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Truth in Advertising: Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth

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Few things can heighten the suspense of a cop drama like a good ol’ fashioned lie detector scene. The machine has its tentacles on the perpetrator. A large needle jumps for every spike in their heart rate, confirming what was suspected all along.

William Marston, the co-inventor of the lie detector, went by the pen name Charles Moulton, and was the author of Wonder Woman. A bio-drama about Marston’s life, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, was released in 2017 and shows us how he invented the polygraph and why our favorite super hero uses a lasso of truth.

To Uphold the Law

She didn’t need a gun or a laser beam stare. An unassuming lasso was her weapon and one of the things we remember most about Wonder Woman. With her lariat, she could subdue anyone and force them to tell the truth. She even used it on the good guys, as we saw in the recent Gal Gadot film, because she needed the truth to understand more about what was going on in the world.

Seeking the truth is important for a crime fighter, like Wonder Woman, and it’s also important for marketing. We never want to mislead anyone, because that could have a negative effect on clients and customers. Plus, as an advertising agency, Pinstripe is held to the same laws and standards that dictate how companies are able to advertise their products and services.

Under the Florida Deceptive Trade Practices Laws, it’s illegal to make false claims. Things like bait-and-switch and spreading disinformation are also outlined in this law. Any company caught doing this can face extensive fines for each infraction. It’s best to tell the truth and follow the guidelines within your professional community. This is particularly true for the legal, financial and health care industries.

Just the Facts

Media outlets rely on truth and accuracy in their reporting. As you are probably well aware, they have been tested recently, so they’re getting better at snuffing out potential blowback from their audiences.

Because press releases are branding and credibility tools, it’s important for them to have verifiable facts. Any mistakes made could have the opposite effect. Reporters have an uncanny ability to find a different story than what had been intended, especially when the facts are misrepresented.

Nothing But the Truth

With blogs and social media, the delivery of content has been democratized. The messages we deliver to our audiences are a reflection of our brands and illustrate our knowledge, experience, and thought leadership. So obviously, it is critical that our missives are not only truthful, but unique. There are terabytes of content littered throughout the web, making it increasingly simple to cut and paste bits and pieces to make the job of blogging easier. However, plagiarism makes for a terrible brand image. Original work is truthful work. Think of these messages as having a lasso of truth, making your truth easier for others to see.

This article is part of a series on how Wonder Woman’s inspires our marketing philosophy. Throughout the year, we will be featuring more on this topic, so let us know how you feel about it in our comments section below.

Good Customer Service Isn’t That Hard

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Remember when getting something from an online store was a bit of a guessing game? Online shopping has changed quite a lot. And, I can appreciate it even more after a recent experience in a store that went sour.

The Customer Experience

I would say that buying something online has become a good experience, almost to the point where it resembles the in-store experience. Most retail websites provide multiple photos, sizes, dimensions, and weight. Checkout is quick and so is delivery. Plus, they have online reps that can answer quick questions, such as return policies and shipping. I consider this a good experience.

I have more expectations when I go to a store than simply finding what I need. A good sales associate can make a good experience great, simply by being nice (smiles are contagious) and offering suggestions when asked (knowledgeable staff). Going to the store also connects us with the brands we buy.

I think that’s still the difference between the two. The online experience always feel good, while the in-store one can feel great. Except when it’s not great—or even good. In fact, a bad experience makes me wish I had just gone online. A bad in-store experience feels like a bad investment, because my time could have been spent better. No one wants that feeling. This is why good customer service is more important now than ever before.

Good Customer Service

There’s not much to it. We just need to focus on only a few key points to have good service:

  • Friendly service is a must. I don’t want to be ignored and I certainly don’t need any attitude. And, research shows how 70% of all purchases are based on how we feel like we are being treated. Everyone has bad days, but they shouldn’t be taken out on others.
  • Knowledgeable staff that is available to answer questions. Odds are, if I’m asking a question about a product or service, it means I’m not 100% sure of it. So, when I need help, I want someone to be available.
  • Convenient and quick ways to pay. I don’t mind standing in line, but not for too long.

My most recent bad experience while shopping was because of an unfriendly service representative. There’s too much competition out there. Too many choices for me to take my business elsewhere. Their mistake cost them my business and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Be Polite, Be Honest

My bad experience only strengthens my belief in the value of good customer service. We can’t please everyone all of the time, but we can try our best to be nice and helpful. This also extends to managing some common marketing activities, like social media and customer feedback. When replying to customers, be polite, never rude, or misconstrued as rude. The best way to do this is to be honest. Admit mistakes. Provide alternatives. Give the right answer. Resolve problems in a calm manner. Your customers and clients will love you for it. That’s why good customer service goes a long way.

So You Got a Bad Customer Review …

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Public and readily accessible customer reviews are a fact of life for today’s business owners. Whether focused on a specific industry such as reviews at Hotels.com or covering a wide range of companies (i.e. Google Reviews, Yelp … etc.) there are plenty of online sites that want consumers to rate satisfaction with a recent purchase. The question for business owners and managers is what to do when they inevitably get negative comments.

