Branding

Lose the gray type

I ain’t no designer. But I’ve worked with designers cheek by jowl for more than 30 years now and I think I’ve picked up a thing or two along the way about good design.

I want to rant

With that in mind, I want to rant a bit about a website I came across this weekend. It was very professionally done. But, in my opinion, it had a glaring flaw, all the more so because the rest of the site, from a content, copy and design perspective was so polished. Here’s the big sin: someone, in their design wisdom, decided to use thin gray type, complemented by cyan for subheads. I know, I know. Gray type is very soft, very stylish, very cool, very hip. But it’s very hard to read.

Good design holds attention

Let’s go back to the purpose of good design. Good design catches and holds attention. It supports the copy on the page. Without it, the copy is lifeless, boring, daunting. The designer’s job is to understand the client, the purpose of the message and the design elements that will attract and keep that client reading, absorbing the message. But when you have thin gray type against a white background some of your readers will have to struggle to read it. That’s not good design because it doesn’t attract and hold the reader.

We’re browsers

We have to remember that internet readers are browsers. While some will sit and read long passages, most want to grab essential information in a blink and keep on moving. You can’t do that when you have to struggle to read what’s on the page. Designers need to keep in mind that once we hit age 40 we start sprouting reading glasses – and a large percentage of decision makers are over age 40. Get the hint?

Lose the gray type

As someone who’s had cataract surgery, thin gray type is a pet peeve of mine. I cursed it before my surgery and, in the name of good design and solid communication, I oppose it to this day.The AFCD (Association For Cool Designers) may want to pillory me on an artist’s scalpel (do designers still use scalpels?) but I stand fast. By all means, be cool. By all means, be creative. But by whatever means it takes, lose the fine gray type, not for my sake but for the sake of your readers.

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If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

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Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Blog combines professional presentation with a personal touch

I want to share a blog post that I really like. It describes how my PWAC (Professional Writers Association of Canada) colleague Jaclyn Law developed and designed her blog site. Jaclyn is a Toronto writer and editor who knows how to mix professional presentation with a personal touch that reaches audiences.

She kept it simple

I like that she succeeded in keeping the site simple, easy to navigate and attractive enough to her that she enjoys going to it and adding new posts. I think it’s really important that our sites – and everything we do in business – reflects who we are as well as what we do for clients. I’d love to hear your comments on the blog posting and her site:  http://jaclynlaw.com/?page=Blog

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

What should the pope do?

What would you do right now if you were the pope’s PR person?  What advice would you give to this pontiff whose brand is disintegrating before his eyes?

The pope has been accused

The pope has been accused of ignoring sexual abuse allegations, opting instead to protect the image of the church.  He has already apologized to various groups who were victims of church-oriented sexual abuse and he has asked for forgiveness on behalf of the church.  But he’s never admitted that he ignored those sought justice and protection for other innocent children.  For example, the Wisconsin priest who allegedly molested up to 200 boys at St. John’s School for the Deaf was moved by then-Cardinal Ratzinger to another diocese, where he continued to work with children.  The spiritual and moral lives of Catholics the world over have been challenged by these allegations.

Think in business terms

But let’s set aside the spiritual and moral issues for a minute and think about this in purely business terms.  Essentially, the pope is the president of one of the world’s largest corporations, with a customer base that’s estimated at over 1 billion.  And the only thing that keeps clients coming back week after week is branding.  The church makes a promise, its clients buy into the promise and for that they commit themselves and their dollars.

Protecting the brand

But now, overwhelming evidence is emerging that the church’s primary goal is to protecting the brand and those who promote it, rather than deliver on the promise.  (Does this sound like echoes of Toyota?)  And not only are the flames of that evidence moving up the chain of command, they are encircling the pope and singeing the fringes of his robes.  So, if you were the Vatican PR flack, what would you advise the him to do?

