During my train journey yesterday I was advised that ‘due to the inclement weather, passengers are advised to take particular care when alighting…’
Can this really have happened? Here we are, playing with our smart phones and they’re talking to us like we’re a retired colonel in an Enid Blyton story?
Some people might argue, what’s the harm if the announcements sound a bit old fashioned?
I think that repeatedly using a tone of voice that clearly does not match most passengers has two negative consequences for the train company:
- Some people (children and many people for whom English is not a first language) just won’t understand. So if the intention had been to reduce accidents, the announcements will fail.
- There are several reasons why many people get upset with some train companies in the UK, including prices and reliability. But even if they improve these things, if mine continues to talk to us like a head teacher from the 1950s, at a subconscious level people will not be won over.
How tone of voice loses (and wins) valuable partnerships
Every day corporate fundraisers fail to influence companies because they fail to express the possible partnership from the point of view of the company.
In training thousands of corporate fundraisers over the last ten years, I’ve discovered that doing this well is harder than it looks. If you hold up a beach ball with six segments of different colours in between you and a colleague, you’ll find it’s surprisingly hard to remember to talk in terms of the colours that your partner sees.
And in corporate fundraising, even if you carried out good insight research as to why the company might say yes, failing to pitch in terms of their side of the beach ball is the most common reason otherwise-winnable pitches fail.
On the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme one of the ways we help fundraisers raise more money is by helping them win more pitches.
Last year I worked with a charity that was invited to pitch for the chance to partner with a section of the armed forces, a huge employer.
- Structure. Firstly I recommended a change to the order of her presentation. Like 95% of pitches, she had been planning to use the crucial first two minutes to talk about who the charity was and it’s worthy aims. We switched that round, so that within seconds of starting, she was talking about the other party and what it would gain from the partnership.
- Values. Then we evoked the panel’s likely values. I asked her if she’d ever had a conversation with an officer from this part of the armed forces. She said she had. Once she remembered what he was like, I asked her to think of ways in which his values and language seemed to be different from most civilians’. Key words she came up with were organised, hierarchical, high standards and my favourite, extraordinarily early. She then looked at her presentation and deliberately found ways to demonstrate that her charity would conduct the partnership in these ways.
- Specific words. She now adapted her language to be more in-keeping with this stiff-backboned culture she was pitching to. Can you imagine the kinds of words she added in and the subtle change this had to the underlying message. It started to convey ‘we are alike’.
The result? Her language was no longer a barrier to her good intentions coming through, but another way to help them feel this message. The four person panel heard their own side of the beach ball, and so were not only then open to hearing about what the charity wanted, but also to agreeing to this value. On the spot, they agreed to a three year partnership worth more than £300,000.
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