Be Careful What You Write…

Posted by on December 5th, 2012

As a communications professional, I am always double, triple and quadruple checking any written word of communication, even after having it reviewed by fellow teammates.  Not only is this good practice, I’ve found that it is general practice and prevents some serious (and/or minor) mistakes.  From press releases to presentations to daily emails, a thorough review will always yield either new insight into would be mistakes or an even better way to say something that is grammatically or contextually correct.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind those who are in the communications field, ANY communications field, to heed the above advice.   If the point above isn’t clear enough, here are some examples, both personal and well-known, that should serve as friendly reminders:

  • “The Internet’s not written in pencil Mark, it’s written in ink”.  As Rooney Mara playing Erica Albright in The Social Network so graciously reminds us, once information is posted online, it’s tough (if not impossible) to erase.  While we don’t need to get into the logistics of trying to get rid of something that’s online, the point is simple: Once it’s out there, it’s out there.  And it can have seriously damaging effects.
  • While the damaging effects suffered above were more socially oriented, we’ve seen communication mistakes that have also had a serious impact on a company’s stock price.  Most recently, we saw this with Google and the now infamous “Pending Larry Quote.” While the earnings themselves had a large influence on the stock price, the fact that the announcement was released early and not as a final draft did not help the Company’s case.  There are numerous steps (too long for this post) that could have been taken in order for this not to happen, but the point remains the same: Whoever is releasing information to the public (or a client, for that matter) should always double check what they are sending.

The last example is more personal, and as such, I will listen to my own advice and keep it in very general terms, so as not to upset anyone (I hope).

  • When dealing with shareholders, either current or potential, you must be extremely careful in what you say.  Not only are you representing yourself and your firm, but you are also representing the client you are speaking on behalf of.  I recently spoke with an investor on behalf of a client and the next day I found most of what I had said on an investor message board.  While the information posted was mostly accurate and did not hurt our client, their reputation or the stock price, it just goes to show that anything you say can be repurposed and distributed, whether you intended it to or not.

In case the point wasn’t thoroughly drilled in at this point, I also recommend another blog post on the topic, primarily addressing email and how to deal with certain situations.

Happy (cautious) writing!