Dial Up the Fun
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Identify when it’s OK to use really casual language.
- Describe the power of storytelling.
- Apply the Salesforce tone to your own writing.
At Salesforce, we strive to use conversational, positive, and helpful content everywhere, but we push it further for some contexts (like Trailhead). In these situations, it may be appropriate to try out things that are unconventional and, frankly, a bit odd.
Some examples of this in Trailhead include:
- A module about cats using Chatter
- An app for managing your space battle station construction projects
- Code snippets involving bears and goats
But remember, adding “fun” to your content is like adding icing to a cake.
It’s more important that you have all the ingredients (a consistent personality and voice) measured and prepared correctly before you reach for the icing. Even then, maybe your audience doesn’t have a sweet tooth or the situation isn’t appropriate. (Like, don't use cupcakes when you're juggling, because you'll get icing on your hands. Eww.)
We vary the level of fun in our content on a spectrum, of sorts. At one end, you’ll find error messages and developer documentation. They’re conversational, but we keep our feet planted firmly on the ground.
Trailhead is way out there on the opposite side. It boldly explores cheeky new nebulae on a rocketship fueled by rainbows and unicorn glitter.
Compare the language used in these different situations:
Error message: You need permission to enable Sales Path. Ask your admin for help.
Release notes topic: Zero in on the news that matters most by using filters. The filters narrow down the list of release notes on the right side of your screen, not the content on the left.
Trailhead: If you’re an administrator, working with the API can be daunting. We won’t go over all the nitty-gritty details in this module, but let’s take a minute to review some basics.
It’s appropriate to use a more lighthearted tone with:
- Certain content types, such as training copy
- Certain audiences, such as general business users
- Certain situations, such as tutorials
It’s better to use a more formal tone when:
- You’re delivering bad news, such as a loss of data
- Your audience is troubleshooting a frustrating issue, such as a known bug
- The content area is highly technical, such as systems integration
Our brains are wired for storytelling. Stories engage our minds in a way that facts and figures alone do not, so we use storytelling methods whenever we can.
Some of our examples include:
- Making APIs easier to understand with a pirate metaphor.
- Increasing the relevance of our release notes with real use cases for admins.
- Embarking on an adventure of data-quality discovery, as the admin at Gelato.
But why are storytelling methods so effective? It’s because we imagine ourselves in situations we hear about (even if they’re fictional). It’s easier to relate to a real-world experience than to numbers on a spreadsheet.
Storytelling is also an amazing way to persuade people about the value of your message.
Does this mean that you should give every memo an origin story? Or that your company's new payroll policy is an ideal place to inject your angel-vampire fanfiction? Probably not.
But it wouldn't hurt to consider these tips to improve engagement with your writing:
- Use analogies to make complicated ideas easier to understand.
- Tie your writing to a real-world experience or problem that your audience can relate to.
- Address your audience directly, using "you" and "we."
- Use a simple story about yourself to drive home an important point.
Visuals add personality and help break up long blocks of text. Often they also are the best way to quickly describe complex concepts or highlight things in a user interface.
For example, this section excerpted from the Formulas & Validations Trailhead module introduces formula fields.
And this GIF illustrates the iOS REST flow.
If you want to use some humor, go for it. But it's not required. Content that is conversational, concise, and clear will always be better than a joke that falls flat. But if you decide to go for the laughs, follow the guidelines we established for Trailhead.
The jokes in Trailhead are:
- Never sarcastic
- Used sparingly
Please don't make jokes about Grandma or Mom, unless you also plan to make a joke about Grandpa and Dad. Keep it inclusive. And remember Grandmas are rad, too.
Well, there you have it! Remember...
- Stay true to your organization’s personality.
- Put yourself in your audience’s shoes.
- Adapt your tone to the situation.
And don’t be afraid to add humor when it’s appropriate.
Above all, remember to be conversational, brief, and empathetic. Start there, and you’ll be on your way to greatness. Now go forth and write!