Check, check and treble check your business communications
Business Communication – Main Aim
When you’re in the business of communication and generating what are essentially one-off pieces, it’s important to check that everything is correct before going to production. Of course, proofreading and client sign-offs make that process easier, but gremlins sneak in and when they do, their havoc will reign!
What Not To Do If You Don’t Know
Even the most experienced of us need help from time to time and it’s ok to ask for another pair of eyes to scan for things that you’ve missed. Sometimes the obvious is staring at you in the face, waiting to trip you up when least expected and watch you fall from commercial grace.
Learning From My Failures
‘No man is an island’ is a proverb I’ve learnt the hard way. Even when deadlines are looming and clocks are a ticking, make time to ensure all’s correct and ask that buddy to double check. These days, content can be amended online, but the traditional media is ruthless and when ink hits paper, everything is always ‘set in stone’.
Here are two times that things failed spectacularly, by not observing human nature.
The First Failure – Black C**k
In the heady days of regular print advertisements, publication deadlines had to be met and woe betide the owner of the late piece of ‘copy’.
My design practice shared the ground floor offices of an advertising agency (now sadly defunct) and on this particular morning all was not well in the leafy suburbs of Dublin 4. On arrival, I was met with the screams from an account handler of UCD, an important agency client and something was telling me that his mood wasn’t exactly, ‘sunny’.
Tentatively, I asked what was wrong as he thrust the newspaper towards me to review. The ad seemed fine, nicely laid out and promoting the MBA course for the Michael Smurfit School of Business, “Yes …” I quipped “what’s the problem …”, “What’s the f**king problem …”, he answered, his face beetroot red, “Read the address, that’s the f**king problem …”, as his colleagues quietly buried their heads in the morning papers.
So with a straight face, I slowly read the address, duly typeset in the corporate font. ‘UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, Carysfort Avenue, Blackcock, Co. Dublin.’ My composed face, started to churn, as I struggled to keep the laughter in, “Well, well, did you read it, how the hell did that happen …”, “How am I going to explain it to them … Jesus Christ on a bike …”, he wailed, as I slowly shimmed away to the safety of my adjoining space.
And, the mystery is, to this very day, nobody knows how it happened, not the art worker who typed it out on the SE Mac, nor the repro house who outputted the separations (yes, no such thing as emailed PDFs in those days) nor the paper of record, but UCD spotted it, oh yes, and it wasn’t a pretty picture watching the AE trying to explain that one away on the phone. But, seriously, of all the words, Blackcock, you have to laugh!
The Second Failure – Unanswered calls
This one, I have to take full responsibility for and it hurt in many ways, both financially and with my relationship with the client. Like the story before, it centered around press advertising, but this was international and not, a pretty tale!
It was in the days when sets of instructional tapes were big for learning (you know, the type that a pencil was sometimes used for rewinding) and bundled together with fat manuals to justify the price. Well, a shiny new client had requested a full-page ad in the Sunday broadsheets (UK and ROI) to advertise their wares and I was the man to do it. Photoshoots were organised, copy written and the all important sale flashes designed to woo the customers.
I have to say, in a salesy way, the ads looked smashing, not exactly portfolio pieces, but something your mother would be proud to show to the neighbors. The instructions were simple, the Republic of Ireland ad should feature its own free-phone number and the UK of course, its own, otherwise the ads were exactly the same. The call centres would be on standby and everything was tickety boo. Each artwork had its own envelope and with lots of checking (and double checking) were duly dispatched to the respective publications.
Sunday came around and with an interest to how the ads turned out, I purchased a paper. All looked fine, right hand spots, looking good, no … , looking bad. I literally fell to my knees as I read over the wrong free-phone number again and again, yes, you’ve guessed it, the ads were put in the wrong envelopes and the call centre had quiet days with no customers on the lines.
Needless to say, I wanted the ground to swallow me up, there and then. The newspapers were somewhat understanding, somewhat, if you consider a collective bill of £15K, but the client was none too happy, yes the ads were run again, but his language towards me wasn’t something you’d find on his snazzy educational tapes!
As in my opening paragraph, this lesson is all about checking, it’s about using somebody else to scan the things you may have missed and not always trusting in human-steered technology. In all your business communication, make the time to proof new creations, they will always be once-offs and reprints are, expensive!
Invest in the time of a proofing buddy, they can be invaluable in getting things right and don’t rely on the client to perform the all-important process! Yes, signed off proofs and acceptance emails are all very nice at the time, but when the things go belly-up, you’re always the wrong side of getting paid.