A version of this story appeared in Total Annarchy, my fortnightly newsletter that helps you be a better writer, storyteller, marketer. Get it in your inbox; you’ll love it.
* * *
“Hello… My name is David.”
That’s the start of a confirmation email that landed in my inbox recently.
Not surprising, really: I’ve been pestering Marketing Newsletters for a while now to focus less on the “news” and more on the “letter.”
I’ve also been pestering Marketing to develop a non-neutral writing voice in email newsletters. (We’re writing a letter, not reporting a five-car pileup on the freeway.)
But what is surprising is the source of that confirmation email: the NY Times daily news briefing. “David” is David Leonhardt, the newsletter’s newly anointed “writer, host and anchor.”
Why does the NY Times—which already has 17 million online subscribers—need David to “anchor” a newsletter, like a broadcast show?
Why does a company that built its business on the notion that the NY Times brand is more important than any one journalist suddenly anoint a “host”?
Why now, in the midst of Covid-19? And why should you care?
* * *
The fit is hitting the shan everywhere.
If your business is to thrive in 2020, you’ve got to show your face. You’ve got to show up. Lead. Show people who you are.
That’s awkward for some bigger institutions accustomed to keeping their communications comfortably colorless and neutral—more brand, less character.
That’s why we’re seeing too much “dear valued customer” from companies “here for you” during these “unprecedented” times during the Covid-19 pandemic.
And not enough honest empathy. Not enough David.
It’s not that we lack humanity or empathy. It’s that we aren’t used to leading with it.
* * *
Your brand needs a David. Your brand needs an anchor-host, too.
An anchor to lend credibility and build trust; a host to keep the conversation flowing and to top off everyone’s glass. (You good? Need anything?)
And you need it now, because we desperately need credible leaders who show their faces.
The beauty of the NY Times‘s approach is the balance it strikes between colorless and character. Between brand and David.
It’s personable without being personal.
Back to you: Look at your own email newsletter. While you’re elbow-deep, rooting around in there, look at all your communications…
- Does it show up with a non-neutral voice?
- Does it sound like it’s written by someone with a beating heart and actual blood coursing swiftly through actual veins?
And most important: Are you showing up?