The importance of words — Do you mean what you say when you say what you mean?
By Jeffery Hoyle
Emphasis Marketing & Communications
When it comes to marketing efforts, words have tremendous influence toward promoting your brand to your core demographic. Disappoint them, and you can kiss your credibility goodbye.
Words. We use them every day in one form or another. Spoken, written, read — words are a part of almost every activity we do in a given day. We often “use our words carefully,” as the old adage suggests. Still, sometimes we forget that ideal and use our words in a way that does not truly convey the truest essence of what we mean. Or sometimes, our words mean something other than we truly intend. Are you following me? No? Okay, then here goes:
Sometimes, our words just flat out constitute a lie. There, I said it.
Now, I am not saying that it is always our intention to misuse our words. But sometimes, in certain situations, we feel it is our only recourse. One of the most common situations when we misuse our words (I prefer the term “misuse words” as opposed to “lie”) is when we market ourselves or our business. In the financial services industry, being above reproach is a key to being credible to our peers as well as our clients. And especially when it comes to your marketing efforts, you should always adopt a policy of honesty being the best policy.
I had a client a couple of years ago who came to me with a dilemma. She had been touting her skill set as being broader than it was. The problem was, a reporter was doing some background work for an industry magazine profile on her, and it was discovered that her claims were not completely above board. Her “MBA” was nothing more than an associate’s degree, not to mention that her work with a “Fortune 500” company actually equated to nothing more than a clerical role at a small subsidiary of said company. Shocking? Not really; statistically at least. Seventy percent of individuals have some untruth on their resume. Definitely a sign of word misuse, but does not do much for one’s credibility.
Anyway, back to my client. She was worried that this news getting out would be the end of her business, which it potentially could have been. However, oftentimes a preemptive strike can head off bad press at the pass. My advice to her was to throw herself on the sword and share this revelation with her clients before someone else did the job for her. As difficult as that would be, it was the only way she could possibly save face. We drafted a carefully worded letter outlining what her indiscretion was, offering a sincere and heartfelt mea culpa, and giving the clients the option to speak with her directly if they felt any further explanation was necessary. The response was as could be expected; a number of clients could not live with the misuse of words, while others appreciated the admission, and, in spite of it, were satisfied with the quality of work done by my client on their behalf. The business and a part of her reputation were saved.
Would I call this a win? Absolutely not. Had our lofty advisor opted to be honest with her words up front, this whole exercise could have been avoided. I use this example just to further the idea that our words, in whatever context, matter when it comes to being viewed as credible. No matter what the circumstance.
So we have discussed misuse of words in reference to the individual. Now let’s talk about it in relation to a business. As we all know, competition in the marketplace is, at times and for lack of a better word, vicious. Cutthroat tactics are not outside of the norm in business; but how you choose to cultivate the image for your business is paramount if you want to be the last one standing.
As we have already stated, honesty is the best policy, and in the end, your business will only benefit from such an approach. When it comes to marketing efforts, words have tremendous influence toward promoting your brand to your core demographic. Disappoint them, and you can kiss your credibility goodbye.
Put yourself in the shoes of your client. Would you want to work with someone who has a sketchy record when it comes to business promotion, and an even sketchier record of self-promotion? Of course not. So why should your clients have to face such a choice? Being above board is not rocket science; it is really just common sense. And by the simple effort of choosing your words carefully and backing them up with integrity, you and your business can flourish. One of those other adages that come to mind is: “Our word is our bond.” Do you mean what you say when you say it? If you currently don’t, you should rethink your strategy.