Finding A Company's Communications Style

How do you find your style as a company?

Here are key elements:

  1. First, know and name the emotional tone of your primary communications -- if you don't know, name the emotional affect of, say, your website. Does it upset? Soothe? Inspire? Does it evoke sex (beer ads) or a calm moment (sleeping pills) or both (chocolate)? Does it evoke love (greeting cards) or activism (charity)?
  2. Know your narrative -- your company (or your idea) is a place where something happens. A simple example: "Kathleen started her own agency so she would have the flexibility to move out west." Know your story, Keep it simple, memorable.
  3. Be visual, even jarring -- see image at bottom. Use images and words that are unsettling... and then calming. A good example is almost any photo from the edge of the Grand Canyon.
  4. Make sure that each ad, each image, each written piece strikes your emotional tone. And make it dovetail with your story. Make each item jarring enough to be memorable, but soothing at the finish.

This image is a wonderful example of these principles. I was passing a gallery exhibit at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport last year. I simply snapped a photo of a woman who was having a moment looking at art. What a composition! This image does everything a communications piece should do. It's slightly unnerving (is the woman looking at an ovary or is that a bald man? Wait, is that a real woman or part of the exhibit?). It's also inspiring (wait, are all those forms feminine?) And the more you engage with it the more a theme emerges.

Our minds love it when a theme emerges, a resolution. It's called a "payoff" in plots and in scriptwriting. It's a release. It's easier than you think to do this with your communications pieces.

If you can't quickly name your company style, collect images that arrest you then settle you, as the one above does for me (and for my target audience of educated, artsy, feminine-appreciating, well-traveled individuals).

Pin images that do this for you to your wall for two weeks.

You'll start to see your style. Then you can create an entire communications program around it, and your communications will start to make sense, from the inside out. By their very nature such communications will attract a certain audience. There are things you can do to reach out to that audience, sure, but do begin with a core style.


Kathleen Hurley