Sometimes it’s obvious, like when you’re going to a job interview. You wear your suit, polish your shoes, maybe a haircut, and try to make that good “first impression”. Most of the time, however, it seems that you meet people for the first time without the luxury of extensive preparation. In the normal run of events, this shouldn’t be a problem. When you leave the house to go to work in the morning, you generally dress for the occasion. If you work in an office, as I suspect most of us do, then a reasonable standard of dress is the norm and, if we are unexpectedly introduced to a new contact, we should already be dressed appropriately. I remember that my mother would never leave the house without fresh lipstick and a hat. “You never know who you might meet”, she would say.
In the same vein, your published work should have similar rigour applied. Whether you are producing marketing material, board presentations or client deliverables, care over the look and feel of the product will help to get across the message contained within. Always assume that this may be the first time that somebody important comes across your work. Most businesses, Altus included, have a quality-checking process for their deliverables. You want to make a good first impression.
Not Going Out
The current COVID-19 situation is no time to relax your approach. With a large part of the workforce now working from home, there may be a temptation to let standards slip. I’m sure we’ve all been in virtual meetings where you wonder whether one of the participants has just got out of bed! Does this create a good impression? Are you more or less likely to take them seriously? There are many articles on the internet about how to present yourself in a virtual meeting, so I won’t reproduce their advice here. However, I can testify from personal experience in my early career, as a shaggy-haired youth in the 1980s, that no matter how good you are at your job, if your appearance lets you down, it’s much harder to get taken seriously.
What shouldn’t be forgotten, is that the same principle applies to printed and visual output. It’s vitally important, at a time when we might not be presenting our work in person, that the work itself looks professional. You may have just created the most insightful content you’ve ever produced, but if the opening paragraph contains numerous spelling and grammar mistakes, or the graphics look like they were thrown together at the last minute, then there is a real danger that the message is overlooked. Working from home is not a reason to bypass your usual quality-checking processes; in fact, it makes it even more important. If being remote from your co-workers means going the extra mile to have someone review your output, then make that (virtual) journey.
We all know that making an effort over our appearance has a positive effect on the way we feel about ourselves and how we conduct ourselves with others. The same is true with published output. If care has been taken to make it look attractive, then it’s easier to get the message across. People often don’t notice when something looks right – they expect that; but when something looks bad, they notice, and it distracts from the message. Don’t let all your hard work in producing great content be let down by poor presentation.
Make that effort.
Make that unexpected first impression count.