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Making the Case for a Dash of Audacity

by Katie Mehas

in Voice Values How-To

About this column

Your Right Person is listening. Learning to use your Voice Values ensures you’re speaking the same language. Create. Connect. Converse. (Convert.)

Making the Case for a Dash of Audacity

Despite what my Crayola-colored hair might suggest, Audacity is not one of my top Voice Values.

In fact, it’s pretty far down my list. I tend to favor a measured, cautious approach. Accuracy is more my speed. Slow and steady. Dot my i’s, cross my t’s. Fortune may favor the bold, but brash and brazen give me hives.

It doesn’t help that our current climate here in the United States is basically a tableau of Audacity gone wrong — an endless stream of entirely over-the-top things said or done seemingly with the sole purpose of shocking us until we’ve become numb to the constant onslaught of stupefaction and vulgarity. Can he say that? Is this legal? Is this real?

Audacity done right, though, can bring a punch of humanity to your business — a spark of motivation, a much-needed laugh, a gentle nod to your fellow outsiders. It just takes a light touch and a bit of self-awareness. A nudge, not a slap.

Whether you’re looking to embrace Audacity as one of your top Voice Values or you’re interested in just a pinch for added flavor in your brand conversation, Audacity can be a lot of fun. It’s bold and daring. It’s loud and courageous. It’s…not for everyone.

Or, well, it can be. You just have to know how to use it.

Audacity is an interesting Voice Value because it gives you permission to be who you are, no apologies. You can be Audaciously non-Audacious — brazenly square, in a room full of dance-party unicorn badass babes. There is a rawness to Audacity, a realness and an authenticity, a willingness to see a trend and say, in the immortal words of Arya Stark, “That’s not me.”

In a brand conversation with a softer, gentler feel, Audacity can help you build a sense of urgency.

In some cases, Audacity comes through as playfulness. It’s not necessarily a no-filter nose-thumbing at the establishment — sometimes, it’s a play on words and a refusal to take itself too seriously. Not everyone with a high Audacity value is comfortable with — or interested in — swearing in their business communications. (And not everyone who lets slip the occasional burst of colorful language is sporting a high Audacity value, though it’s often a sign of some Audacious tendencies.)

Audacity shows your readers that you’re not afraid to be authentically you. Sometimes, that presents as a rebellious middle finger at the establishment. Sometimes, it’s a refusal to fall in line with what’s expected or “cool.” It’s rejecting the narrative and replacing it with something that feels more true to you. It takes courage.

Letting loose a tirade of invective is certainly Audacious. Airing your dirty laundry is Audacious. That doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. There are certainly businesses who have built their reputations around scandal and feuds, but I think we can do better.

I recently placed an order with Lime Crime*, a company that positively oozes Audacity. At their best, this comes across as vivacious, enthusiastic, and inclusive of customers who see themselves as outsiders or even outcasts. At their worst, it’s resulted in a mountain of complaints and criticism — not about their products but about their behavior. To be honest, as someone who votes with her wallet, it kept me from purchasing from them for years, and it was only after several glowing reviews from friends that I was willing to give them a try at all. In this case, a little too much Audacity overshadowed their Excellence and actually detracted from the humanity of the brand a bit — a heartfelt mea culpa would’ve gone a long way to soothe their scandals, and I probably would’ve been rocking those badass lipsticks for years.

That’s the thing about Audacity — it’s easy to wear it as an armor when asserting your individuality, but if you don’t pair it with a bit of vulnerability, it can backfire, and what started as authenticity becomes a facade.

So yes, I think a dash of Audacity could do you some good. You can use it to spur your readers into action. It can make them feel included and special. It might make them laugh, or reply with a hearty, “Eff yeah!” It’s empowering — for you and for your readers. But it doesn’t always need to look the same, and it should never overpower the substance of your brand conversation.

So be bold. Be courageous. But, above all, be you. Because you are why your Right Person is here.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

How do you embrace Audacity in your business? Do you see an opportunity to be a little more Audacious, or does the idea make you want to hide under the covers?


*Yes, that’s an affiliate link. While I can’t — and won’t — speak for the actions of the company, I can wear their lipsticks without leaving little kiss marks all over my babies, and that link gives you $5 off if you decide to give them a try.

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