Articles Tagged with information

What happens when you don’t proofread?

Publishing and marketing move at such a speed that often there’s no time for proofreading.

Even if you don’t worry about commas in the right place or correct use of apostrophes, proofreading ensures that basic information is correct.

This is what happened in several cases where text was not proofread properly:

  1. Editorial staff accidentally mistyped a contact phone number for an event listing so that a private individual was annoyed by nuisance phone calls and the event organiser lost customers.
  2. Marketing staff at a theatre provided incorrect performance dates for a newspaper events guide so readers could have missed out on seeing a production.
  3. A PR agency included the logo of its client in a press release but never referred to it in the text, instead mentioning the parent company. The confusion required research into the relationship between the company and its parent to make sense of the press release.

Getting basic information right is essential. Proofreading often highlights simple but important errors. It also highlights confusion or unclear meaning where the reader has no idea what the writer is trying to say.

How much do errors and confusion cost businesses in lost customers or sales? Is it worth building time for proofreading into production schedules?

Make it easy

With businesses pumping out so much information in press releases, newsletters, blogs and tweets, how much of it is clear?

Clarity is important when readers have so much to read. If they can’t understand something, it needs to be very important for them to take the time to re-read it or contact you for clarification. Most likely they won’t bother and will move on to the next item, possibly from a competitor. If that is easy to read and understand, you’ll have lost out.

When you’re close to your business, you understand the complexities: how everything fits together. It won’t be so clear to someone who doesn’t know your business. Often, people give up if they find something confusing.

Sometimes it isn’t necessary for customers to know about complex issues which are important to the internal processes of your business. If that’s the case, don’t mention them or you’ll add unnecessary complexity.

Where you do have to mention complexity, such as different brands or subsidiaries dealing with different products or services, make sure that these are explained clearly. If not, customers won’t know who to contact about what and they could feel it is easier to go to a competitor.

Why am I writing this? Because I am trying to write about a company which appears to have a similar sister company offering a similar product and I have had to ask them to clarify the set-up. Not everyone would bother to ask.

Up-to-date details

Everything seems to change faster these days, although in reality fashion has always been fickle. Nevertheless, when you publish business information with technical details, prices, dates or statistics, these seem to need updating almost as soon as you look away.

At least with web sites you can often alter details fast. Details to review regularly could include:

  • range of products – have some been withdrawn or are new ones available? Have specifications changed?
  • prices – have these gone up or down and what about the rate of VAT applicable?
  • dates – do adverts for events now passed need deleting or archiving?
  • special offers – are these still applicable or should details be removed?
  • copyright notices, terms and conditions – are these up to date?
  • employee names and titles – are these current? Has anyone left or joined who needs to be deleted/added?

While it is usually easy to amend web sites, printed material can cause more of a problem. If you produce a large annual brochure, it could be expensive to reprint and distribute an amended version just two months after launching the original. Such publications need careful planning to consider the options of a separate, smaller price list that can be reprinted at minimal cost without reproducing the whole brochure.

What is most important is to have up-to-date information available at all times and to show that you review and amend your material regularly. Changes to information also present opportunities to communicate with potential and existing customers to tell them about new products, events or special offers. By letting people know you have updated your web site you can attract more visitors to it and generate more sales.

After our last blog, are you focusing on what you can actually do now to develop your communications?

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When you need information from busy people, tap into their enthusiasm

When you need information to be able to do a job but someone is too busy to give it to you or just never gets round to doing it, try tapping into their enthusiasm.

People love talking about their likes and are pleased to have a keen listener, so try to catch them over a cup of tea or a drink for five minutes and ask them about activities they like talking about. Take a genuine interest and ask them questions so that they talk about what you need to know.

Instead of making them sit down to spend time thinking when they don’t want to, you’ll be conducting an informal, enjoyable interview to achieve the same result.

They will feel good because they’ve had an opportunity to talk about what they do to someone who wants to listen to them and because you’ve got rid of one more task for them. You will feel good because you have the information you need and can get on with your job.

What’s more, it’ll promote better understanding in your organisation, because you’ll both know a little bit more about what you do.

Try it to see if it works.

Pause . . . for thought

In our quest for continuous detailed instant information, so much simply gets lost.

Often, we need to slow down . . . to pause . . . to take stock.

What have we missed that could have been of value to us?

Whether you’re writing text for the page or screen, or speaking to an audience, the pause is an essential tool.

When we’re writing, it helps to break up long sentences, while splitting long passages into shorter paragraphs can help readers to digest content more easily. When we’re speaking, pauses can help to slow us down so that people find it easier to understand what we are saying; they can also help to emphasise key points and to hold the audience’s attention.

So don’t try to fill every square inch of paper with text or every second of a speech with your voice, add pauses to improve your writing and speaking.

Robert Zarywacz

Communication overload causes confusion . . . and prevents understanding

We all suffer from it, because modern technology has increased the quantity and frequency of the communications we receive, while traditional editing skills have been largely forgotten.

When we are overwhelmed by so much irrelevant information, we miss or misunderstand those messages which are important to us.

Every wrong piece of information costs you time, money and reputation:

  • A wrongly delivered product requires you to collect and replace it.
  • A wrong meeting date wastes your time and travel.
  • An unclear press announcement attracts enquiries from the wrong audience – who have no interest in the products and services you provide – while missing the target audience who do want what you offer.

As a result, service suffers, product quality plummets, reputation tarnishes and customers shrink away.

Make yourself understood . . .

. . . so your business runs more smoothly.

Precise and accurate messages enable your people to work more effectively. They reduce your costs and increase quality, because everyone understands what they do and why they do it:

  • The right product is delivered first time to a satisfied customer.
  • You arrive for your meeting on time in a confident frame of mind.
  • Your press announcement attracts the enquiries you want.

Your service is seamless, your products are perfect, your reputation shines and your customers multiply.

Speak clear messages . . .

. . . so that every audience you reach understands you in whatever medium you use:

Employees – are motivated by your newsletters, intranets and all other forms of internal communication.

Departments – work together more effectively with less friction, because everyone understands the importance of good inter-departmental relationships to the overall success of your organisation.

Partners and suppliers – understand your vision and their role within it, so that all your collaborative activities succeed.

Customers – understand who you are and why you are important to them – through your newsletters, speeches, press releases, presentations, web sites, sales letters and face-to-face contact with your people.

Business is understanding . . .

. . . what each of your audiences wants and communicating effectively, so that everyone understands everyone else clearly.

Speak less, say more . . .

. . . with effective, professional written and spoken communications from Zarywacz.

We focus entirely on your message – whether it’s a short sales letter or a company-wide communications programme – to ensure that you are understood.

We aim to reduce the quantity and length of your communications to make them all shorter, sharper and more easily understood – to save your time and money, enhance your reputation and boost your success.

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