Sales & Marketing

Content errors can cause irreparable damage – Here’s how to avoid them

6 min read

07 July 2016

We live in a world where a single typo will find you criticised on Twitter or with empty pockets. As such, here are a few tips to help you spot errors that could land your business in trouble.

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In a previous article, Real Business unveiled examples of how typos could cost businesses billions – or even lead to the closure of a company. The latter was the case in 2009, when Companies House claimed that Taylor & Sons, a 124-year-old company, had closed shop. This sent the still functioning company into chaos. In actual fact, the agency was meant to have recorded the closure of Taylor & Son. The company was forced to liquidate and leave 250 employees jobless, and Companies House was unsurprisingly sued for £8.8m.

“These types of errors happen regularly,” said Gavin Drake, vice president of marketing at Quark Enterprise Solutions, who had quite a few examples up his sleeve. One was how Adidas faced criticism over a typo in its advertising recently, mistaking Colombia for “Columbia”. Twitter followers were not forgiving and the company had to recall the graphics and install new versions.

In 2007, a local car dealership in Roswell, New Mexico mailed out 50,000 scratch tickets, one of which would reveal a $1,000 cash prize. But the marketing company in charge of producing the cards made every one a winning one, costing the business $50m and leaving the dealership unable to honour the prizes. And in 2013, a misprint in a mail order leaflet from Macy’s advertised a £971 necklace for just £30. The price should have read £320. Before the retailer knew it, and before the blunder was spotted, hundreds were purchased, costing the firm a small fortune.

Similarly, a dispute between Canadian communications giants Rogers and Bell Aliant was caused by a single misplaced comma. An agreement between the two companies was disputed when the comma led Bell to believe the agreement could be cancelled at any point, whereas Rogers read the agreement as established for five years. A court case ensued in which the rules of punctuation were cited.

“Perhaps not all are as public as the Companies House saga but the consequences can be catastrophic,” said Drake. “The reason is simple, a lack of rigour and control in the content lifecycle driven by inefficient and outdated processes. If you do not have a single source of truth for your content and instead rely on manual processes such as copy and paste and have duplicate content, it’s inevitable that mistakes will happen. Factor in consumer demand to get the right content at the right time on the right device and you can easily see these dated processes no longer work.

“Some industries have already figured this out, such as manufacturing and aerospace that have mature processes and technologies for creating and managing technical documentation. However this is the exception not the rule. So what’s the answer?

“With the emerging practise of content automation, your business can save time, save money and keep your subject matter experts, business leaders, designers and technical talent focused on what they do best (spoiler: that isn’t cutting, pasting and reformatting content). It’s enabled by creating reusable content components that get reviewed and approved once and automatically assembled for each audience and device. What’s more, you can update the content in one place and every other instance is automatically updated too.”

He explained that by introducing content automation, businesses give themselves the peace of mind that their company isn’t at risk and avoid disaster before it’s too late. 

From his advice, we also rounded up a quick four-tip strong list that would help you avoid content mistakes.

(1) Fool yourself – It’s been found that part of why we miss typos is because content we’ve written is too familiar to us. This is why unfamiliar readers are able to spot mistakes much more easily. By changing the font, text size and background, you can fool your brain into believing it is reading a completely new document.

(2) Print it out and read it out loud – By printing your work and reading it out loud to yourself, you can hear when something could be misconstrued, or isn’t structurally sound.

(3) Come back to it – Walking away from copy and coming back to it later ensures you are reviewing the content with a fresh pair of eyes, and almost, again, fools your brain into thinking it’s looking at a whole new document.

(4) Proofreading – Always have a colleague proofread your copy, a second pair of eyes will only ever be a positive.

Also, whilst it is true that it has never been easier to become an entrepreneur, there are lots of pitfalls and hurdles to overcome on this journey. Here are the seven biggest mistakes aspiring entrepreneurs make that derails their progress to success!

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