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First Impressions Aren't Just For Meetings

First Impressions Aren't Just For Meetings

"You'll never get a second chance to make a great first impression." Hackneyed? Yes. Trite? Probably. Wrong? No.

“You’ll never get a second chance to make a great first impression.”

Hackneyed? Yes. Trite? Probably. Wrong? No.

We may roll our eyes when someone trots out this cliché, but that doesn’t mean we don’t follow it to the letter. Every time you don a suit and tie for an interview, every time you shave and put on cologne before a first date – even when you tidy the house before your parents come over – you want to create a good impression.

But remember how easily things go wrong if you don’t pay attention to the details. When you tidied the house everything was in its proper order and every dish was cleaned, but all that your mother noticed was the dust on the bookshelf. And no matter how smart you looked and sounded at the interview, because you forgot to get rid of that stain on your collar you appeared scruffy and unprofessional.

Here’s another cliché for you: God is in the details.

This applies to public relations just as much as anything else, but we sometimes forget the power of a simple mistake. Whether it’s a press release, an article, or even just a quick email, we focus on asking: does it hit the right spot? Is the tone effective? Does it communicate what it needs to? Our goal is always to catch the audience’s attention and then retain it, with a compelling story, precise language, and a snappy turn of phrase.

Content, however, is only half the battle. Just like that interview or that first date, appearance is crucial as well. And this is where we can find ourselves falling short.

Blame it on deadlines, social media, or just the imminent death of the (hand) written word. Whatever the cause, the quality of our writing is on the decline. We now exist in an online world where speed of communication is valued over accuracy and where spell-checking is taken as gospel. It’s easy to understand how small errors start creeping in.

But it’s also the small things that really leap out at the reader and annoy them – we’re professional communicators, after all, so we’re supposed to get these things right. “If they can’t even correct these mistakes,” they wonder, “what else are they getting wrong?”

Your story may be scintillating, your prose engaging, but the first thing anyone is going to notice is the typos, the extra spaces between words, the inconsistencies in formatting. These errors can permanently tarnish the reader’s impression of your work, and it will never get the attention it deserves.

We all need to spend that extra five minutes reading through our work one more time. If the pen is mightier than the sword, then the typo’s an uzi.

 

by Maria Ciubotaru