FRIDAY 21 JUN 2013 10:21 AM


Yesterday, at London’s Glaziers Hall, a trio of brand experience directors convened to discuss the use of language in corporate communications.

The event, hosted by The Writer, a brand language consultancy, featured Caroline Hobbs from Nationwide, Kat Ward-Smith from O2 and Michael Lenz from Cisco Systems. All had launched initiatives to revamp their use of language for internal or external communications within their respective businesses.

The challenge facing Cisco, a B2B solutions provider, was to translate the writing and insights of a highly technical and highly skilled workforce into clear and understandable communications for the technical layman. Lenz says the company worked with The Writer to develop language guidelines, or a playbook, consisting of overall guidance and localised information in 14 languages.

Lenz says the language used had to reflect Cisco’s business strategies and existing brand. “A lot of this is ensuring there’s a personality that reflects the core values of who we are,” he says.

As the business’ stakeholders are typically not a products’ end user, but another business, the language refinement had to acknowledge Cisco’s position as a trusted technology partner. “It wasn’t about the technology, it was about the business partnership,” Lenz adds. “Are we concerned about being the world champion boxer? No. But if we can be the coach and own the gym.”

Ward-Smith spoke on O2’s lauded personable Twitter account and approachable language. Two of The Writer’s employees even acted out the often-misinterpreted slang conversation on the company’s Twitter feed, to the delight of the audience.

The trio agreed that while determining the guidelines for use of language was important, it cannot remain stagnant. Ward-Smith says, “We have to keep evolving, we have to make sure our tone of voice is evolving.”