The One Piece of Personal Branding That You Are 100% In Control Of – And Often Stuff Up

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voicemail stuff ups - woman looking shocked at her mobile phoneBusinesses spend thousands of dollars getting their logos right. They agonise with Feng Shui experts and psychologists over the exact shade of tangerine for their corporate colours. And they send their designers into feverish paroxysms over the exact font selection that matches the feeling they want to convey.

They hire fabulous copywriters to present their business in the best possible light – honing their story and their service offerings until they are crystal clear and compelling.

Everything is polished to within an ounce of perfection (or gram if you are metrically minded). And then …

“Yeah – this is Joe Bloggs from XYZ company. Sorry to have missed your call. Leave your number.” … Click

Death by Voicemail

This one tiny step of personal branding manages to flush all those thousands of dollars of investment as quickly as a teenager with their first credit card.

Your voicemail message is often the first contact between your client and you. How you sound can be the difference between landing the job and missing out.

Voice Mail Deadly Sins

After being on the receiving end of a few thousand voicemail messages over the years, my totally non-scientific study shows that usually voice mail messages fall into one of four types:

1. Bored Barry

Bored Barry sounds like they have just sat through 4 days of continuous primary school band rehearsals (when they don’t even have a kid in the band, and the school Wi-Fi is down – so they can’t escape into the interwebs).

Bored Barrys sound as if you leaving a voice mail message – and by extrapolation them returning your call – is about as exciting as the prospect of another 4 days of musical torture. You just want to put them out of their misery and not bother them – so you call someone else.

2. Muffled Mary

In contrast to Bored Barry, Muffled Mary sounds super-breathless – as if she is recording the message while she is on run from the police (or at least a member of the P&C trying to get her to volunteer to run the next cake stall). Her words all jumble together, and you can’t work out what she is saying with the background noise and the heavy breathing.

You go into routine and hope that what she has asked for is your name and number and not whether you wish to volunteer your soul to eternal damnation or to bake a double choc mousse cake or cupcakes.

Muffled Mary gives the impression that everything is last minute, urgent and rushed – which may not be the right impression that you want to share with your clients who are looking for care, attention to detail and a smooth process.

3. Melancholy Miranda

Hearing Melancholy Miranda’s message has you reaching for a truckload of tissues and chocolates. She sounds as if Harry Potter’s Dementors have taken residence in her office – with all joy and happiness something that is a very faint memory. Her voice alternates between dead flatness and a stifled sob.

With Miranda you feel that you will be dealing with a Drama (capital D) Queen (capital Q). Often you just want to conjure a Patronus and head out of there to find someone more joyful to work with.

4. Over-pronunciating Tony

The Tonys of this world clearly – articulate – every – syllable – of – their – message. They speak excruciatingly slowly and would make their school drama coach proud of them. They also give the impression of being so detail focussed that you will never get an end to your project. They seem like they sweat the small stuff that lives on the small stuff – and seem stuffy and boring.

7 Tips to Give Better Voicemail

  1. Your voicemail should be a continuing reflection of your brand. If your brand is professional, it should sound professional. If your brand is warm – it should sound warm. And if your brand is bubbly and left-field – that is exactly how you should sound.
  2.  When recording your message, look at someone (even of that someone is a photo of someone you care about). Your voice softens and you sound more conversational when you speak with someone rather than thin air.
  3. Watch your words. Do you really want to say the same thing as everyone else? Your message can point people to your website or express sincere emotion as well as cover the standard – “Please leave your name and number” section. Write out what you want to say to make sure that you don’t trip over your words when you are speaking.
  4. Check your recording location. Road noise, bathroom echoes or noisy meeting rooms are not the best locations to record your messages. Find somewhere quiet and private for your recording.
  5. Give timeframes. People want to know when to expect calls back. In your message give anticipated return call timeframes and do your best to meet those timeframes.
  6. Don’t expect a one-take wonder. Even professional voice-over people need a few takes. Keep going until you get a voice-mail message that reflects your brand.
  7. Keep it current. Remember to remove all holiday/out-of-office messages as your first priority on the day you return. Pop it into your diary before you leave so you don’t forget and have your voicemail telling people you are still in Bali racing off Ketut or Rhonda when you have been home for 6 weeks.

Ingrid Cliff


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Ingrid Cliff

Ingrid Cliff is the Chief Word Wizard (aka copywriter) with Heart Harmony Communications.With over a decade of experience in internet marketing combined with a degree in psychology, Ingrid leverages the power of words to create change and get results. Ingrid also provides one-on-one mentoring to small businesses.
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