Wednesday, October 8, 2014

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave”

Is it a viable option to intentionally make mistakes to promote discussion or feedback? Or even more severely, to sell something.

There are a million lists out there these days, usually prefaced with some form of “that you can’t live without”. Some are pretty interesting, but often they are linked to some form of social media publicity harvesting. It seems one of the easiest ways is to make you respond, for example by publishing a list of “25 guaranteed weight loss tips” but then only publishing a list of 10. You then make a comment to point out the error of their ways, and voila, they have you.

So I got to thinking, where and when is it acceptable to warp the truth? In his last blog ( Raja mentioned that “the key factor that pushes customers over the edge to say ‘YES’ is trust (a combination of integrity, knowledge, and expertise).” As a parent of 3 boys, two of whom are 6 years old, and still enjoy being read to, I find that I purposely change words in their better known stories to elicit a response and see if they are paying attention.

During training courses I will, usually tongue in cheek, throw in a complete misstatement about the topic to test attendees, or at least test if they are awake. Some areas should not have this done, for example if I was doing Health and Safety training, or a pre flight briefing, just in case someone takes it seriously!

Yet if I was doing the same thing in marketing materials, would people see it as a hook or as a lie? Obviously each situation has its own interpretation and merits, and yes, advertisers have been stretching the truth for years, but at the end of the day it loops back to Raja’s trust issue. I will always exaggerate for effect, that is part of my genetic makeup, sometimes a million times in one session, but I have to do it in such a way that it makes the rest of what I am saying credible. It is me, or my colleagues, that people are buying into, not necessarily the specific wording, but the end point still has to be accurate.

So when we sit down and discuss “what we can do for you”, it will likely cover a range of areas. In illustrating points, there may be a slight misrepresentation for effect, for example if we talk about your 5 thousand seat aircraft, or your ship flying from point A to point C. But when we are talking about specifics, actual details and what can and cannot happen, it is off the cards. This approach, a refusal to bend the truth, has made me unpopular in past jobs, as it is very at odds with the “used car salesman” type approach, i.e. say anything to win the deal.

But unlike the used car salesman who likely will not see you again, my team has to deliver what we told you up front we could. We have to deal with you daily, and if something is not as we said, we have to face the music. On occasion things may not happen at the originally envisaged times, but overall, keeping an honest dialogue going serves to keep everyone happy.

And misrepresenting things upfront puts the credibility of me, my team, and my organisation at risk. And that is not acceptable.

As Mark Twain said,
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything”

So whilst no one is likely to come out and admit to lying, when is it acceptable to bend the truth? Your thoughts in the comments below please?

Jason Codd
VP, Services

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