Friday, 18 September 2015

Business communication bloopers to avoid!

While people in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, well even 90’s and the early part of the millennium also had 24 hours in a day; somehow our 24 hours seem to have just shrunk miserably. There is always so much to do in such little time. The task list at work has grown bigger and the responsibilities at home are unceasing. Then there is the added pressure of staying on top of what is trending all over the internet and keeping up with the Joneses in our Social media world.

Given the constant onslaught on our senses, putting time into writing coherent, cogent, consciously thought out emails is really not on top of our prioritized heap. Hence, the quick fixes and short cuts we have begun to adopt, without realizing that we dig a deep hole for our professional avatars when paying disregard to how we communicate in our business roles.

It would help if we attempted to avoid some of the following ten bloopers when we hit the keypad – 

1. Incorrect salutation / Wrong form of addressing 

You have to believe it when I tell you how ridiculously I was called out by a telemarketer recently. When I picked up the call she asked to speak to “Dhir L. Aruna”. I asked her why was she addressing me in such an outlandish fashion and she said, without the virtual batting of an eyelid, “That is how it is written in the document I have in my hand.”

There are different ways to address people with different designations ranging from Mr., Ms. (helps to avoid Miss or Mrs. saving you from making more goof-ups. Further, in business matters, Ms. is more unequivocal, formal and professional than either Miss or Mrs.), Dr., Your Excellency, The Honourable and so on. We have set out guidelines available to us in each case. Please use them.

Also, when you are writing to a neutral-sounding name do a background check on what gender the person belongs to and address them correctly. Though not any less in others, this becomes quite important in the service industry where you have a direct relationship with a customer/guest.

I once addressed a certain Blaise M as “Ms. M” because I had encountered a female Blaise in the past but here I was dealing with a male Managing Director. I was pretty embarrassed about the faux pas, which could have been easily avoided. Andrea, Alex, Jordan, Jamie, Morgan, Taylor, Chandra, Kiran, Jyoti, Shashi....the world is full of people with unisex names. Do a little research on the relevant recipient in order to get your salutation right.

Then there follows the next thing after the salutation. What is the best form of addressing a business associate? If you are an American or Australian it may be OK to get on to Peter, Katherine or Edward or even to Pete, Kate or Ed in the second mail itself. Even in the case of these nationalities, please wait for the addressee to give you that leeway. The world, it seems, is filled with too many people who are eager to cross the bar and jump into the area of over-familiarity.

But do that with Europeans, Asians, Far East Asians and you are walking on thin ice that could quickly snap and sink you into the cold shoulder reservoir.

I don’t understand the recent practice of e-retailers who work on an algorithm that automatically picks up the first name. I find it quite atrocious and unprofessional bordering on rude to be addressed as Aruna by the virtual (nameless, faceless) book vendor, furniture supplier, banker, grocer, credit card rep and the like. Since their system is based on a pre-written code why can’t they get their salutation right and stick to the tried and tested, old fashioned way of writing to a Mr. or Ms. so and so?

Again, in the service industry – be it hotels, banks, hospitals, insurance..... - it is safe to stick to the conservative Mr. or Mrs. Smith to set the ball of official communication rolling.

2. Using SMS language or other Acronyms

We are surely and quite dreadfully becoming the generation that communicates in ‘textese.’ 

As if ASAP, BTW, THX, FYI, Ha Ha were not already pretty bad, we are now resorting to C U, IMHO, GR8, MSG, IDK in our emails. The latest inductee in the Communication Hall of Shame to get the Oxford Dictionary recognition is NBD. But in business communication, this matter is a Big Deal!

With modes of our daily communication getting smaller, the case of us using them to communicate officially is increasing. For a lot of practical reasons, the first casualty – which seems superfluous in the times of the tablet – to be crucified is punctuation.

We commit this error, even if it puts us in the category of cheats and felons. Sample this – 

Let’s eat Grandpa
Let’s eat, Grandpa

Using textese in official communication shows you in a bad light, makes you appear lazy and worst of all, threatens to change the import of your communication capsule.

Similarly, acronyms are extremely contextual and country specific. On my first trip to the US, when I failed to comprehend a colloquialism, a cousin scoffed saying I was F.O.B. The joke was lost on me.

Officially recognized acronyms such as UNICEF, NATO, WTO, AIDS are universally acceptable and understood. So, there is no problem in using them. Even CRM, DM, B2B, B2C, CPC, DNS, GA, HTML, KPI are an integral part of our Business lingo, easy to comprehend and relate to.

What causes a problem is the usage of the informal ones, even if you must send in a reply or submit a report ASAP.  Definitely steer clear of OMG, IMHO, NSFW, WYSIWYG, LOL, TTYL and some of the other new world language croppers that, IMO, take the essence and flow away from the text.

Be mindful about dipping into the overused FYI, FYA, BTW, B4, BRB, PLZ, CU, the abominable K, the illiterate UR and the incoherent TY.

Increasing and widespread usage of SMSese or chatspeak has, indeed, corrupted our language, affected our comprehension and limited our linguistic skills.

3. Sending too many attachments

Attachments can be hugely irksome; especially on hand-held devices.

