From misspelled names to phrases that double as innuendos, we’ve all seen a marketing or content writing mistake at some point in our lives. At best, such mistakes are embarrassing and require a quick retraction or apology. At worst, such mistakes can cause lots of cringing, defamation to a brand, or job loss for the writer.
You can avoid such mistakes by taking precautions ahead of time. While the first order of business is to always proofread before posting to a blog, publishing an ad, or sending out an email, there are other strategies for avoiding these gaffes.
1. Read your work aloud.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught some sort of glaring error I originally missed by doing this. Reading your work this way helps not only to catch the typos that spell-check misses, but it also helps you to check the general flow of your work. It can also help you catch any unintentional innuendos or phrases that may be interpreted in other ways.
2. Avoid writing content and marketing messages last-minute.
We all do it at some point, but when writing in a hurry, it’s easy to miss mistakes. Last-minute content also runs the risk of rambling. Where there is rambling, there is the potential for saying something you did not intend to say. Instead, try to give yourself at least a day to let the piece “cool off.” It’s easier to catch mistakes when you come back to a piece with fresh eyes.
3. As a rule of thumb, avoid tropes and stereotypes.
Some large companies – Sony, Huggies, and General Motors – created controversy when they stumble onto stereotypes. In Spokal’s 2015 article, “Read With Caution: 15 of the Absolute Worst Marketing Campaigns from 2014,” cringe-worthy campaigns were highlighted. If you’re relying upon a stereotype (i.e. Dads being generally clueless when it comes to child-rearing or the sexy video gaming woman), it is time to rethink your strategy. Such campaigns are not only cringe-worthy but can also destroy a career (and brand).
4. Be careful when trying to be “punny.”
When working with puns, there is a fine line between clever and eye-roll inducing. If the people in your office respond with a forced laugh, it’s probably best to avoid the pun. In fact, it may be best to avoid most puns anyway.
5. Be mindful of timing.
Some marketing and content fails happen because of poor timing. If you’re going for a seasonal-themed marketing campaign, make sure that the campaign is released during the intended season. Likewise, avoid potential controversy by paying attention to current events and delaying content that may come off wrong given the day’s top headlines. Also, don’t piggyback content or a marketing campaign on a current event (particularly a tragic one) unless your product or service directly ties into it.
6. Be mindful of placement.
As content generators and copywriters, we often don’t get to participate in the graphic design process. However, if the information is available, it’s helpful to know what types of content your piece may be appearing with so you can keep the general flow of content in mind while writing. Placement can sometimes cause a marketing piece to go unnoticed, or it can cause a piece to stand out – in a bad way.
7. Fact check everything!
If you’re quoting numbers and figures, make sure those numbers and figures are accurate. If you’re stating a historical fact, be sure to double check the source. Be sure you’ve quoted people correctly and properly attributed information from other sources. Before sharing articles on your social media accounts or citing them in your marketing content, be sure that the article comes from a reputable source – especially if it is making a bold claim.
8. Be clear about who your intended audience is.
One oft-overlooked mistake content marketers make is casting the net too wide. It’s important to have an intended audience in mind well-before sitting down to write blog posts and sales copy for a website. Will this piece be for a potential customer? Are you trying to help a newbie in your business field? Are you speaking to other subject-matter experts? Each of those audiences will require a different style and tone in your writing.
9. Consider hiring a content editor.
A second set of eyes can be useful. Not only can an editor pick up on obvious mistakes you missed, he or she will catch the not-so-obvious mistakes. Looking to outside help can also help when you have a lot of research that needs to be fact-checked, especially if the outside help is an expert in that field.
By preventing mistakes from publication in your content and marketing materials, you ensure that your marketing efforts are effective. What do you do to avoid cringe-worthy marketing and content mistakes? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Ronda Bowen – Content Creator