Imagine the impact

He’s in deep doo-doo.  According to Ted Schmidt of the New Catholic Times, 30 million Americans have walked out of the Catholic Church.  And that’s just America.  There are also reports that as many as a million Austrians are ready to pack up their rosaries and vote with their feet.   These are huge numbers – and they represent enormous revenue – from just two countries. Not to mention Ireland, Germany Italy and a string of other countries.  Imagine the global impact.

They’re circling the wagons

So far, officials in the Vatican are taking a defensive stance.  They’re circling the wagons of the faithful, trying to convince them that the church and its leader are the victims of a smear campaign at the hands of the media and other critics.  They are appealing to the blindly faithful and, to some degree that strategy will work, at least for a while.  But it won’t bring anybody back into the fold who’s already left, not even those who’d like to return.

Clean it up

My papal advice would be to come clean, admit the pope’s personal failings, use them as evidence that everyone, even God’s direct messenger, has failings and is a sinner.  And I’d recommend that the pope back up his mea culpa with strict commitments and commandments to force the church to clean up its act.  I’d suggest that an encyclical be distributed stating that the next – and all future – church officials found to be exploiting their flocks in any way would be immediately relieved of their duties, turned over to the authorities to face charges and, if found guilty, defrocked and excommunicated.
That would be my advice, but I’d love to hear yours.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Ann Coulter suckered us

I loved how Ann Coulter showed us how to manage the media this past week.  She grabbed headlines right across the country around what would have otherwise been a forgettable three-university speaking tour.  Now, to say she did this all by herself would be stretching it a bit.  After all, she was aided and abetted by a University of Ottawa official who, after she insulted a Muslim questioner at the University of Western Ontario, sent her a letter warning her to be nice in Ottawa or face consequences.

They made lemonade

Not the stuff you say to a feisty right-winger.  So Coulter – and/or her handlers – did what any smart person does when life hands them a lemon.  They made lemonade and boy, did it sell!  The Coulter crowd handed the letter over the National Post, the Post ran it on its front page and suddenly she was the talk of the country, particularly after U of O students demonstrated against her sufficiently loudly that her talk there was cancelled.

The story had legs

Boom!  Suddenly people who’d never heard of Ann Coulter were discussing and evaluating her and her views because every political and public policy analyst in the country was raising her profile. And the story had legs for several days, particularly because she received a warm welcome in Calgary a few days after the Ottawa fiasco.  To be fair, most of the coverage I heard focused more on freedom of speech than on Coulter and her right-wing polemics.  But that didn’t matter.  No matter what the focus of coverage was, her name came up in every single one of them, which is exactly what she and her handlers would want.

What a coup!

What a media coup d’etat!  She couldn’t have bought that kind of exposure.  But the Coulter camp obviously understands the media and they used it to maximum advantage.  Of course, it helped that one of her people is rumoured to have had connections with the National Post.  It also helped that it was, by and large, a slow news week.  If there had been any major story last week it would have blasted Coulter to a corner of page 17.

They hit the jackpot!

But they had nothing to lose, it cost them nothing but a bit of time and they hit the public profile jackpot.  I don’t agree with Coulter’s views but I sure admire the way she used the media.  We all could learn a lesson from her, whether we like her or not.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

How to choose a tagline

A colleague sent me a note recently about selecting a tagline.  Specifically, she wanted some strategies for selecting a tagline and how I came to choose “Say it with power!”

Taglines can distract you

I feel strongly about taglines.  I think effective taglines can help catch attention, but I also think too many people belabour things like taglines when their time could be better spent developing broader strategies for attracting customers.  Taglines can easily become part of the flotsam that prevents us from actually going out and engaging potential clients.  The more time you spend conceiving and assessing a tagline the less time you have real work.

Think like a customer

That said, there are a few simple approaches that will simplify the task.  First, forget about yourself and you business.  Instead, think of your potential customers.  What do they want from a business like yours?  Do they want to save time, increase profits, add reliability, enhance customer experience . . . What do they want?  Without addressing the customer wants issue, you’re just indulging yourself in what you think is “clever” word play (it may not be “clever” to others, including your customers).

