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Gullible adj: Easily persuaded to believe something

Harold Camping’s recent failed prediction of Armageddon highlighted a very well known fact: the majority of people (apparently Americans in particular) will believe the majority of things they read. Humans are naturally gullible. There’s a whole load of psychological reasoning behind that statement and it really can’t go ignored.

Although you’d generally associate such a statement with the world of media and journalism, there’s no reason why the same doesn’t apply to business literature. Whether it’s a brochure, website or Annual Report – stakeholders will naturally believe what they see, which makes getting it right all the more important.

In a business context, it is in many ways fantastic if your audience believe what they read from and about your brand. It indicates trust, loyalty, and an authenticity of your brand that many others fail to achieve. However, it also means that if your communications, or any about your company, set a foot wrong, your audience may just as easily believe that too.

Examples abound in the world of social media – from Chrysler to Nestle, many things have been said, and believed, which have resulted in uproar. Another classic arena is the food marketing industry – how many calories in a Big Mac? What’s in a Burger King milkshake? Just how fattening is a delicious Krispy Kreme?

These are just a few obvious examples that spring to mind but it goes without saying that no industry is exempt from the risk of saying the wrong thing. Monitoring brand messages and communications to ensure consistency, clarity and, importantly, authenticity is the first step in avoiding a crisis, with PR following closely behind.

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