Your language affects your reputation

photo courtesy of David Tipton

photo courtesy of David Tipton

I’ve just read a book that was quite good, but the author used the word ‘discreetly’ from time to time – except that most of the time it was spelled ‘discretely’, which means something completely different*.  A couple of times it was spelt correctly, but it really irritated me and my mind went off along the track of ‘Why didn’t the editors pick it up?  Maybe she has self-published and didn’t bother to have it edited.’  Then I was looking for other errors (and I found quite a few) – it spoilt the book for me.

What has this got to do with you?

I know people who maintain that blogging is an ‘informal environment’ and that perfect English (or any other language) grammar, spelling and punctuation are not that important; it’s all about the content.  I disagree.

When your reader comes across a misspelling it’s likely to stop them reading.  A second or two is enough – they lose their train of thought and connection to your message.  In a book it’s annoying – but you’ve already paid for that so the publishing company has already got your money.  In copy that is part of your marketing it can be the difference between getting a new customer or not.

If your reader is looking for help in the area you specialise in – and finds your blog interesting ideally, you would hope they’ll get in touch.  If there are a few irritating errors they may think twice.  Errors on a website or marketing brochure can leave them wondering if the poor attention to detail is likely be replicated in the service offered.  The interesting fact about this is that it’s not always a conscious thought process, we get the subliminal message and, even if the content is interesting, something stops us pursuing it any further.

Different strokes for different folks

The style of language you use is important too.  This is where I make no excuses for referring back to that number one essential in any marketing plan – know your audience!

If you’re talking to company directors your language will be different to talking to sports professionals.  If you’re talking to holistic therapists your language will be different to that you use for communicating with owner/managers of small businesses.  This doesn’t mean you have to be inauthentic, but you do have to ‘talk their language’, not just by referencing things they relate to, but in style and tone too.

If you don’t know who your audience are it can be difficult to get this right.  Being too informal with a formal audience (or vice versa) can make them feel uncomfortable.  You don’t work with people that you don’t feel comfortable with – in the reader’s mind they see you as ‘not our type of company’; which is not the reputation you want to generate.

Getting it right

If you’re writing to promote your business then don’t start off stressing about your spelling, punctuation and grammar.  Start with an image in mind of your ideal client and write your message just for that one perfect customer.  When you’ve got the focus right things get easier.  When you’re happy with the content THEN proof read for stray apostrophes, typos, spelling errors, etc.  If you’re not great at English find someone who is picky about this and get them on board as your proof reader – even if you have to pay a fee for it, it’s worth it for the value in preserving your reputation.

*Discreet – careful, reliable, not likely to share information inappropriately, taking action in a way that doesn’t attract attention.

Discrete – separate or distinct from another.

How shiny is your reputation?

Walking by the sea tracks

When was the last time you did a reputation check?  Do you know what people are saying about you – good and not so good?

Most of us work hard, are nice to our customers and deliver good quality goods and services – but is that enough to create a great reputation?  If you think about it, you know of people who have made a lot of money and are very high profile – and yet you know other people who deliver the same services and are struggling to get by.  It doesn’t mean that they aren’t as good, in fact, often they are actually a bit better.  It just means that their reputation has reached far enough to gain critical mass.

Growing a list

You’ll hear online marketers saying ‘the money is in the list’ and they’re right.  The more people that know about you and hear good things about you, the further your fame spreads.

  • If you have a list of 300 people those 300 may think you are amazing, but only them and a few of their contacts know about you.
  • If you have a list of 50,000 that’s going to mean a huge number of people are listening to what you say.

The first few hundred can be challenging, but there will come a point where your systems gather interest from more and more people.  If you know how to grow a list of 50,000, then the next step to 100,000 is pretty easy.  Now you’ve got critical mass.

Social success

There is a lot of controversy over whether social media is trivia or power.  Both can be true depending on how you use them.  If you share value to your target audience people will follow you and like and share your posts.  The secret is in having a strategy and a plan of action, then sticking to it.

That means regular material being made available and sharing it with as many people as possible.

This might be blogging regularly then sharing the blog link with your Twitter followers, Facebook Page community, Linkedin connections, Google+ circles and pinning the image on Pinterest.  It might be sending the blog to your list as a newsletter, it may be talking about it at networking events or running a webinar on it.

The other side of the social media coin is engagement.  If you sit in a corner and don’t talk to anyone at a live networking meeting you won’t get anywhere.  The same applies online.  You need to be active and engage with people in your target market and other people who supply that market.

Recommendations and testimonials

People can recommend you on LinkedIn, customers can give testimonials to you that can be used on your website and marketing material, other people can recommend you in Tweets and posts on other platforms.  All these contribute to your reputation.  Do you ask for feedback on your services and products?  You should!

In the offline world

Everything you do offline counts too.  The quality of your business cards and marketing material, the effectiveness of your 60 second presentation, how you look and behave – they all have an impact and help people to form an impression.  How much help do you give people who need it?  How friendly are you?  How well-organised do you appear?  It all contributes to your reputation.

How does this affect my reputation?

Try typing your name into Google (other search engines are available!).  Even if you have a name that is quite common, the number of mentions you get on the first few pages will give you an indication of how you’re doing, unless your name is Tom Cruise or Jennifer Aniston!  If you have a famous name try your name and your main keyword.

Most people are surprised to find that their business website is lower down the list than their social media activity.  That’s because sites like Facebook and LinkedIn have so much activity that they are under constant surveillance from the search engines.  Your website activity is likely to be minuscule in comparison, so the search engines will only visit from time to time.

The more positive material that is visible to the world, the better your reputation will be and the further it will reach.


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