I have spookily long fingers.
They are so long, that the eight year-old daughter of a colleague once asked her mother, in hushed tones, whether I was a witch. A proper witch like the ones in Roald Dahl’s The Witches – with wigs, clawed hands, large nostrils and no toes.
For the record, I’m not a Roald Dahl witch. It just so happens that both my parents were quite long and lanky, so I was born with long and lanky fingers.
Because of my fingers, my hands tend to attract attention. Over the years, at least 30 people have asked me whether I play the piano.
I never have.
But I used to play the guitar, when I was a teenager. The highlight of these lessons was when I was cycling to the community centre. My guitar was balanced precariously on my handlebars. (Don’t try that at home.) I collided with a bee coming in the other direction.
The bee got me right in the left eyelid, deposited its sting, dropped dead. I had to turn back, peddling even more haphazardly, with my eyelid the size of a ping-pong ball.
That was the high point. When, after three fruitless years, I decided to stop, my teacher said, “Good decision”.
But I’m off topic. Let’s go back to the hands.
A petty thief?
One day, a colleague at work stopped me and said, “You have amazingly long fingers. Are you a pickpocket?”
Sounds like a bad joke doesn’t it?
Have you heard the one about the pianist, the pickpocket and the witch?
What am I? A panto villain? And why am I telling you this?
Mischief and memorability.
It’s about personality and how that makes you, your colleagues and your company, memorable.
The thought of being a pianist is civilised and sedate. But what has stuck in my mind are the two people who asked whether I was something slightly wicked; a witch or pickpocket.
When they asked me, I laughed out loud. And because the questions got an emotional reaction from me, I still have a clear image of who asked them. Whereas the people who asked me about being a pianist have merged into a blur, even though I was flattered at the time.
The same rule applies to pantomimes. For me the dames and the baddies are always more memorable than the virtuous princes and princesses. They get better costumes, better lines and a bigger reaction from the audience – and that laughter, booing and shouting is linked to how well they are remembered.
What’s in it for your website?
One of the things I often hear from clients is that they feel there is a gap between how they come across as people and how their company’s personality comes across on their website.
Perhaps they feel that to be taken seriously, they need to be serious and ‘good’; a sedate princess or heroic prince, not a naughty witch.
So they don’t let their personality show in the content of their website or blog. Not even a little bit.
Yes, of course, always be professional. But try not to exclude your personality completely when you’re writing about your work.
What does your website really say about your business?
After all, when we are face-to-face with someone, during a meeting or even a pitch, we will show different sides to our characters. That includes humour and irony and even a bit of edginess, depending on the situation and the client.
Have a look at the writing on your website now. Does its tone or style really reflect the character of your business?
I’m not suggesting that you turn your About Page into a pantomime programme. But try not to go to the other extreme and be so formal that readers don’t get how warm / funny / personable / quirky / cheeky you all are. (Delete where applicable.)
Balancing professionalism and personality.
If you’re not sure how to get your company’s character across in a business context, give me a call on 07456 416 475. It’s partly to do with what you say and partly to do with how you say it, including your tone of voice and choice of words.
So wherever you lie on the pickpocket-to-prince spectrum, make sure your writing gives your reader a glimpse of your company’s character.
You’ll be more memorable and more distinctive as result.
PS. No pocket was really picked during the course of this blog post.
Photos by Liz Finlayson / Vervate www.vervate.com.