Proofreading business communications should be considered one of the most important aspects of any brand tactics. It’s one of the thousands of pieces that make up the branding jigsaw. Get it right, and the picture is perfect, get it wrong, even one little bit and it can do the complete opposite of what you set out to do.
Everyone makes mistakes and if you have a good relationship with consumers and plenty of brand equity in the bank, you can make and get away with mistakes. Some brands go under yet come back and leverage their brand equity to be even better than they were before. But the moment that equity runs out, perhaps after a recall, a fatal accident or criminal activities, every brand tactic is viewed differently.
Suddenly, a simple error that would have been laughed off as ‘a pretty good effort and besides, everyone makes mistakes’ becomes ‘if they can’t get that right, what else are they getting wrong?’
Before you know it, an irrelevant ad that would have gone unnoticed becomes the centre of attention. A simple spelling, grammatical or punctuation error becomes symptomatic of the organisational culture as a whole.
Your credibility is questioned and what began as an attempt to make some sales or improve the reputation of the organisation can end up undermining all your good intentions and put your brand back months, possibly years.
Malaysia Airlines is one brand that is desperately trying to shed the negative perceptions that have surrounded it since the post MH370 Public Relations disaster and subsequent sales slump. The Chairman of the company says he doesn’t need to rebrand the carrier yet he wants to repair the brand’s reputation. The two are intricately linked.
This ad appeared on my Twitter page recently. It’s poorly written, doesn’t make sense, has grammatical errors and looks more like a pharmaceutical ad than an attempt to rebuild a broken national carrier.
Mistakes and imperfections in any kind of work convey a lack of interest, expertise and carelessness, and in the aviation business, those are not attributes you want associated with your brand.
I have a feeling that Malaysia Airlines, as it slashes spending in every department is now creating these ads in house. This is not a good sign and it’s not the first time the’ve created nonsensical ads. In fact they’ve been doing it quite often.
So in a fit of professional generosity, I’m giving 5 tips on how to proof read to the Malaysia Airlines communications department. Guys, next time you create your own copy, read this first.
Once you create an ad or other written content, walk away from it and ignore it for 15 minutes. Then go back to it and read it twice, out loud. If it doesn’t flow or sound right to you it won’t sound right to your readers. Once you’ve read it twice, give it to someone else to read out loud twice and then you read it again, twice.
Assuming you are happy with the flow, go through it again and check the spelling. Then give it to someone else to check the spelling and when they give it back to you, read it again, twice.
Next read it and check for grammatical mistakes. Then go through it again. Then give it to someone else to check the grammar and when they give it back to you, check it again, twice.
Don’t be lazy and rely on spell checking tools. They are flawed. Every good copywriter has a well worn Oxford dictionary to refer to. Get one and use it.
Social media and text messaging are changing the way we communicate. But an ad or other copy is an extention of you and your brand. Bad punctuation and grammar or no punctuation can be interpreted negatively. If you don’t know how to construct a sentence, use a pronoun or whether to use parallelism or not, find someone who does.
You may think that it’s just a social media ad. That no one is watching and that no one cares. They are, and they do. Proofread everything. Because every time you interact with a passenger, every time you release communications or react to a crisis, people are witnessing your brand, your culture. If it isn’t sincere, professional and suggests a lack of interest, everything you do will fail and your brand will end up in the branding graveyard.