In training days on not-for-private-profit marketing I’ve often hung a part of the course around the much-quoted ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’ – variously attributed to Oscar Wilde, Bill Rogers, Andrew Grant, and probably others.
It’s something of a cliché of course, but it’s also true. It takes a lot of work to undo a blunder at a job interview, a foot-in-mouth first meeting with your partner’s parents etc, so we need to try to control the things we can and minimise the risk around things we can’t.
But for all the talk about first impressions, we also need to concentrate on second, third, fourth impressions – and the messages we put out there – all the time.
A few weeks ago I was shocked to upset someone I’ve known and liked for over a decade. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people I’ve knowingly upset (as I remember each, a shiver goes down my spine). In this case, what I thought was a fair and frank exchange was not received as such and the damage was done. I now have to guard my words much more carefully than before, and I realise that our relationship may never be the same again.
A second experience at The Repair Shed (our aspiring social enterprise bringing men in the 50+ age group together to mend, make and learn) made me wonder whether, after 35 years in marketing, I need to go back to school.
I’ve recently been banging out what I feel is an avalanche of publicity about The Repair Shed, including a targeted approach to recruit new Shed members.
Whenever I put out publicity (on and offline materials, in talks to individuals and groups of people etc) I always stress our three areas of activity – mending, making and learning. These will also be our three broad income streams if all goes as planned (and if I don’t upset too many more people).
But for all my promotional effort and decades of experience, I recently learnt that the message I thought I’d been putting out was not the one received by at least one person I wanted to reach.
One of those I targeted with my membership pitch (I’m delighted to say he’s now joined us at The Repair Shed) was saying how much he was looking forward to getting stuck in. He then added casually “until recently I hadn’t realised you made things – which is my particular interest – I thought you just repaired them.”
Another timely reminder that when it comes to effective communication, I should continue to choose my words carefully, learn from my mistakes, and guard against making assumptions.
If you haven’t been bombarded by Repair Shed publicity yet, see our webpage and short film clip at www.communityactiondacorum.org/the-repair-shed You can also sign up there to receive our free monthly e-bulletin Make & Mend. If you’ve done so already – sorry – no offence meant.