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.

What are people saying about you?

WhisperWhen you are running a business what people say about you is really important.  You can’t afford not to care what people say – your reputation is on the line.

Warren Buffett said “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to lose it.”  In today’s world a single tweet, a comment on Facebook or thoughtless update on LinkedIn or Google+ can result in total disaster.  Going viral takes seconds and people love things that show how bad something is; it’s so much more interesting than something at the excellent end of the scale.

So how much attention to you pay to what people are saying about YOU?  Do you monitor social media for mentions?  How do you keep up with what people have said whilst you’re away from your computer?  There are various tools for checking up on what people are saying from monitoring Twitter for your company name (and maybe your personal name too) to setting up Google Alerts to notify you every time you’re mentioned.  Then you need to pay attention and respond.

Some large organisations employ someone to watch out for mentions and respond to both positive and negative comments.  It gets them brownie points in being responsive to customers and allows them to sort out problems quickly.  Being aware of the possibilities is the first step and you don’t have to be a big business to do it.

The other side of the coin is to ensure that there are many positive mentions out there.  Keep your social media up-to-date, post good quality information, useful advice, tips and suggestions and you will gradually build your reputation for being an authority on your subject.  This not only gives you a raised profile, but actively encourages people to share what you’ve posted giving you ‘good press’ by association.

Start actively influencing what people are saying about you by generating lots of positive information and monitoring mentions so you can respond and fix problems fast.

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