Are You Brave Enough to be Brilliant?

One night last week, I picked up a message on my home office phone and was blown away because the caller left such a terrific message I was mesmerized into listening to his every word.

What did he do so well? I’ll sum it up in three words – Conviction, Originality, Believability.

From the moment his message started I could tell that when this guy called me, he was stoked!  His enthusiasm was evident in every syllable  that crossed his lips and yet, there was nothing obnoxious or over the top in his delivery. He sounded like a life long friend, sitting across a table, sharing the secret of his happiness.  He spoke with utter conviction.

His delivery broke – or more accurately – rewrote many of the rules about business messaging-  and thank you for that!  He was interesting and personable.  He made a brilliant use of pauses and even breathing to help communicate his point.  No jargon, no cliched acronyms.  He put his pitch in such simple terms that it was unlike any business message I’ve heard in very a long time.  And he was believable.

But what I truly loved, was that his message was a recording and if it hadn’t been delivered at 11:00 at night I never would have guessed. And that’s what got me so excited. It wasn’t just a brilliant message,  it was a brilliant recorded message. I want every recording that our clients make to be as good as that message.

So, what was the secret sauce that made it so good? 

I would say there were three things anyone responsible for scripting or creating a recorded message needs to layer onto the basics, if they want to do something really good.

Own Your Subject.  That might sound like a no-brainer, but I’ll happily debate the point with you.  Having listened to thousands of client produced voicemails and helped with the scripting of at least a few hundred, I feel pretty comfortable saying this.  Most of the messages are written by people who either don’t really understand what they’re writing about or they just don’t believe in it.  Think of how many overworked marketing juniors have been forced to pound out emails and craft messages extolling the virtue of some event without clearly understanding the content.  A great message starts will totally owning the subject matter.

Write/rewite. Record-re-record. After you write – rewrite and keep at it until every word and every pause has a reason to be there and you’ve killed any word that doesn’t contribute to SELLING your call to action.   Now you can move onto your first recording.  Record a couple of takes and then listen – not to choose the best one so you can go on to something else.  Listen to your messages so you can figure out what you need to do better. Be picky.  Go for perfect.

Be Brave  When I worked in advertising I can remember one of the very best writers (who had numerous awards to his credit)  explaining to me (the totally clueless junior) that only brave clients got brilliant commercials, because brilliance ALWAYS requires a risk.  Brilliance is never the safe choice.

I believe that a lot of our clients don’t really try to make the best possible message because they’re more interested in playing it safe.  They don’t try to convince the person on the other end of the phone that it isn’t a recorded message, because they fear that a lousy job of it might turn people off.  In over ten years of working on voicemail campaigns I have never once heard a complaint that a message worked too hard to sound real.

So – would you rather be brilliant or boring?

2 thoughts on “Are You Brave Enough to be Brilliant?”

  1. Ruth Mackintosh

    Hi Susan,

    I saw this article on LinkedIn. I like it.

    Anyway, thought I’d point out a typo for you, ” A great message starts will [with] totally owning the subject matter.” I’m an editor at heart, and always appreciate when people spot my typos and broken links.

    I trust all is well with you. Happy 2013!


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