OVERLY MALE TONE OF VOICE HAS DETRIMENTAL EFFECT, SAYS STUDY
During 2017, issues surrounding gender equality in organisations rose swiftly to the top of the corporate agenda. Improvements in company gender balance began, led by UK government directives; more women were promoted to boardroom management level than ever before.
Yet, according to research conducted by thought leadership, crisis management communications and behaviour change PR firm Linstock Communications, companies must now address their content’s tone of voice if considered ‘too male.’
In conducting the research, Linstock Communications analysed 100 ‘thought leadership’ online content pieces from the financial services, management consulting, law, engineering, architecture and charity sectors. Executive summaries or excerpts were run online tool Jaasuz, which detects the gender characteristics of language. Results, according to Jaasuz and Linstock Communications, showed that the majority of firms use an overly male tone in their online content and descriptions.
Jaasuz and Linstock Communications found that, of those surveyed, 58% of firms utilised what is classed by Jaasuz as a ‘typically male’ tone. This is compared with the 37% which were identified as using a typically female tone, and the remaining 5% which were classified as neutral. This split, says Simon Maule, director at Linstock Communications, could have potentially negative consequences. For companies which hope to become established as ‘thought leaders’ in their area, establishing an atmosphere of gender neutrality and advocacy is paramount.
“Many firms could be unwittingly impeding their thought leadership aims by adopting an overly male tone in their content,” says Maule. “This assertive, dominant style of language can often discourage discussion and hinder attempts to deepen relationships with key audiences. This is significant, because content producers have told us they increasingly want to use thought leadership as a means to work in partnership with clients, prospects and key suppliers.”
However, it seems that applying an overtly female tone of voice to content is, according to Linstock Communications, significantly less detrimental to a brand than what a ‘male tone’ can achieve. Maule adds, “If firms are serious about using thought leadership content to drive engagement and debate, they need to consider using more writing traits identified as typically female or adopt a neutral gender approach to meet their goals.”
The findings by Jaasuz see Linstock Communications conclude that content language should be open and more descriptive, using diction to create an open atmosphere primed for debate. “The best content should stimulate further discussion, rather than closing a conversation down by presenting an open and shut case,” says Maule. “Tone of voice is essential to getting that right.”