How sloppy presentation kills credibility

Sandra Stewart | January 17, 2010

Organizations tend to extremes when it comes to the presentation aspect of marketing communications. Some obsess on it to the point of overlooking other important needs—like having something compelling to present. But many others seem to believe, like the woman who went to an executive job interview in flip-flops (true story), that people will dig for the diamond beneath the rough. That sounds nice and egalitarian—substance over style and all; trouble is, it’s delusional.

Presentation is one of the key components of credibility (and thus, one of 10 factors we analyze for the Thinkshift Credibility Quotient™). Ample research with website users, for example, shows that people make snap judgments about a company’s credibility based on its site’s design and usability. Note “usability”; people often get caught up in how something looks, but that’s only one aspect of presentation. A credible communication gets all these things right:

  • An aesthetic that’s appropriate for your industry and market.
  • Accessible information. If I’m looking for information about sustainability, or about a particular product’s qualities, can I find it easily?
  • Appropriate materials. If the communication is making sustainability claims, does it use appropriate materials? Any print collateral, for example, should use the lowest-impact materials and processes possible. This applies to packaging, too. Excess or high-impact packaging on a sustainable product undermines the product.
  • Writing quality. Overall, is the communication clear? Do individual statements make sense? Was it proofread? (Yes, I do need to make this point; see “flip-flops” above.)

Sloppy presentation communicates a sloppy approach overall; strong presentation lays a foundation for trust.


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