Using the Power of the Human Voice

At some point or another in an ancient history class, we’ve all pictured someone chiseling primitive symbols into a rock tablet or scratching words on papyrus. But humans learned to speak long before they learned to write. Writing only developed as a way to capture and preserve what had already been said. And even the greatest writers know that the written word can’t communicate the many subtleties contained in spoken language. Maya Angelou said, “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.”

Do you ever stop to think about the power of the human voice?

We think about it all the time because, well, that’s what we do. It’s why we use voice actors, and not just announcers, to speak on behalf of our clients. Having a “voice” for your credit union can help you create a personal connection with your members. This voice should have a consistent presence in your radio and television commercials. But what about audio or podcasts on your website? What about the voice that greets members, and then thanks them for using your ATM or your mobile banking service? Or when they're in the lobby? What about a warm, friendly voice on your on-hold messaging? Why not update the content regularly with a voice that is familiar to your members?

Dane Archer, a Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, says spoken language contains two different types of communication. There is the actual text - the words themselves, and there is what he calls “vocal paralanguage” - the many, many ways in which those words can be said. “Text,” he writes, “is whatever can be typed on a page. Vocal paralanguage is everything else - intonation, pitch, regional accent, sarcasm, hesitations, truthfulness, emotion, etc.” Think how differently you might speak to your boss, your co-worker, your parents, your spouse, or your toddler. And how almost none of the complexities in tone and attitude would come across if you read the very same words rather than speaking them.

On his blog, Daniel Flamberg, Managing Director at the New York advertising agency Publicis Kaplan Thaler, wrote, “The absence of human connection breeds brand defection.” If you rely only on the written word to communicate with members – newsletters, direct mail, billboards, web content – aren’t you missing opportunities to use your voice to create a human connection with them? And isn’t that personal connection one of the main things you have to sell that too-big-to-fail institutions don’t have?

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