one that is clearly creative, but has an easily-accessible set of corporate-speak translations.


    • bristoleditor said

      Hi Pen

      Great to hear from you, and thanks for your inputs.

      One of the things I see the guys at Yucca displaying is something I would call ‘intuitive authenticity’ by which they allow the real them to shine through, whilst also remaining aware and alert to the potential sensibilities of the multiple levels of their audience. A hugely difficult voice to deliver, of course, but they’re doing a grand job.

      Good luck with the new service too, Pen, and let me know if there are any contacts I might be able to pass onto you regionally.

  3. Fiona said

    Thanks, Bristol Editor [do you have a name, btw, for that authentic feel? ;)].

    The truth is that on my own personal blogs I can experiment and play, so it’s much easier to be relaxed and engage on a personal level (I hope).

    But I’m also Grant Thornton’s blogger on their Bespoke – for private clients channel and Elevate – for entrepreneurs channel. So I’m also writing on behalf of a large organisation, as well as working with a team of in-house experts to get them blogging their subject.

    What we do may be relevant to Pen… Grant Thornton looked for people within its corporate environment who had high-level expertise to share and were willing to try explaining/commenting in a blog style. The style/structure/tone is guided by me if it’s way off, but essentially the post is that of the individual (authenticity) and I think readers will forgive some posts for being a bit dry, especially if the poster has useful expert information to share.

    At the same time, I was added into the mix as a freelance blogger to post about subjects of interest to their readers – and also write in a more conversational way. I post as an ‘editor at Elevate’ not a Grant Thornton employee so there is transparency for those wondering why I know nothing about tax accountancy!

    In addition, they have sourced CEO-level sector experts to post their views on industries that are covered by the core business. And my agency adds to the mix by producing original premium content, such as infographics and video podcasts.

    It’s early days but I think it’s a nice mix of traditional and creative, of multimedia content and of expert/guest/magpie bloggers. It can be hard to get the tone right but it’s something that comes from writing loads of posts… so I’d say to Pen, get them blogging in a professional corporate way and then work with them to dejargonise or structure the posts in a more engaging way.

    • bristoleditor said

      Hi again Fiona

      Thanks for your further inputs – my name is Chris, as you’ll see on the testimonials page!

      Really useful advice to Pen, and on a wider basis: engagement is the key, as you point out, whether internally to a corporate team, or externally, to attract and ‘hook & hold’ audiences reading blog post, twitter feeds, friendfeed updates etc. And without authenticity, engagement can usually only happen on a short-term, superficial level.

      Appreciate your insights, as I am sure Pen will too. Bravo!

  4. […] with the game of social media – I touched upon this at the start of the year with this post, concerning the use of an authentic voice in online content, rather than a sterilised […]

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