The point of thought leadership pieces is to engage your audience, not annoy them. Yet many pieces written by the communications teams of organisations fail to inspire because they are too ‘male’ in their tone. This is backed up by research published by agency Linstock Communications that shows that most firms use a male tone in their work.
- Nearly two-thirds (63%) of content produced by financial services firms has a male tone of voice.
- Four-fifths of content produced by law firms has a male tone.
- Engineering and architecture firms have an even split between the male and female tone in their content.
- In the charity sector, the balance swings the other way: 56% of content uses a female tone of voice.
Percentage of thought leadership content displaying overall male/female characteristics
Mind your language
Discussing how comms professionals could create better content, Simon Maule, director at Linstock Communications, says: “Before writing a piece of thought leadership content, PR professionals may benefit from taking a step back and thinking about what they’re hoping to achieve with their work. If the answer is genuine audience engagement and collaboration, our research suggests that they need to think carefully about the tone of voice they’re using.
“A male tone of voice tends to be assertive, using language that is typically dominating and more forceful – an approach that often discourages wider discussion and response. A female tone of voice is more affiliative and seeks to connect with the reader, which may help to drive audience engagement.
“Given that the purpose of thought leadership is now more about driving collaboration and demonstrating fresh thinking, businesses need to seriously consider the tone of their content.”
Five top writing tips
Linstock sets out five ways firms can tone down a male bias in their writing:
- Hedge statements more
- Embrace greater description and longer sentences
- Use language to acknowledge concerns and build relationships
- Look to other sectors for inspiration
- Test your thought leadership content with key audiences
So taking this advice, we hope you don’t feel this article has been too bossy in its tone, and we welcome your feedback!
Linstock analysed 100 pieces of thought leadership content available online from leading firms in the financial services, management consulting, law, engineering, architecture and charity sectors. For consistency, it used executive summaries or excerpts closely resembling introductions or summaries. The content was run through Jaasuz, an online tool which detects the gender characteristics of language.
Linstock also surveyed 80 board members, plus communications and PR heads, directors and practitioners. Respondents came from sectors including financial and professional services, third sector, higher education and the public sector.
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