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Will Your Message Be Understood? Only If You 'Speak Human'! [Slide Show]

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111130-01. Intro

In their book Content Rules, Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman urge us to "speak human" when creating content—whether for websites, email campaigns, or brochures. Here's what they mean:

  • Communicate your brand mission, values, and philosophy in simple terms, using the language of your customers.
  • Speak in a conversational tone, with personality, empathy, and true emotion.
  • Kill corporate-speak, buzzwords, and other language that makes you sound like a tool.

Handley, writing at MarketingProfs, shows us how it's done by profiling an unorthodox $9,500 video project for the About Us section of a Chicago law firm's website.

111130-02. Speaking human is more than language: It's how you interact

Speaking human is more than language: It's how you interact

When you research an attorney online, you expect to see the usual stuffy website components: a formal headshot, an overview of her resume, and a discussion of her expertise. But the Levenfeld Pearlstein law firm decided to add something that better expressed its personable culture: one-minute video vignettes in which lawyers do the unexpected: recount a childhood memory, for instance, or show off a trophy from an annual chili cook-off.

"We saw these videos both as a way to differentiate who we are, and also to start the relationship off right," said Andrea Crews, the firm's director of marketing and business development. "They're a way to tell our story."

As you create innovative content that speaks to your customers in their vernacular, consider the following three things that Levenfeld Pearlstein got right.

111130-03. 1. Start with a goal

1. Start with a goal

"Since the attorney profile pages were among the most-trafficked pages," Crews told Handley, "we knew people were checking us out online before picking up the phone to book an appointment." Those Web pages, then, seemed the ideal place to achieve Levenfeld Pearlstein's goal of highlighting talent and personality before a potential client ever crossed its brick-and-mortar threshold.

111130-04. 2. Strive for a cultural fit

2. Strive for a cultural fit

Levenfeld Pearlstein is an atypical law firm with an atypical tagline: Unusually good. Its corporate ethos places a high value on do-goodery, and the firm has an official "No Asshole" rule against senior partners bullying younger colleagues. The conversationally "human" style and content of the firm's videos is, therefore, a natural fit for its approachable tone.

111130-05. 3. Prep the talent

3. Prep the talent

When you recruit the talents of your team for "human" marketing, give your team members the tools they need to come across as human. Levenfeld Pearlstein avoided on-camera awkwardness by providing attorneys with 40 suggested topics—ranging from personal passions to professional philosophies. That ensured variety and allowed each attorney to stay in her conversational comfort zone.

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Christian Gulliksen is a writer who has authored several of the Get to the Po!nt newsletters for MarketingProfs. A former editor at Robb Report, he has also contributed to Worth, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter.

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