This quote, or variations of it, have been misattributed to many amazing women throughout history: Eleanor Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe, Ann Boleyn. However, it was actually Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a writer, historian and professor, who wrote these words.
We can understand why the quote has been attributed to the women mentioned above, particularly during Women’s History Month in March when we’re focused on stories of trailblazing women who changed the course of history as we know it. All of the women mentioned fit this description.
If we take a closer look at the women who have been credited with this amazing quote, we see that these women weren't actually not “well-behaved.” This was Ulrich’s point.
Eleanor Roosevelt was much more outspoken than most people expected of a first lady. And while Ann Boleyn may be widely known for her “reputation” as an adulterer, those tales have largely been discredited by historians who uncovered that she took public stances for what she believed. Marilyn Monroe challenged beauty standards, body image and expectations of women.
What do all these women have in common that make people believe they uttered these words? They were bold. They courageously took on establishments, pushed limits and confronted the status quo – each in their own small way.
So how do we follow that lead in our work as public sector communicators? We embrace the value of being bold.
Here are five ways we choose to be bold in marketing, communications and branding work.
Make a bold statement. Be clear and emphatic. Edit out your qualifiers. Don’t be afraid to say “we will do this” rather than “we plan to do this.” Your audience recognizes when you are giving yourself an out. If you don’t hit your goals, own the reasons why and your audience will respect you more.
Take a bold stance. It is okay to take a side. Neutrality is not always our friend. If our organizational values and strategic priorities are well defined, it is easy to find a place to stand on an issue, such as the case of Patagonia’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Simply say “we disagree.” Better yet, show your stance in action.
Try bold language. Don’t be afraid to use a strong word. Instead of “we are proud to announce,” try “we are thrilled at the opportunity” or “we are honored to receive.” Load meaning into your language. The words don’t have to be big. They just have to be bold. Adding meaning and passion to our communications efforts shows the public that (gasp!) government is human, too.
Use bold colors. We love blue. Apparently so do 99% of logo creators. When we decided to embrace JPW’s pink and orange logo, it was with full knowledge that we were making a statement: we are not afraid to be different. This Inc. article on logo color psychology has a great infographic on how the public interprets logos.
Go with bold type. Not literally a bold font. But a different typeface that not everyone is using. When thinking about the word mark that goes with your logo, consider using a distinct typeface that will keep your brand recognizable. It doesn’t have to be over the top. It just has to be different. There is an ongoing joke in the movie industry about poster design – floating heads and Trajan Pro have become so overused they are funny! Consider a type like Montserrat with its unique G or Aquawax with its distinct W. If you are really ready to push the envelope, check out this Welly First Aid identity that perfectly infuses humor into the traditionally serious health industry.
Ulrich actually wrote her famous quote as part of a 1976 article on funeral services. She was illustrating that small, simple acts may be overlooked by history, but those private acts of courage may end up inspiring big, bold changes in the world.
She went on to write the book Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, where she chronicles the experiences of Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other women of history. Each of them teaches us that bold is beautiful and brave.
Vice President, Client Affairs & Creative Strategy