The hidden ingredient in every powerful text

The hidden ingredient of every powerful text

I am subscribed to a number of blogs and services.

Probably like you, I get tons of e-mails from people I’ve never met.

They vie for my attention. Some succeed, some don’t. But one stands out.

I got it after signing up for Buffer, a Twitter-related service. Here it is:


I’m guessing it’s not every day that you sign up for a new service. That’s why I want to make sure everything is in place for you to feel welcome and at home. On the slightest whim, please drop us a line or Tweet us @buffer.

I hope you have already got the gist of using Buffer. If there is just one single tip for getting the most out of it, I’d say try the browser extension. I think you’ll love it…

One last thing I want to say is that the whole team are always around, almost 24/7, to reply to your emails. In fact, you can just hit reply to this email or any others you receive from us. Whether you need help, have ideas or just want to say “hello”, we’ll get back to you within a few hours.

P.S. In case you also want to connect with me personally, just Tweet me anytime @joelgascoigne

Joel and the Buffer Team

This text talked me like no other but it took me some time to see what sets it apart.

At first I thought it was its personal style. But while that plays a role, a big one even, it doesn’t explain why other messages take the same approach without the same power.

Also, the e-mail has a very personal feel but it’s certainly not personalized: Joel didn’t write it just for me. It’s a marketing tool. A computer sends it to thousands of people as soon as they sign up. It’s anything but a spontaneous text. More than one person, I am sure, helped refine it.

Yet, the message feels spontaneous and sincere. It feels honest, deeply so. And I think that is great news because it illustrates that we can make a text sincere even when we draft it by committee. What matters is the outcome.


But what then is the marker of such a powerful outcome? That’s what I realised when I contemplated Joel’s e-mail: the person who signs the text has to be perfectly happy with it.

Joel is happy with his text. He loves it. You can hear him celebrate between the lines: “Yes, that sounds like us. That’s who we are. That’s how we want to be.“

A yardstick for all types of text

Everyone who gives his name to a text should feel that way. More than that, we should work with the same yardstick for texts that don’t have a single author but are published in the name of the company.

Here is a mission statement:
By creating value for our customers, we create value for our shareholders. We use our expertise to create transport-related products and services of superior quality, safety and environmental care for demanding customers in selected segments. We work with energy, passion and respect for the individual.

I am not the first person to give this text a bashing and you’ll know why when you find out who’s statement it is. Until then, it sounds like anybody else’s, no? That’s because the people who made it didn’t embrace it. They got it approved but it didn’t impress them. Nor will it impress anybody else, not even the stakeholders and analysts for whom it was written. Like us, they feel that it isn’t real. It isn’t real because no single person would ever think, feel or say things that way.

It has to grab you

A group can engineer the message but the individual has to feel it. Whether you’re the author, member of the writing committee or the manager who approves it – the result has to grab you. It has to impress you and it can only impress you if it’s something you can think, feel or say. You have to be able to say it out loud and not feel stupid. You have to say : ‘Yes, that is us. That is who we are. That’s how we want to be.”

The above statement is by Volvo. I am not proud to keep bashing on it because Volvo has already changed it. But I can think of no better example because we all know what Volvo could be saying.

Their new version isn’t called a statement, it runs under ‘Our Values’. I think it’s better. But how good is it? Check it out. What do you think? Would a single person think, feel or say it this way?

Or what about the separate statement of Volvo’s car group? Much better, if you ask me – and a little closer to something a human being might actually think, feel or say.

We can’t tell Volvo what it wants to be. But if they said: “Our mission is to make the safest cars in the world“ – that does sound like something a single person could think, feel or say.

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