A leading news website I wish to write for, gives specific instructions while inviting a writer pitch. “Please do not send attachements,” it says categorically. “Cut and paste or write into the body of the email all the responses we seek to our queries,” it adds.

Unless specifically asked for or when really important to the matter at hand – for instance attaching a CV to the job application, sending a report document, a brochure design PDF – desist from adding weight to your mail by needlessly pinning attachments to it.   

Attachments are, often, invited by the recipient or offered by the sender when you are in your second or third stage of dialogue. Also, send only the requisite amount, even when you must upsell yourself or your product.

4. Getting too familiar in our tone 

It could be because we have too much on our plate, or because we wish to save time for our other pursuits or diddle away precious time on our social media activities so much that we are in a maniacal frenzy to get the important work done. We may also feel that appearing close to a professional contact or a figure of authority will bring us some benefit. Whatever is our excuse, some of us are getting too familiar in the way we communicate officially.

I, recently, received a formal note from a junior colleague who wished to enlist my help in writing/editing with a “Hello, there.” No, it was not a SPAM or a lottery scam from Nigeria. The person was from my industry, was writing to seek formal help and was attempting to create an impression.

Some obnoxious notes end with a callously casual, “Do call me,” which is not only grammatically incorrect but also makes the sender come across as pompously presumptuous. 

More often than not, our disembodied voice and the content of our message conveyed over the phone or a business letter we send ahead of establishing a formal connection, are the first impressions we leave on the mind of the recipient. Then, why do we risk our reputation by doing a shoddy job when even that first instance can be used to our benefit.

Becoming too friendly instead of staying professionally warm makes you cross the line of decorum making you appear as a pushover and an eager-beaver.

5. Trusting the Autocorrect blindly / not using spell check

At my first hotel job with the Hyatt Group, I was sending a note to the General Manager and I missed the crucial “l” in my designation as a terrible typographical error. Though, in hindsight, it seemed like a comical caper, at the time I was hugely embarrassed and had a tough time facing the boss for days.

Autocorrect has been seen changing Goldman Sachs to Goddamn Sachs, Public to Pubic, Dear to Dead, Party to Patty and the always hilarious ‘meeting with clients’ to ‘mating with clients.’

Autocorrect has a brain of its own and is known to put not only your job in danger but destroy your painfully built reputation too. The web is filled with ‘Damn You Autocorrect’ sites that can help you kill time on a lazy Sunday afternoon but do not let the Computer fed, algorithmically driven Net mind to make you lose your own. 

In Part 2 of this article, we will look at the remaining five mistakes we commit, intentionally or inadvertently, in our communication.


Tuesday, 15 September 2015


Communications is the single most important key to your Brand positioning, Brand awareness, Brand recognition and Brand association. Need I say more!

Whatever you may do – from providing medical care to creating an aspirational lifestyle; whatever you may wish to sell from air travel to Z-plus security, it must be communicated to your target audience. That is what Corporate Communications is all about - building and cementing relationships with your clientele and strategizing to deliver your Company message to them in the best possible ways that ensure easy relatability.

When the chips are down, companies often make the mistake of cutting corners in or completely eliminating activities that seem superfluous or ‘good-times’ functions such as advertising and public relations. But in the case of PR, they couldn’t go more wrong. For, it is in the dire times that you need a good mouthpiece to reclaim your positioning and hold on to your territory.

Above the line, below the line, subliminal, suggestive, word of mouth, through the drumbeats over a dense jungle - whatever be your mode of communication, your message must reach the intended lot. And it must be conveyed in the most creative manner with utmost clarity.

When in doubt about how to devise the most effective communication capsules, always remember to adhere to the 7 Cs of Communication – Be Clear, Concise, Concrete, Correct, Coherent, Complete and Courteous. With this simple formula you can never go wrong in ensuring maximum reach, frequency and penetration of your messages to the target audience.

As a CEO, you must ensure that your Company operates in an open atmosphere that encourages - along with prospects of growth, the milieu of respect, trust and belongingness - a culture of information sharing. This must be followed as a top to down approach so that every employee works in an inclusive environment and feels a sense of responsibility to do the same with his or her team. Not only does this working style build and equip all other brand ambassadors with enough information bases to represent the Brand with; this approach also provides an extremely fertile and fruitful foundation for a Communications person to operate from.

Corporate Communications is an integral senior management, strategy-level function. It must be kept in the know-how of all important things the Company is involved in for the following essential reasons – 

1. To be able to communicate Company’s immediate messages in the most efficient way and to the right audience.

2. To devise the optimal strategy to cover a wide audience base, in a direct outreach, and with cutting down of any loss of resource and effort.

3. To be razor-sharp with requisite knowledge of the issues or turn of events so as to handle the crisis situations better, in order to ensure no or minimum damage to the Brand value.

4. To keep up the morale of the internal publics by thoughtful communications strategy encouraging employee engagement and sense of identification with the Brand.

Further, with changing times and innovation of new technologies, the rules of the game have changed. If you wish to remain a dynamic and pertinent player then you must adapt, learn and evolve in the face of new challenges, opportunities and practices. Premium amongst the current need is to internalize Web 2.0, internet-driven PR and Communication strategies and become adept at getting the Social Media to work for you as an able ally.