Appeal to the client

Once you’ve identified your customers’ wants, start thinking about how they would describe those wants.  For example, a specific type of coffee shop customer might describe their favourite brew as “A first-rate cup of coffee”.  Based on that, the owner might want to choose “Second to none!” as a tagline.  In other words, the tagline has to be something that feels comfortable and appealing to the client.

It can be hard

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that it can be pretty hard to second-guess customers, particularly if you don’t have a phalanx of marketing researchers providing you with in-depth demographic information.  If you’re a small business owner, probably your best approach is the following:

  • Take a customer perspective and think about what the customer wants
  • Think of how that customer would express his or her wants
  • Take a pen and pad and, as quickly as you can, write down as many phrases as you can think of that answer the customer’s wants and describes what you do
  • Choose the top three from your list
  • Show those three to a dozen or so customers and potential customers (If you’re just starting out and don’t have customers yet, show them to your friend and associates, but try to select people who will be brutally honest and avoid anyone who’s likely to just tell you what you want to hear.  Those people have no value for you; you want to hear the truth.)
  • Go with the one that makes the most sense, based on your customers, your instinct and your feedback information
One important caveat

That’s about all there is to it.  But one important caveat:  If your business circumstances change or, for some other reason, you come up with something that works better for your customers, change it.  Unless you’ve invested huge sums of money in marketing collateral, move to something better if it comes along.  In fact, even if you have invested in your current tagline, if it’s no longer working for you and you’ve discovered something else that will work better, dump the old one and move up to the new one.

I did it

When my business focused primarily on writing I had another tagline.  But when it became obvious that communications coaching was becoming the dominant segment of my business I needed a phrase that would cover the coaching and writing.  I chose Say it with Power! and dropped the old one.  The only comment I got from clients and potential clients was, “That’s a great tagline.”  Over time, I decided that my customers liked it so much that I adopted it for my blogsite.
If you have an approach for dealing with taglines that’s different from mine, I’d like to hear about it.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Toyota’s making it right . . . finally

Have you seen the new “Making it right” commercial Toyota’s running?  The one where they capitalize on nostalgia and Toyota’s good name to try to woo customers back to the showrooms?  The strategy is good for the situation Toyota finds itself in but I shake my head that they have to run them at all.  It’s another great example of how one of the strongest brands in the world can flush itself down the toilet, lose millions of customers, tens of millions of dollars in sales, then spend millions more trying to paddle their way out of a mess they didn’t have to get into in the first place.

Put customers first

All they had to do was put their customers first, as they’ve done for more than 30 years and continue to build cars that were beyond reproach.  But instead they took the short view and ended up paying and paying and paying in the long run.  It will be years before Toyota’s brand fully recovers – if ever.

Do the right thing

It’s simple: do the right thing.  Solve manageable problems while they’re still manageable.  Admit, apologize, take whatever beating you have coming to you and make a big deal of what you’re doing to fix it.  But do it before the media and government commissions pounding your brand on a daily basis and your formerly loyal customers are screaming for your head.

Take action immediately

There must be something I’m missing here because I don’t see that this is so difficult.  In fact it’s simple logic: look after your customers.  Take action and resolve the issue immediately.  The obvious answer is that someone didn’t want to admit that this happened on his or her watch and that Toyota is big enough and fat enough that this someone thought that he or she could get away with it.

Make it right

It looks to me like some corporate heads should be rolling if they’re not rolling already.  Akio Toyoda, the company’s president, says he takes “personal responsibility” for the company’s problems.  So is he going to do the honourable thing and resign?  Well, no.  Instead he’s going to lead a campaign to “Make it right!”.  That’s very noble but let’s face it, if he’d provided the leadership to make it right in the first place he wouldn’t be in this mess.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Dying duck tars big oil

Why is it that as soon as a bright, intelligent, hard-working person walks into an executive corner office and sees their pay cheque streak into the stratosphere their brain shrinks to the size of a pea and they think they’re fireproof?
According to CBC television, hundreds of ducks met an ugly end when they landed in one of Syncrude’s toxic tailings ponds.  Syncrude says it was delayed in installing bird deterrents such as noise cannons because of a snow storm.  Besides, the company said, the birds weren’t expected to be there at that point in the season.

