We’ve run hundreds of workshops showing thousands of people how to write well for their organisations. And, as you might imagine, we’ve come up against resistance here and there to changing to a new tone of voice.

 

So we’d like to share the most common reasons people give for not changing their writing, what lies behind them, and how to overcome them. After all, when you’ve invested your company’s time, best minds and precious cash in creating a good brand tone of voice, you want to see it take hold.

 

We’ll look at:

  • Common reasons people give for not wanting to use their company’s new tone
  • What’s really behind those reasons
  • How to get past objections, and make sure things change for the best

 

Six reasons people resist, and how to get over them

 

Here are our warning signals that will show you which people are struggling with the change. Look out for these in training so that you can spot the ones with problems, help them over their objections and make sure it all rolls out smoothly.

 

1. This is just dumbing down

 

What’s this really about?

 

This is the big one. So handle carefully.

 

Some people are used to being the cleverest in the office – the best writers, the ones others go to for advice about long words and where to put an apostrophe.

 

When these people are confident and secure, your writing workshops will be a delight. Everyone will learn from each other.

 

But if these people use their writing skills to show how smart they are, rather than to communicate, they’ll probably feel threatened by an outsider coming in and challenging their status. They’ll come out fighting, and you can be in for a verbal scrap.

 

So when we suggest that they use a short word that 99% of their readers will understand instead of a long alternative that will leave 15% guessing, out comes the old insult.

 

‘So you just want us to dumb down, then? Do you want our customers to think we’re stupid?’

 

What to do

 

Avoid a head-on fight, but do gently challenge their views.

 

Listen to their points, then show them that it all comes down to clarity. Is it more or less clear to write the way they’re used to doing it, or in the new way?

 

They need to see that the new way is better, and harder to do. It’s not easy to write simply.

 

Have plenty of examples ready. Show how the best experts explain complicated things clearly. Explain that you can still sound intelligent without boring the socks off (or losing) your readers. Show how good writers vary long and short words – and long and short sentences – to make their points clearly.

 

And always get them thinking about their audience. Every message needs to be as clear as possible. Once they realise that simple, clear language is the best way to get messages across – and that their new tone is all about this – they just might come round.

 

2. I love it, but my manager would never let me write like this

 

What’s this really about?

 

There are two reasons that people give this excuse. The first is that their managers really don’t like it. The second is that they don’t like it and are using their managers as an excuse – see point 3 for advice on this.

 

We’ve worked with teams who have taken to their new writing tone brilliantly. They’ve come out with some fabulous stuff over the two days of training, and are enthused and raring to go.

 

Then someone sighs, and a wistful voice says, ‘But what are we going to do about Caroline and Jon?’ There’s a collective groan. They fetch you an example of Caroline’s report writing, or a letter Jon’s written. They’re the complete opposite of everything we’ve been working towards: dull, long, crammed full of business speak and jargon.

 

Your keen new writers will sometimes have to deal with people who think proper writing has to sound ‘professional’ and lean towards sounding pompous and tedious. When these people are their managers, you have a problem.

 

What to do

 

Get the go-ahead right at the start from the toppest of the top. If you get your CEO to write to the whole organisation using the new tone, then there’s no excuse for middle managers to block it. An announcement from a director that sounds as if a real human being wrote it will mean that you can lift this barrier and stick it in the bin.

 

But you can’t go to the CEO every time there’s a hitch. You need team leaders and managers on board too.

 

Get these ‘influencers’ together for an exclusive demonstration of how and why your new brand tone of voice is important. Show some ‘befores and afters’ – including a writing style very close to their own – just to make them think.

 

Run special workshops for team leaders only so that they’re ahead of the game (often their reluctance is based on not really understanding what’s going on) – and look at how to bring important aspects of your new tone into their QA criteria.

 

Accept that one or two will never change. One day they’ll leave.

 

Once your top people ‘get’ the new tone of voice and put their weight behind it, things will take off.

 

3. I’m fine with it, but my manager/customers/colleagues won’t like it at all

 

What’s this really about?

 

This generally means ‘I liked it better before, and I’m not going to change.’ Just make sure that it’s not real (see the previous point) before you set about fixing things.

 

To read on, just download the pdf below…