Why you should always talk as simply as your message allows

December 31, 2014

Here’s another promotion that smells like, well, old trainers.
You should only speak like a lawyer if you’re a lawyer. Otherwise you just sound odd.
I spotted an online promotion where you can win free* trainers. I couldn’t believe how inept it is.
* Subject to wearing a fez, having a goldfish in your pocket, being at least 80 metres above sea level and whistling ‘Lovesexy’ by Prince while filling in the entry form.

Another 'free trainers for a year' promotion which isn't strictly true.

Another ‘free trainers for a year’ promotion which isn’t strictly true.

To start with, there’s an amazing typo in this promotion. And the typo is in the legals!
Who’s writing this shit?
They meant to use the word ’forfeited’ and what they’ve actually used is ‘fortified’.
Not. Even. Close.
Which means that their T&Cs are nonsense. It would be amusing to see someone legally challenge the T&Cs just to see the judge’s face as he read them.

Not the friendliest writing I've ever read.

Not the friendliest writing I’ve ever read.

There are also a lot of ‘you must do this’ type of instructions. Why not write it like a human being would say it?
If you spoke like that in real life people would think you were odd. And they’d probably not want to spend much time with you. So why does a brand that’s obviously trying to be cool not try and talk less like a bank manager?
It’s not rocket science.

Your T&Cs can have a great amount of personality. They can show that you really do talk normally, and that you don’t deviate into legal bobbins unless you really, really have to. (I’m talking buying an entire store or buying a brand kind of transactions, not running a competition to win some shoes.)

Some companies are taking liberties with their customers when it comes to terms and conditions. It takes three full days to read the Vodafone T&Cs in full. Three days!
(I almost never use exclamation marks, and that’s my second one of this posting – but they’re both completely deserved!)

I reckon any competent lawyer would be able to get you out of a contract with Vodafone because to expect someone to read for three days before they can sign a contract for a phone is not proportionate to the purpose of the contract.

At the other end of the spectrum there’s a great example of simple writing winning friends and influencing people.
NetApp is a US-based tech company. They’ve got a $6 billion turnover and are often seen at the top end of Fortune’s list of ‘Best Companies to Work For’.

Their expenses policy to tell their staff how much they were allowed to spend and on what used to be 12 pages long. I’m sure that made the staff really happy! Turns out the company agreed. They realised that no one (in their right mind) was reading it. So they rewrote the whole thing from scratch. And their new version read:
‘We’re a frugal company. But don’t show up dog-tired just to save a few bucks. Use your common sense.’

Which is exactly what a smart company should do. You hire people you trust to steer your brand and make sure people think you can help them. So why don’t you trust their judgement on which hotel they can stay in?

Trust your staff and they’ll trust you. They’ll care about the company more and work harder. It’s a virtuous circle. Sure you might get the odd person who isn’t pulling their weight. But that’s what managers are there for. To manage. If someone starts taking liberties their manager should be awake enough to nip it in the bud. If it carries on, you part company with them. And get in someone who buys in to your ethos of trust and respect.

Try it. It costs you nothing and it can bring big rewards.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: