Macro and Micro Mistakes

Published September 1, 2016 by monika

Many companies have PR plans for when things go wrong. Schools have disaster plans in place for if the worst should happen. Charities have strategies in place to cope with things going wrong, or accusations of things going wrong. The big problems are carefully planned for, the relevant people know that they will be the ones contacted and what their role is should something happen. They have been briefed on what to say, to whom and what the next steps are.

The macro problems are easy to think of, plan for and build a strategy for. The disaster plans for managing communication and practicalities make sense and trustees and senior leadership teams can easily understand why it is necessary to spend time on creating them.

Those companies that do not have these plans in place are failing in their duty of care to employees, or service users, and neglecting to use strategies effectively to manage the unknowns ahead. A company or charity can close almost overnight if the problem is not dealt with effectively. There are PR companies that exist purely to manage the fall-out from a big issue and their aim will be to save the company.

Micro problems that inevitably exist in a workplace, very rarely have a strategy to address them. Many are ignored, not noticed in the first place, or deemed irrelevant. Let’s look at some of those micro mistakes that can happen every day:

  • Hastily written emails that contain at least one typo or spelling mistake

  • An email to someone with their name spelt wrong

  • A marketing flyer with a mistake on

  • typography that looks wrong on a billboard (this one deserves its own blog post, watch this space)

  • A website that doesn’t have an address or contact details easily to hand

  • An unreturned phone call

  • A promise not kept

The drip-feed effect of micro mistakes can have a bigger impact than you realise. If I receive an email that is addressed to Monica instead of Monika, you have to work that much harder to win me back round. If it happens repeatedly I start to wonder about your ability to manage attention to detail. This may matter.

If you employ somebody who regularly fails to call clients back, this will damage your relationship, if only because those clients are unlikely to recommend you to someone else. Your word-of-mouth marketing is stalled and you may never realise why.

If someone googles you and cannot easily find how to contact you, they will contact your competitor.

The build-up of micro mistakes can damage your reputation. The impression of your organisation may be that you do good work, but you are unreliable. It may be that someone suggests their company supports your charity, but their colleagues decide against it because they have heard you are not professional.

Few organisations strategically manage to address micro problems. It is easy to see why. No manager wants to micro-manage their staff to the extent of checking every email that is sent out. However, there are companies and departments that have taken steps to do so, because this is their lifeblood: For example departments that regularly have a tangible output (such as marketing, or printed products) will have a series of well-worn steps to ensure that copy is proofread by at least two different people before it is sent to print, they will have a style guide on which font or which colours can be used. Larger charities will have guidelines on how and when their logo is allowed to be used. Newspapers have grammar and style guidelines for how articles are presented in their publication.

These guidelines do not emerge overnight. It may not be realistic to be so rigid in your organisation, but there are lessons to be learned from the approach, that can help you to communicate to employees that micro mistakes matter. For example:

  • Make sure that your staff are well trained in writing and telephone skills. Invest in training if you need to

  • Asking staff to proofread their emails before they hit send

  • Highlighting the importance of accuracy at induction to the company and regularly communicating this to staff

  • If needed have a company policy on how long it should take to call someone back,and ensure that employees are aware of this

The questions to begin are: What is the reputation of your organisation? How are you viewed by your customers or clients? What would people say about you? If you know the answers to these questions, do you know why? What has helped you build or damage your reputation? If you think macro and micro, you will be able to start managing your reputation more effectively.