Take Stock of the Situation

We may like to say that the customer is always right, but when criticized our natural inclination is to be defensive. We’ll make excuses, question the veracity of our detractors, or claim others are at fault (There are two sides to every story, after all!). Still, we should try to overcome our human impulses and:

  • Stay calm – Yep, they really said that, right there, for all the world to see. The unfairness of it all! Okay … stop. While your every instinct may be to fight back, instead clear your head and concentrate on fixing a problem. The issue isn’t necessarily a bad review. Also, if you’re wishing your customer had tried to be more understanding, maybe you could start the ball rolling by going first.
  • Investigate – Do what you can to understand what transpired to create the unhappy customer. Recalling the incident, or finding the employee who remembers what happened may depend on the level of detail in the reviewer’s account, but make a good faith effort to get the facts. Keep in mind that the in-house person who knows the most about the incident may have had the biggest role in making the customer unhappy. Don’t be accusatory with that staff member, but take pains to see the matter from the customer’s perspective.
  • Make Changes – Once you’re satisfied you have a handle on what transpired, ensure there will be no cause for similar reviews in the future. Did an employee do something wrong? Was a policy at fault? If so, address the deficiency and correct it. Was the problem unavoidable or was the customer in the wrong? Then explore measures to let upset customers in the future know you care about their feelings, even if you can’t make them completely happy.

React Positively

You’ve done what you can to uncover the facts and you have a plan for moving forward. Now it’s time to let others know you’ve acknowledged a problem and are working to set things right by:

  • Responding Online (at the review site) – Don’t just let a bad review sit there! Many customer satisfaction sites provide an opportunity for you to address a critical review. (This goes for social media criticisms as well.) Respectfully and graciously express your concern that a customer had a bad experience. If your investigation found that your business was at fault, own up to it, apologize and let people know how you plan to fix the problem. If the problem was out of your control, politely explain why. Don’t belabor your points.
  • Contacting the unhappy customer directly – If possible, contact the person who posted the negative review. Let them know you are disheartened that they had a bad experience. You may find them very reasonable as the heat of the moment has passed, They may even appreciate you reaching out to them. See if reasonable accommodation can be reached. Keep in mind: It’s not so important that they understand your position, but that they know you care about theirs.
  • Going public – Without rehashing a specific bad review, let customers (current, former and prospective) know you value their feedback whether it’s good or bad. Encourage their reviews on rating sites (suggest a few that you can easily monitor) and add the proviso that you’d always like the opportunity to address any concerns. When real problems are uncovered, let everyone know you’re fixing them. “Responsive” and “thoughtful” are very marketable qualities in a business.

Minimize the Impact

Though you do everything possible to set things right—and that irate reviewer is now your most enthusiastic advocate—a negative comment could virtually hang around forever. Here are three things you can do to mitigate the damage:

  • Overwhelm the bad reviews with good – As mentioned, you should encourage customers to review your business, and if you usually do a good job, your ratings will reflect that. People understand everyone occasionally has a bad day, and some customers are going to be unreasonable jerks, so the stray one-star rating won’t sink you. Just don’t manufacture glowing reviews—that’s unethical and there could be negative repercussions from the review site.
  • Work on Search Engine Results – Google the name of your business. What comes up at the top? If negative comments are prominent, embark on a plan to increase improve your Internet presence. The more “good news” you have out there, the less prominence any negative reviews will have.
  • Emphasize customer testimonials and case studies in your marketing – Apart from trusted word-of-mouth communication, verified testimonials and case studies are about the most effective form of advertising. Make them a component of your sales and marketing strategy on your website, in ads and commercials, brochures … everywhere! You want to people to see that happy customers are the norm, and a bad experience is an aberration.

Final thought: think of negative reviews as an opportunity. If you have a problem in how you’re serving customers, you want to know it. And if you aren’t really doing anything wrong, here’s your chance to practice your customer relations skills. Besides, anything that encourages us to look beyond our normal, everyday perspective will only help us grow and be better prepared for new challenges in the future.

The Pinstripe PR team are reputation management pros and can help mitigate negative comments. Contact us here to learn how we can help.

Social Media Messaging for Businesses: Peanuts Had It Right!

social media messaging_news“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” Quote by Linus, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. About a half century ago, via his Peanuts characters, Charles Schultz shared the wise admonition above. Yet everywhere we turn today, public figures are falling all over themselves to express opinions on these topics. (Instead of Great Pumpkin, substitute “ideological causes.”) Increasingly, it’s a behavior also infecting high profile CEOs and large corporations. Owners and executives leading small and midsize companies may be wondering if they too need to get onboard with this trend by using social media to take a stand regarding “issues of the day.”

Well, we would never tell anyone to act against conscience, or to remain silent in the face of blatant wrongs, but as Linus suggested—all in all—there’s probably not much upside for business leaders to take sides in today’s polarized social climate.

