February 27, 2012
Abysmal writing in business is a terrible thing. Besides being unpleasant to read, it can instantly strip away your credibility as a cause, a brand or a company.
Sure, the advertising and retail world take a little license to play with the English language to make a point, or to create a more powerful message. But that’s intentional, so we give it a pass (to a point).
Bad spelling, misuse of words, or flat out bad grammar can hurt you. It makes you look unprofessional. It makes your message look careless and sloppy. Organizations looking to print, publish or launch something online, thinking perhaps they’re saving a few dollars by writing it themselves, well, they’re not saving anything in the end. They’re losing credibility. They’d be much better served by calling the people out there who make a living doing it.
Here’s a striking example. I got a letter from a local not-for-profit organization, working to protect open space. The header sets the tone for the entire piece, screaming, “DO NOT EXCEPT FALSE CHOICES ON TAXES”. Later in the letter, there’s a sentence saying, “If you were lead to believe…”
The entire letter is riddled with errors- grammatical, spelling, bad word usage. It’s embarrassing. The letter is signed by a Ph.D and a Lawyer. So either they never took the grammar unit in high school, or perhaps a volunteer wrote it- who knows. The point is, they signed it. If your name is on it, you need to read it.
The other thing to avoid is superfluous formatting: excessive use of capital letters, colors, underlines and bold type- by emphasizing lots of things, they end up featuring nothing. It’s just ugly and sensationalistic. This seems to be a common, yet unfortunate method many direct mailers use to try to get our attention. It does. But not in a good way.
This is an extreme example, but I can’t tell you how often I see grammatical and misspellings in business and upscale retail communications. If you have a brand to protect, and an important message to share- take the time to make it good. Your message will resonate if it’s written well. Or at least have a fighting chance.
The unfortunate mailer:
February 22, 2012
Sirius XM radio is not my friend anymore.
I broke up with them- a result of economizing and lack of usage. It wasn’t a friendly break-up.
It started out nicely. They kept me going for almost 6 months with incentives to continue the service. I thought it was a great customer retention strategy. When I first tried to cancel, they offered a discounted price for 3 months of service. I said no, thanks. They offered a better price. I said no again. They offered 3 months free. I said yes- why not? This happened twice- each time when I tried to cancel.
At the end of the second 3 months, they billed me about $80 for the following quarter. I sent back the bill asking for the account to be cancelled instead. They started calling my cell phone. The first time they called, they said, “are you aware that there’s a remaining balance of $12.99 on your account?” I cleared that up by telling them I was cancelling my service, and owed nothing. They said I’d have to call a different department to deal with that. So I thought, that’s ok- they’ll see my cancel request in the mail, and sort this all out.
They started calling my cellphone a few times a day. Then 4-8 times of day. Sometimes as late as 9 or 10pm. Each time, with the same, “are you aware…” Over, and over, and over. This happened over a period of several weeks. Every time I’d get home from work and try to call, they would be closed. Finally, I got through- and told them, the calls need to stop. I owe you nothing. You are harassing me. They said, so sorry- we’ll put you on the ‘do not call’ list, take the charges off your account-but it may take a few days.
Several more weeks of stalking followed. The 888 number popping up on my cell phone at all hours of the day- until in frustration, I’d pick up and say, ‘stop stalking me!’.
Eventually, it did stop.
But it was harassment- seriously so.
Clearly, they are desperate to keep subscribers. Early on, the great offers were a wonderful way to surprise and delight, and keep me going- it actually kept me on the service for 6 months longer than I intended. The endless calls with telemarketers that had no idea that I’d already been called a zillion times, were just about the most abhorrent telemarketing onslaught I’ve ever encountered. When I asked one of them why they kept calling, he said, “I’m sorry- a number just pops up on my screen and I have to call it”. They have no idea of the history, of the customer, of the situation. A number just pops up.
This is the antithesis of everything we stand for when we talk about customer service. It’s not going to win anyone back. You have to wonder what XM’s marketing department thought they were going to accomplish in the long-term, by bilking people out of $12.95 as final hurrah, as they sever the relationship. I can picture a bunch of marketing folks in a room, trying to come up with creative ways to make the quarter’s sales goals.
Not a good way to go, Sirius XM, not a good way to go.
February 2, 2012
How many pictures do you take in a year? Now that we all have smartphones- it’s probably thousands. Tens of thousands, for many of us. But how often do you actually print them? I find that now that everything is digital, I print less and less. I don’t feel the pressure to print and share, and make albums, because I can so easily share my albums online or on facebook, in the instant (and for free).
But sometimes it’s just nice to have a few prints for your mom, for your office- or for the holidays. Well, there’s an app for that. A bunch of them, actually. We’ve been able to share and order prints online for years, but this makes it easier. And a lot more fun.
Sincerely.com has apps for both iphone and android. The newest is Sincerely.ink, launched last fall. With the app, you can create and send a customized print card with photos and your personalized text, for about what it costs to buy a generic card at the drugstore.
Postagram allows you to simply send prints directly from your phone- via email, facebook, twitter- or mail.
My new favorite is the PopBooth app. You can take photos on the fly and turn them into a photo strip- choose color, black and white or sepia- or overlay color filters, and then send prints, email or post your photo strip online. It’s fun stuff. Check it out.