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I’ll Tell You What I Want (What I Really Really Want)

In the February 19th closing Broadway performance of Chicago, the female lead playing Roxie Hart broke character. Personally, I’ve seen actors break on occasion, due to a prop malfunction or an audience interruption. It’s not funny, the way it is when SNL cast members break – in fact, it upsets the context and fluidity of the show.

What made this moment unique is that it was pre-planned and purposeful. Mel B, the former Spice Girl playing Roxie Hart, stopped mid-scene to sing a line from the Spice Girl’s hit song Wannabe. The audience cheered, the show went on, and plenty of press and Broadway regulars weighed in. Most agreed that the break was unnecessary, unwarranted, and unprofessional.

Don’t let your website break character

The first time I heard the phrase “content strategy” was in a UIE talk by Kristina Halvorson. She showed some examples of pages from the Ben and Jerry’s website, with its well-defined brand voice, and then one page with a completely different type of language: a legal, formal, un-Ben-un-Jerry voice. She showed us how important it is for a website to sound consistent.

Personally, I prefer the improvisational moments in theater, when something goes wrong and the actors are so in-character that they’re able to go with the flow and fix the error, with no one the wiser unless you’d memorized the script (guilty as charged). Your web presence should be equally strong. If the brand voice is clearly outlined and well understood, copywriters, social media managers, and content marketers will be able to improvise on Twitter or in customer service situations, without ever breaking character.

Don’t be Scary Spice.

Marli Mesibov

Marli is a content strategist with a passion for the user experience. Her work spans websites, web applications, and mobile. Marli is the director of content strategy at the UX agency Mad*Pow, and she serves as managing editor at UX Booth, a publication about all areas of user experience. Marli is a frequent conference speaker, and has spoken at conferences including Content Strategy Forum and LavaCon. She can also be found on Twitter, where she shares thoughts on content strategy, literature, and Muppets.

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