The importance of voice

Does a more personal voice make information more credible? Carrie Brown-Smith writes that, in the news industry, there is some evidence that “a hint of personality” leads to “higher credibility”. She goes on to say:

A recent study by my former Mizzou colleagues Jeremy Littau, Liz Gardner, and Esther Thorson, presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference in Boston last August, found that news with more opinion, voice, and analysis could be key in attracting younger readers. […]

They also tested the impact of voice on what is known in the academy as “political efficacy,” or the belief that you are able to act upon your knowledge.

What they found is that voice increases efficacy, in part because, unlike a dry, authoritative, institutional voice, it better engages your brain. It gets you thinking, actively processing the information, which in turn makes it more likely that you will not only remember this information, but feel empowered to act on it, too.

Understanding what encourages trust is very important indeed. Edelman’s Trust Barometer survey showed that across the board, trust in official channels of communication is declining:

Mirroring the erosion of trust in business this year, trust in every type of source of information about companies and of every type of spokesperson is down in most markets around the world. These lower levels of credibility suggest that business must engage with its audiences through multiple voices on multiple channels, especially since informed publics say they need to hear information several times before they will believe it.

If a more personal voice is key to reversing this decline in trust, then social media is an obvious way to do it. Now this might all seem like stating the obvious, but it’s worth going over this familiar ground. A lot of businesses have yet to shake off their fear of having actual, real humans speaking on their behalf. If they don’t, they’re going to find that a trust divide has opened up underneath their feet, with people trusting companies who are open, transparent and personable and not trusting those who use only corporate managed communications channels.