I’ve always thought it would be fun to be a technical consultant on a hit TV show. Most shows have advisors of some sort; they are the physicians, attorneys, computer experts, or other professionals who teach actors to correctly pronounce long, complicated technical terms and look good doing it.
In the 90s, police drama NYPD Blue employed a former NYPD officer, Bill Clark, as a consultant. Not only did Clark advise on scripts, he contributed actual cases and worked with the actors to ensure that they carried themselves and handled their weapons as a real officer would. The show ran for 12 years and won numerous Emmys, as did the actors. The episodes on which Clark advised were widely considered the series’ best; they were the most true-to-life and viewers enjoyed the sense of realism.
What does a long-ago TV show have to do with today’s business climate? A lot, I think. Viewers were faithful to NYPD Blue, at least partly because it was apparent that the producers did their best to make the show as real as it could. There was a sense of trust. It wasn’t easy given the constraints of a one-hour TV drama, but they made the investment needed to be accurate.
How does this apply to those of us who communicate online? Using the wrong words, using words incorrectly, grammatical errors all demonstrate to me that you really don’t care that much — at least not enough to get the input of an expert. It makes it difficult to trust you to give me accurate information.
I just started watching an instructional video series from a company I’ve done business with in the past and probably will in the future. But I had to ditch the videos, because they repeatedly used a word incorrectly and it distracted me from the content. What a shame. I’ll find the information somewhere else because it’s important to me. But I trust this company just a tiny bit less.
It doesn’t take long to run your copy by a third party; someone who hasn’t read/seen it, and is known to be an astute proofreader or editor, or, in the best case, an actual professional editor. If these guys had done so, I’d be watching their video instead of writing this post.
Most of us don’t have television-sized budgets to hire professional consultants, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle for inaccuracies. Consult a dictionary or buy your favorite doctor, lawyer, or police officer a cup of coffee or a beer.
Every word that goes out under your name either enhances or detracts from your credibility. Get it right.
Your audience deserves it.