Sweat the details: the small stuff isn’t so small when it comes to reputation
I get a lot of email.
Most of it is relevant, and you can break that category down into discussions with people within the magazine, contacts with vendors or processors, or things such as product and event announcements. Some of it is announcements of things that may not be directly relevant to Food Engineering, but those things are often relevant to other publications within our company.
Some of it, of course, is outright spam. But sometimes I get emails that just make me shake my head in disbelief at the idea that someone would think they would be of interest to me. I imagine that I’m on any number of generic “media contacts” lists by virtue of my position, but there are times that I wonder if anybody who purchases or uses those lists bothers to check them for relevance (probably not, if we’re being honest).
As an example, I’m somehow on the contact lists for both a third-party U.S. Senate candidate for the state of Texas, as well as one of the fringe candidates pursuing the Democratic nomination for president. I suppose I could unsubscribe from both of those lists, but they’re good for a chuckle every now and again. I also occasionally get one-off emails that bewilder me, such as the one I recently received touting the importance of “knowing your audience” while pitching an interview with an Instagram influencer.
These emails are good for a laugh, but they also represent something else: a lack of attention to detail. It wouldn’t be terribly hard for someone to look at an email list and say “OK, the editor-in-chief of a trade magazine covering the food processing industry probably isn’t someone we want to target.” If someone’s campaign or PR firm isn’t willing to do that, then I don’t have a lot of faith that they’re paying real close attention to the small stuff. To put it simply, it makes me wonder about their administrative capabilities if they’re overlooking things like that.
The little things aren’t so little when it comes to your reputation. If you notice a typo in this magazine, then it’s going to affect your opinion of the publication. If you have an employee who’s constantly making little mistakes because he or she isn’t being careful, it’s going to affect your opinion of the person. And if you make a mistake that comes from not paying attention to the details, it’s going to affect other people’s opinions of you.
Obviously it’s hard to be perfect, and I’m not saying that perfection is the requirement. But there are mistakes that are unavoidable or understandable, and there are mistakes that could be avoided if someone along the line had put a little more effort into sweating the small stuff. The small stuff falling through the cracks is often an indicator of larger issues within an organization, and paying close attention to the details can often help head off those larger issues.
It’s an ongoing challenge, especially as we keep getting overloaded with more and more information and data. But it’s worth it in the long run because when people know you pay attention to the details, they trust you to get the big stuff right.