Protect your image

Help me here, folks.  I just don’t get it.  Why, if you were investing billions in a project like the oil sands, knowing that environmentalists were seething to discredit you at any and every opportunity, would you not make sure – doubly sure – that a simple system was in place to protect your image?  And why, if you weren’t able to do that, would you not simply admit it, apologize profusely, brag about what you’re going to do to prevent future occurrences and get on with the business of pillaging the countryside?

That decision kept the story alive

Instead, the suits decided to circle the wagons, deny responsibility and fight charges laid by the federal and provincial governments.  And that decision kept the story alive so it could repeatedly blacken reputations.  You can see CBC’s coverage here:  http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/TV_Shows/The_National/Environment/ID=1429954598

Borrow a page from logging

You would think that somewhere, amid the accumulated genius of a board room, someone would borrow a page from the forestry industry in British Columbia and say, “Whoa, let’s stop fighting, denying and resisting.  Let’s find some middle ground everyone can live with.”  Forestry fought environmentalists for decades, and then, just a few years ago, buried the hatchet and embraced the tree huggers.  As near as I can understand, they’re now getting along quite well . . . at least according to logging industry PR.

A little more challenging

Admittedly, the image of the tar sands is a little more challenging than the BC logging industry, but I don’t think the decision makers are doing themselves any favours by allowing this kind of negative PR to continue.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA

Tiger Teaches Branding

We can draw some valuable lessons from Tiger Woods’ apology for his sexual transgressions.  He’s been roundly criticized for how he’s handled this whole issue and rightly so.  After all, he’s not just an individual; he’s a huge corporation with a high profile brand that’s now been badly tarnished.  But if he’d followed a few basic rules, the damage could have been eliminated or at least contained much more than it was.  Here’s what I think Tiger and all corporations should do to protect their brand:

Do the right thing

I know, that’s easy for me to say.  But really, all of this could have been avoided if he’d done the right thing in the first place.  The easiest way for corporations to get out of trouble is to stay out of it in the first place by weighting self interest against public good and public image.  Sure, it’s hard to do the right thing sometimes but all of this could have been prevented with one word: “No!”

If you make a mistake, admit it

This is where communicators and lawyers part company.  The lawyer will say, “Keep quiet.  Don’t admit anything,” whereas the communicator will say, “’Fess up, get it out, get it over and get it behind you.  Control the message, but tell the truth”.

Be sincere

Did you think Tiger’s apology was sincere?  His delivery was flat to say the least.  He appeared to follow his script to the letter and every gesture had obviously been coached endlessly.  Watch the video on YouTube and ask yourself: “Where does he sound most sincere?” and if the answer is “nowhere’ , draw your own conclusions.  If corporations want their publics to believe what they say, they must be direct, honest and sincere, particularly when they’re dealing with sensitive issues.

Don’t hide

It sure would have been a lot easier to believe this apology in early December.  Tiger complained about the tabloids hounding him and his family but if he’d just ‘fessed up and apologized three months ago this would already be old news.  Instead, it continued to fuel our imaginations and curiousity because we didn’t have closure.  When David Letterman admitted to succumbing to temptation, just a few weeks before the Woods story broke, Letterman controlled the message by admitting everything on his network broadcast.  He admitted his shortcomings, apologized, picked up the pieces and moved on.  If he’d tried to hide, the story would still be shadowing him but, just a few months later, nobody’s really very interested.  He bears the scar, but it doesn’t define him.

What do you think?

Did you think Tiger was sincere?  Do you think he’s added to his problems by waiting so long?  I’d like to hear from you

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.