I scored a victory today. Felt kind of like a senator who’d sponsored a bill and watched it pass into law. It’s a euphoric feeling. And exactly how I felt last year when I convinced my supervisor, a former journalist, to embrace the Oxford comma, AP style be damned. I about fell out of my chair when that happened.
Here’s the deal: CenturyCo is a great company. But we’re 106 years old and serve rural South Dakotans. Of the many words that describe my employer, “edgy” is not one of them.
But that may be changing.
We have a brand voice we must adhere to. It’s professional. Authoritative. Reliable. Those are all good attributes…but they’re not very fun. As the writer, it’s my job to churn out 90% of our collateral. While there is plenty of opportunity for creativity, I’ve never been able to push the envelope quite as far as I’d like because of those strict brand guidelines.
Case in point: I often write job postings for Human Resources. A few months ago, I knocked out a typical post that followed our brand voice to a T. But, just for fun, I also wrote a classified ad that sounded like a dating profile. It started out like this:
If your idea of “a day at the office” includes dirt roads, toolboxes, sturdy boots, and getting things working again, we’re a perfect match! Bonus points if you’re in your element out in the elements.
I thought it was clever as hell even though it was WAY off brand. My supervisor shot it down, as I knew she would. But she was open to having a conversation about our brand guidelines with the Director of Marketing. And that’s what I like about D (not her real name, but close!): she is open to new ideas, like the whole Oxford comma thing (which made me so happy I almost cried; that’s been a battle I’ve lost countless times in the past). In the 15 months that I’ve worked here, we’ve developed a rapport wherein I try to move things in a more creative direction, and she reins me in. But it’s never a hard no; gradually, she has given me more creative freedom. I think this is what’s known as mutual respect—something that has been lacking during most of my professional career.
What a novel concept. I dig it.
Today, we had that brand voice meeting. D had me put together alternative, creative versions of some of our material, including magazine ads, bill stuffers, and the aforementioned If-you-like-piña-coladas-and-gettin’-caught-in-the-rain job posting. We presented it to the Director of Marketing.
And he was all in.
“I’ve wanted to move in a more playful direction for a long time,” he said. “We’ve just never had a good enough writer to make it happen.”
Hell to the YEAH!
He’s got a meeting with the senior management team on Monday and will run it by them. I’m told they’re likely to rubberstamp it without question. As the marketing department, we are basically the brand voice gatekeepers. If we wanna go there, we can go there. Within reason.
So, pretty exciting day for ol’ Mark.
What should be next on my agenda? I briefly considered world domination, but I’ve heard that involves a lot of late nights and I’m a guy who likes to leave at 5:00 on the dot.
I’d settle for a popcorn machine in the office like the one we had at Ye Olde Publishing Company, though…