Think. If you express an opinion, your customers and prospects will either agree with you, won’t agree with you, or simply won’t care about the issue. At that, you might see the best possible outcome as win, lose, and tie. However, that’s being overly optimistic.

Unless your work is directly linked to one of Linus’s forbidden topics (examples: religious leader, politician, special-interest lobbyist), it’s highly unlikely that your social commentary is the reason anyone wants to do business with you. As we’ve written previously, a company’s value proposition is almost always going to address one of five customers concerns: price, convenience, service, identity and quality/value. Of these, your public pronouncements on various topics only have a chance of fitting in with “identity.” That’s not nothing, but for all practical purposes it isn’t much.

Remember, your value proposition needs to be central to your brand image. For instance, consider which would be more effective in building a customer base for a law office: a strong stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or a vow to protect your clients’ legal interests. Or what if you provide IT managed services? Which would boost your brand most, a promise of a worry-free computer network, or your stand on abortion?

No, we can’t say your positions on controversial topics won’t appeal to some small segment of the public. According to a report from Sprout Social, 39% of people do appreciate brands that are “politically correct” in their social network communications. But one person’s PC may be regarded by others as counter-productive nonsense. We all tend to live in comfortable bubbles, but outside our immediate circles, we’ll find there are people—even large populations—who feel very differently about things. (If we are prepared to listen, we might even learn their stances are occasionally well reasoned.) For every person that says, “Right on!” there may be one or more taking issue with you and they may they be willing to simply “agree to disagree.” Increasingly, polarization is causing us to see ideological differences as “bad for the country” or even a personal threat (Pew Research Center Report). You could end up being the target of an organized protest!

But let’s say you’re lucky enough to break even between the with-you and the against-you crowds. What about those who don’t care about the topic at all … or have become sick of hearing about it? The same Sprout Social survey found that 71% of consumers find “talking politics” to be annoying. That’s hardly surprising since customers are typically more interested in doing business with companies that focus on solving their problems. “Annoying” doesn’t increase market share.

So, instead of politics, religion or your personal Great Pumpkin, what statements might better resonate with customers and prospects? How about honesty (86%), friendliness (83%), helpfulness (78%), and funny (72%). (Check out the interesting article in Forbes on the Sprout Social report for more insights.)

Yes, there are some “safe” positions you can take in your social media communications, or that you may express in your marketing communications (e.g. “we love puppies” and “happy Mother’s Day!”). But your messaging only reaches your target audiences so often. When it does get through, make sure it’s relevant to why your customers may need you.

Client Ignorance about Your Business Isn’t the Client’s Failing

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Have you ever told a client about one of your products or services and heard this surprised reply: “I didn’t know you had that!”? You may have bitten your tongue to keep from pointing out that this particular offering is listed throughout your website, mentioned in every bit of marketing collateral and advertising you produce and also prominently proclaimed by a huge sign over your left shoulder, even as the two of you are speaking! Somehow, instead of whacking this person over the head and yelling, “Hello? McFly!” you thoughtfully go about closing a new sale.

But before jumping to conclusions, ask yourself why clients frequently don’t retain important bits of information about your business. We’re going to go out on a short, thick and very sturdy limb and say the problem likely originates from one of two places: 1) your clients aren’t all that motivated to learn about your company; and 2) information you would like them to have isn’t attracting their attention.

It’s human nature to not do things we don’t have to do. That’s why we don’t see bald men combing their heads, or why most don’t make their bed everyday if they live alone. We have better uses for our time, so if we aren’t strongly motivated to perform certain acts, we won’t. Therefore, it’s not surprising that random members of the public don’t normally commit the content of business websites to memory, or that some people would be unable to describe a company logo even if their lives depended on it.

“But,” you may say, “knowledge is power. My company satisfies important demands, and it’s wise to know how to access critical resources such as those we provide.” This may be true, but we all prioritize which information to acquire, especially in an age where we can Google an answer to any question in seconds. These days, it’s usually safe to feel a need before finding out where to fill it.

More importantly, you care more about your business than your customers—by a lot! Have you ever noticed that the person most bothered by dirty dishes is the one who’s quickest to wash them? (Unless there’s a lot of nagging involved, that is.) Public apathy operates under the same principle. Clients say, “If you really want me know something about your company, I’m going to leave it up to you to imprint that information on my mind. Good luck.”

This brings us to the second point. How does the information you want to convey manage to push through everything else that’s clamoring for your customers’ attention … much less actually stick around in their brains?

Well that’s what marketing is all about, isn’t it? You carefully identify your audiences, send precisely constructed communications that will attract their attention—through a medium that has the best chance to reach targets—and do it over and over and over again until they (finally) remember your message. And you’ve got to brand it all so your company won’t be confused with others sending similar information to the same people!

It’s a process with countless twist and turns, millions of variables, innumerable nuances and considerations, but never a single perfect solution. Still, we truly believe focused customer outreach and education will be fully worth your effort. (Helpful hint: Let your Pinstripe friends handle it for you!). It’s up to you to make the right impression on your clients—not them—but if things go right, they’ll be glad you did.

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