There have been recent cases, where a PR person’s short-sightedness and apparent gaffe on, even, their personal Facebook and Twitter pages have caused grief to their Company’s reputation and jeopardized the professional’s career.

With new Communication channels being gaping open doors, easily searchable, playing round the clock and with the propensity for information to be dug out of the archives with just a mere click, it becomes imperative that the Communications professional and all the other Company spokespeople are cautious, clear, honest, conscientious and with a global outlook in the way they communicate, not only professionally but also personally.   

If Communication has the power to build a brand and keep it on top of the mind recall level, it also has the proclivity to break the brand and create reverse value in the minds of the publics.

So, for your Communications Strategy to be effective, here are some simple rules - 

1. Communication capsules must hold value for the target audience.

2. Communication must be purposeful – strengthening the bond with the audience. Generating feel good sentiment and respect for the brand are great purposes to bear in mind.

3. Messages may not always be about business. They can also be corporate socially responsible. You must positively reckon that genuine CSR activities create lasting value for the Brand.

4. Communication must be bottom-line focussed. At the end of the day, you must endeavour to run a successful business and all your initiatives must dovetail into that plank.

5. Communication must be meaningful – Untrained, unprepared Brand representatives speaking mindlessly at external platforms just for the sake of occupying space or bandwidth on some media without conveying messages of value – both for the Company and the end user, cut an extremely sorry figure, bringing a bad rep to themselves and their Brand.

6. Communication must generate respect and strong identification in the Brand even from internal customers. 

7. All brand ambassadors (read the entire employee base essentially, because one way or another each employee is an ambassador capable of propagating your brand value) must be trained to understand the Company ethos and convey it to the world at large, through their words, actions, demeanour and Brand association.

Still, being in Communications you are the chief custodian of the Brand. And with direct access to the media, you are the key Brand Ambassador.

Therefore, the best Communications Strategy for any Company would involve the following essential aspects – It bears value for the Brand and its products, carries a promise of service delivery, is coherent and customer-engaging, reliable and realistic and is delivered in a timely fashion.

With all the Communication tools and PR strategies at your disposal, you are in that enviable position to build a brand and reinforce its image consistently in the minds of the relevant publics.


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

World’s quickest and shortest PR Lesson!

I have given you my 25 Golden Rules for Pitch Perfect PR - here, for whatever they may be worth, in the past.

But here follows the quickest, shortest, five-point PR lesson to get you working like a Pro and making moves that only successful professionals do.  

Considerably, these skills will hold good not just for people from Public Relations but for anybody who sees himself as a good Brand Ambassador of his or her Organization.

So here follow my Top-Five for an effective PR Expert -


You need to be a good writer, good with graphics and creatives for all your Marcomm needs, a good event organizer, tech savvy and with a bit of finance and business acumen in order to understand the bottom line well and add your spin to it.

Move with the times. The new age way of doing things is quite different from how it used to be done. In the times of Social Media, Web 2.0 and technology-on-tap, evolve yourself and rethink your strategies to get the best results.


When writing press releases and backgrounders ensure that your pitch has a high news value for both the target audience and the vehicle you want to see it carried in. Otherwise you just end up wasting paper and the journalists’ time, who then would subject your release to the waste basket treatment.


Since you are the face of your organization that interfaces with a wide range of publics - from Heads of State to the celebrity clientele to the media - you need to have well-honed social skills, be charming in your demeanour and engaging in your conversations.

At the same time, since you are also the dogsbody that carries out the nitty-gritty of the PR functions, you need to be always on the ball to keep the PR machinery well-oiled and running, seemingly, effortlessly.

Being like the duck that seems calm on the surface but paddles madly underneath, is then a virtue.


You must have a thorough understanding of the various operations of your business. Definitely what keeps Sales & Marketing, Food & Beverage, Catering, HR ticking but you must also be in cahoots with the Security Chief, Engineering Head, Housekeeping people, the interior, art or flower expert, the Purchasing Manager - in order to keep all your ten fingers on the various pulses and be well equipped to develop interesting, multifarious story angles aimed at a plethora of publications.

You are in the spotlight 24X7 now with news being consumed via the new platforms of Twitter, YouTube et al. You are easily searchable. Consumers can get their hands on even your archived bits of information with just a click. Therefore be more diligent, news-worthy, meaningful and relevant.

Do make sure that along with the right keywords you use for good search engine optimization, your information capsules also carry significant value for your consumers and are crafted such that they
bring top of the mind recall.


Since you work in an international industry and are also driven to market your specific destination, being international in your approach at the same time being a great cultural ambassador is a major plus.

And here’s what gets you handsome returns – promise and deliver value to your customer, be true to your consumer even amidst all the verbiage and messages, stand head and shoulders above the clutter with your outstanding communication, engage the customer in your messaging with several points of interest, always respond and be prompt in your reply and finally build a healthy relationship based on trust, mutual liking and respect.

Note 1 - This article has appeared on - -

HospitalityNet - 

LinkedIn - 

Note 2 - Picture courtesy - Google Images