Customer reactions - does formatting matter ?
As a part of marketing spend advertising is typically dominant, but there are those commentators that believe that traditional advertising is becoming less effective and that organisations need to become more imaginative in communicating and reminding customers of the values that underpin their brand.
Where communication with customers or prospects is continuing and uses documentation it is open to discussion whether a more subtle approach in producing consistently branded documentation would be effective in promoting the images of the selling organisation.
Prospective customers are likely to experience a range of reactions to a document, some of which are rational and some of which are emotional. The rational reactions are more easily defended and understood by most, but the emotional reactions may be just as important in giving an overall impression of the selling organisation. Thus whilst formal evaluation checklists are sometimes used, this will only form part of an overall evaluation and other more subjective issues are likely to be included at some point.
Lack of consistent appearance within documentation can also be taken to indicate a less well coordinated company. For example : if two organisations are competing and one has documents which have a well organised consistency of appearance; whilst the other has written documentation whose appearance varies, it will be hard for a prospective client not to draw conclusions about the relative consistency of approach of the two organisations.
Sadly format is easily exposed as a weakness in the documentation supplied at high cost to support a corporate presentation. It can take much less skill on the part of a reader to spot a change in font size than to identify a false premise in a complex argument. It also isn't necessarily as visible to the reader of an electronic document as to the reader of the equivalent paper based document.
What about internal documents ?
Many brands, even those which have a carefully crafted tone for their external communications have done much less to promote or encource the use of that tone internally.
Whilst language and content play a crucial part on the tone, the format and other subliminal indications also play a valuable part.
It is also the case that most organisations that are document intensive leak those documents unintentionally from every part of their organisation. Whilst most sales proposals and marketing documents have been traditionally considered to be important, a mass of other communications also contain branding ( or anti branding ! ) elements, for example :
u Invitations to Tender
Some of these may be considered to be purely internal, but will leak out when :
u external companies and personnel are invited to meetings.
u content is reused.
u the shape of the organisation changes, perhaps with outsourcing taking over parts of the organisation.
The state of outsourcing is a particularly important one as the supplier of the outsourced service may be responsible for many documents that would have appeared in the "branding" of the commissioning organisation ( e.g. IT outsourcing ).
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