Your brand equity, meaning the public perception you have labored to build, is degenerating because of what most would categorize as harmless insignificancies. Following rules is not a strong suit for mankind. Given parameters, we seem compelled to find a way around them. Our reasons are transparent enough: we want to stand out among the cliques we so deeply want to be a part of. You can say there is no sense to it, but neither is sensibility a granted virtue. In our ongoing quest to express ourselves, we forget that for several hours each day we are acting on behalf of another, and it is their image that we are to be concerned with, yet we seem to be breeding generations that can’t shake the me.

Here’s what’s going on:

‘Creative’ email. Employees and even those who are at the helm of companies that invest heavily in visual continuity seem unable to resist bringing their bit of creative pizzazz to emails, most often expressed in decorative signatures. On the more reserved end, someone fudges the font size up or down a point or two here and there, throwing off the balance of the signature’s components. At worst — and I mean worst is an infinite sort of who-knows-what-someone-is-doing-and-I-have-not-seen-the-worst-of-it sense, which is to say, maybe someone a mile away is this very minute composing an email above a signature prominently featuring a string of monkeys, for example — emoji find their way onto the screen, though not before the hierarchy of contact information has been so layered that the sender’s name is obese and unrivaled by information set in increasingly smaller type below, which treatment inevitably does not sate the creative inner hollows, at which point the font chooser is engaged. It flings italic and bold obscenities. The color selector comes out; the crayon interface preselected. Who cannot help but imagine a three-year-old and a large sheet of newsprint?

All of which makes:

Sincerely,

Jane Brown
Vice President, Portfolio Risk Management
Deutsche Bank

significantly less credible.

Using typist initials. It’s an outdated protocol that is condescending — to both your correspondent and whoever ‘typed’ what you presumably ‘dictated.’ Using typist initials only draws attention to a practice that your reader either presumes and accepts or never thought to question, and he is now in the position of reevaluating his worth as your client. Flaunting entitlement, empowerment, and exclusivity works only if you’re the Queen of England or the Pope, and even they have lightened up considerably. Most people across the socioeconomic spectrum do recognize civic parity. Although views beyond that may vary drastically, most of us agree that flesh is flesh, and we don’t like it when others try to lord privilege or position over us. We just don’t buy it. It seems a small thing, but consider that even the format — the author’s initials in CAPS, the typist’s in lowercase — smacks of pretense.

Lacking the ability to properly format business correspondence. Just because we live in the age of email does not mean that Jabberwocky and disarray have free rein. No matter the format, the letter is not dead. We are all frequently called on to write to clients and vendors, and there is a proper and accepted way to do so. By composing a letter using conventional practices, you demonstrate your competence, your willingness to play, and, moreover, your respect for your correspondent. And for those who think standards apply strictly to ink, you are mistaken; the Oxford Dictionary and even basic typing courses explain the basics of business email correspondence.

Getting testy with the receiver in your hand over a presumed dead call. The word you want to focus on here is presumed. It is not uncommon that technological glitches or human error result in a situation when a caller can hear you but you cannot hear the caller. A simple example is the caller’s accidentally hitting the mute button with his cheek. He is in a quandary, repeating, ‘May I speak to Ernst?’ while you grow frustrated, iterating, ‘This is Acme Buttermilk Biscuits’ into the receiver. Of course, you don’t know that Ernst’s client can hear you, but in the interest of civility and good business, saying ‘idiot’ and disconnecting may have unintended consequences. Civics is part of any sustainable brand, even if it’s only a veneer. Better yet, be genuinely thoughtful and watch your revenues grow.


Originally published at Dave Salanitro.