Recently we seem to have had a spate of marketing emails from people without any regard for the rules on privacy!
We all make mistakes but a lack of knowledge of the rules puts their business reputation at risk and exposes them to a substantial fine.
If you provide unsolicited marketing material, the Information Commissioner’s Office produces a handy Direct Marketing Checklist which includes a guide to the marketing rules. You can download it here.
I don’t know about you but it really bugs me when I see an apostrophe being used incorrectly. If you have a reputation to uphold then the last thing you want to do is damage it by sending out written material that contains errors.
You wouldn’t believe the problems this tiny little punctuation mark can cause. It’s so insignificant you probably don’t even notice it when you’re reading at normal speed….
….and that’s the nub of the issue. People either don’t notice it’s there (or not) or they don’t notice whether it’s correct (or not), but for pedants like me, I do notice it!
So, let’s have a quick look at the only two instances when an apostrophe should be used.
To show that something belongs to someone, e.g.
Singular nouns and personal names:
The dog’s tail – says that the tail belongs to the dog.
John’s car – says that the car belongs to John.
Personal names that end in –s:
Charles’s ball – says that the ball belongs to Charles.
BUT some place names are an exception to this rule, e.g. St Thomas’ Hospital
Plural nouns that end in –s:
The dogs’ bowls – says that the bowls belong to some dogs.
Employees’ workplace – says that the workplace belongs to the employees.
Plural nouns not ending in –s:
The men’s hats – says that the hats belong to the men.
The children’s toys – says that the toys belong to the children.
The women’s coats – says the coats belong to the women.
To show that letters have been left out, e.g.
I’m – short for ‘I am’
They’re – short for ‘they are’
Didn’t – short for ‘did not’
He’ll – short for ‘he will’
It’s – short for ‘it is’
The apostrophe goes where the letters have been missed out and are used this way in informal writing. You should not shorten words when you are writing formal letters or emails.
One of the commonest mistakes I see is where people use an apostrophe to express a plural, especially when figures are involved, e.g.
In the 1980’s…
This is incorrect because it’s talking about the decade from 1980 to 1989 so it’s a plural and should be written ‘1980s’.
As a proofreader this kind of mistake is the sort of thing that I’m on the lookout for, not just because I’m a pedant, but to ensure that your writing is accurate, looks professional and is error-free. This gives you peace of mind safe in the knowledge that whatever you’re publishing will mean your readers will focus on your message or the meaning of your content and not looking for the next mistake.
If you would like me to help you to ‘get it right first time’, then please contact me on:
Life is all about first impressions, Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov.
Forming a first impression takes 1/10th of a second.
In 1/10th of a second we decide someone’s Competence, Likeability and Influence by possibly viewing a profile photo of them.
How does this relate to Business?
“People buy from people they like know and trust”
If you don’t have a picture, how can you start the process?
More importantly how do you go about getting a good profile image?
A couple of years ago “Photofeeler” carried out some research using 800 profile images. Viewers were asked to rate the images against Competence, Likeability and Influence. The research did not include the characteristics like gender, age, and physical traits.
The following were considered the important areas discovered by the research, are you surprised?
When viewing images of someone, people like to see the full facial features of who they are looking at. Obstructions such as hats, sunglasses or poor lighting can hide features and this reduces the likeability of what the viewer is seeing. Look into the camera, don’t hide.
Ensure that you squint slightly when looking into the lens. Having wide open eyes gives the impression of the rabbit in the headlights, it denotes fear.
Having a slight squint, increases the perception of your
competence, influence, likeability and feels more comfortable for the viewer.
Profile photos that show a defined Jawline increase your perception of competence, influence, and likeability.
I know we have all made excuses, “I don’t like smiling”, “my teeth aren’t white”, “I’ll crack the lens” but that’s what they are excuses.
Want to increase the perception of people viewing you? Then an open smile is a good way of doing so. By smiling you appear friendlier, happier, healthier, and more relaxed.
If your smile is a closed smile (no teeth showing) then your perception of competence, influence, and likeability is likely to drop by half of that with an open smile.
Be careful though don’t turn the smile into a laugh, although this was found more likeable the competence and influence was shown to have dropped. So keep the smile controlled.
The way you dress in a photo says a lot of who you are. Think it’s not important and anything will do?
The research showed that formal dress gained the greatest
perceived Competence and
Influence. That is a dark suit over a light coloured shirt/blouse, and men you need a tie.
By all means dress down for your photo but this will lose viewers perception of how credible you are. Also beware of stripes and bold colours.
