Verbal vs. written: The same but different

April 15, 2008 at 3:31 pm 3 comments

Helena Bouchez

I just received 1to1 Marketing’s e-mail previewing the May/June issue. I like this magazine a lot and read most of every issue – unlike many others, which barely graze the top of my desk before sliding into the trash. In the e-mail was a link to a podcast titled “Can Online and Offline Channels Get Along?” I’ve been writing a lot on the importance of marrying online with offline channels for one of our clients and so it piqued my curiosity. I fired it up.

Oh. My. God. The sound that screeched forth from my computer was nails-on-a-chalkboard bad. Noise cancellation anyone? Tone control? Moreover, whose idea was it to pass off this recording of a phone interview as a podcast? I listened for a few painful minutes and then bailed out.

This had to be a writer’s idea. Writers are used to communicating in relative silence. We type the words and others read them in similar solitude. And when we read, we “hear” the words inside our heads. Good writers know how to control this; good business writers, for instance, aim for an internal voice that is confident and authoritative.

Once words move from the page onto the airwaves, however, the rules change. That’s because the perception and comprehension of writing and speech are not the same. Written and spoken English are different.

Here are some guidelines for creating good audio assets.

1. To maximize comprehension, spoken words must sound good. Sounding good is the responsibility of the speaker. If you are a writer who is required to express your ideas verbally as well as in written form, get training. If you need a vocal communications coach, call mine. She’s fabulous. (Surprising bonus: Vocal communications training also will make you a better writer. You’ll see.)

2. Trust your ears. Someone must have listened to this recording before it went up. If this were my shop, my response would have been “Gee, it’s a little rough, we really need to fix it. Let me find some software or a partner who can help.” I wouldn’t have let it go up as is. No way. Someone like me might blog about it!

3. Test and learn. If this was recorded over the analog phone line and it didn’t come out very well, next time try Skype. Or ooVoo. Experiment. And even if it’s meant to sound homegrown, keep the standards on the high side. Today’s professional information consumers (read: marketers) have very sophisticated ears. That means your recording is probably not good enough to post unless it’s pretty darn good.

Good: 1to1 Marketing Magazine, a well-written and useful source of information for readers. Better: Well-produced audio-based communications vehicles that match the publication’s high standards.

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Entry filed under: Missteps.

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