Body Area Shown
How much of the body should be shown:
Close-up of the face?
Head and face?
Head and shoulders?
Head to waist?
The research showed that head and shoulders or head to waist shots fared better than face only close-ups.
Those people that used a full body shot negatively affected competence and influence.
The research never came up with an answer to this. However as a personal opinion the background needs to be plain or out of focus. The important thing is that the subject stands out.
Maybe you can experiment with different colours. Have your head-shot taken against a green screen and have a series of different background (colours or out of focus) being used.
Avoid direct sunlight images as you will either be squinting with the sun in your face or to dark (unless flash is used) with the sun at your back. Both of these viewers will lose confidence in you.
The key here is moderation; all digital photos benefit from some editing:
Are you aware that documents you’re sending out by post or by email attachment may contain errors that might damage your hard-earned reputation?
The reason I ask is because I recently received an email from the Sales Director of a local company in which was attached a sales brochure. On reading this brochure I spotted 12 mistakes.
When I replied to notify him of this, he was devastated as he had no idea that he was sending out literature that contained mistakes. He said he would be going back to his marketing people to point this out and that a new brochure would come to me first for professional proofreading.
I’m sure I’m not the only one that will spot these mistakes. Whilst the product being promoted wasn’t appropriate for me, those for whom it would be appropriate are probably now making a negative judgement about the business and saying, “If they can’t be bothered to check their literature, then why should I be bothered to place an order?” The poor quality of the brochure gives the wrong impression to prospective customers.
You probably do everything necessary to ensure that your products and services are delivered to the best of your ability. You protect your staff, yet how much care do you take over all the various bits of written material that your business produces?
I’m talking about stuff like website content, blog content, publicity/marketing material, emails, newsletters, reports…..the list goes on.
Many of us may take all this for granted as it is just something we do without thinking about it. But let’s think about it for a minute……..
Any piece of written material that you ‘publish’ by sending it to a customer or out into the public domain via a website or a blog, for example, is either promoting your business or it will reflect back on the quality of your business, without you even knowing it.
Did you know, in a recent survey, 59% of respondents said they would not do business with a company whose marketing material contained errors?
So, what do you do to make sure that your written content is accurate and error free? Do you rely totally on your auto-correct functions and a spellchecker? That’s fine, but did you realise that if a word is spelt correctly but you might have keyed it incorrectly, a spellchecker won’t pick it up? That could be embarrassing if you type ‘naked’ instead of ‘named’.
Reading and re-reading your own work is not only time consuming – time that you could be using to better effect – but you’re more likely to miss those small errors because your eyes and brain recognise what you’ve written and will skim over it even though it could be wrong.
The brain is an incredible thing. If you’re reading something and you spot a mistake then your brain will automatically flip into a different mode and focus on finding the next mistake instead of the message contained within the writing. So, if you’ve got an important message to get across to your potential clients, you must make sure that it’s error-free otherwise you’ll lose the reader’s attention.
These are classic examples of how a trained proofreader can help businesses to preserve and enhance reputations through the publication of professional-looking and error-free copy.
Opt-in is one of three ways of obtaining ‘consent’ to send marketing emails. It is where the email recipient has specifically indicated that they want to receive the emails at the point at which the contact information was submitted (e.g. by ticking a box in an HTML form).
It is important to explain that opt-out is where the email recipient has been given, (at the point at which the contact information was submitted), the opportunity to opt-out from receiving the emails, and has not done so (e.g. by not ticking a box in an HTML form).
Under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 the “soft opt-in” applies where all three of the following conditions apply:
an email address was obtained in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient,
the direct marketing is in respect of similar products and services, and
the recipient was given the opportunity to “opt out” when the details were collected and with subsequent communication.
There seems to be a great deal of confusion about consent for sending marketing emails.
Under the Data Protection Act 1998 opt-out (or similar) consent is generally sufficient in the case of marketing emails involving non-sensitive personal data. However, express or opt-in consent would be required for any direct marketing communications which involve the processing of sensitive personal data, such as data relating to ethnicity, politics or medical conditions.
Opt-in or equivalent consent is required under the Privacy Regulations for marketing emails sent to individual subscribers, unless the soft opt-in provisions apply i.e.. (NB the Privacy Regulations do not use the terms “opt-in” and “opt-out”.)
You should also check the requirements of your email service provider’s terms and conditions. These often required a more stringent standard of consent than the general law.
So you will need to do something more than simply harvesting email addresses to legitimately send marketing emails.