Archive for December, 2009

23 May contain nuts

Posted in Uncategorized on DecemberSun, 20 Dec 2009 17:04:55 +00000420pm09 24 PMpSun, 20 Dec 2009 17:04:55 +000004Sunday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

As an important high-flying business communication consultant, I am regularly booked into some of the best hotels available to humanity. Last night, the Premier Inn Warrington.

Fair enough. But if you were alive in any cinema in the 1980s, and if you and Mary from the dairy ever had your lips parted by the fire brigade during a double bill, you may remember from the widescreen adverts that Warrington was the proud home of Vladivar Vodka. A gallon of the stuff may be your best friend if ever you chance to visit.

From the name, I take it the Premier Inn is the best gaff in town. It’s certainly ideal if what you’re looking for is an endless series of notices, rules and forms of instruction, laminated and shoved in your face, just in case you were a total idiot in need of information to increase your health, safety, well-being and personal enjoyment throughout your stay. Examples follow.

Towel rail may get hot
May? I have been standing here holding it for an hour. When will it decide to get hot? Is there a particular day of the year when the spookily possible heating up might happen?

Did you know..?
Yes, I did actually. Because every hotel I’ve stayed in since 1993 has left a sign in the bathroom to say that leaving my towels in the bath will waste 50,000 litres of detergent. So how come the room never smells that good? And yea there will be gnashing of teeth and terrible fissures in the rock and Gideon will ascend mightily out of the wee drawer beside the bed and smite thee for thy hygiene. Don’t worry, I’ve used so many hotels and so few towels that I sponsored a seat in the dress circle for the entire Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.

May contain nuts
Formerly a warning found only on foodstuffs, now has wider use. All manufacturers of everything now stamp a nut warning on every item they produce. Washing machine not working? May contain nuts. New shoes painful? May contain nuts. These signs are designed to prevent the general public from engaging a battalion of ambulance chasers in shiny suits (“100% Lawyers, 100% Compensation” thunders the daytime TV ad). As a by-product, squirrels are now investing seriously in UK industry.

Caution! Towel rail can get hot
Can as well as may? Under what circumstances? When I make the personal decision to switch it on? Thus causing horrific heat rash trauma to the tip of a finger? An injury that only 100% Lawyers with airbrushed hair can convert into the holiday of a lifetime in Miami.

Please wait here to be seated
Many people who enter restaurants these days are incapable of recognising what a table looks like. They therefore require to be escorted to one. Otherwise, they will end up guzzling a full English breakfast while sprawled like seals in the middle of the floor, thus constituting a trip hazard for other residents. Look for this sign in crumby, under-staffed, low-end business hotels. (It’s amazing. You actually do see fully formed adults standing around for five minutes in an empty restaurant at 7.45am, before a serving child in some scuzzy attempt at a uniform comes and points a finger at a piece of cloaked MDF and says, “Just to let you know? We ain’t got no foie gras today?”)

Thank you for your custom, we look forward to welcoming you again
So you have written a sign to say this? Instead of just making it happen? Why not check if they have signs like this in hotels that people enthuse about to their friends.

And how this relates to business is..?
You know exactly how this relates to business. And so, as the soft and lovely flurrying snow bedecks the whispery streets here in Dickensian London and the year behind us floats away, it’s time for a break.

A Merry Christmas to all My Readers. All 1,457 of you (according to Google Analytics), including you three in UK.
It’s a crazy world. See you in the glorious dawn of the new decade, my friends.

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember


22 Signs of the times

Posted in Uncategorized on DecemberThu, 03 Dec 2009 19:04:41 +00000403pm09 24 PMpThu, 03 Dec 2009 19:04:41 +000004Thursday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

One eager reader writes from his phone to inform me that this blog has become his “portable curmudgeon”. Portable cannot be denied.

As a communication consultant constantly on the move, I am dedicated to analysing and improving the way we get our messages across to one another. So I have been scooting around, innocently gathering examples. Of what? Of the contemptuously condescending public signs and announcements that continually belittle the collective intelligence of the people of our fair and favoured land. In particular, the travelling public. Examples follow.

No Smoking
No kidding. Really? “We would like to remind you that smoking is not permitted in any part of the aeroplane, including the toilets.” This is a vital message. Surveys have found that a staggering 94% of air travellers in 2009 have not heard of the global embargo on smoking on planes imposed 17 years ago and indeed believe that smoking offers a wide array of health benefits. This is why you always see people on planes huddled together near the galley helping each other through the cold turkey trauma of not being able to cup a stub in their yellow-stained palms, as the big bird trundles along the runway.

No Spitting
This sign was originally sited on the top deck of Glasgow trams (1914-1965). Spitting was a popular activity then among city folk, but it became necessary to outlaw the sport when cigarette manufacturers realised that people were spending too much time gobbing and not enough time furiously smoking cigarettes, which was permitted on the top deck of trams. Today no one in Glasgow smokes, so there is no need to ban spitting any more. It’s really slippy up there.

If you see anything suspicious, please report it to a member of staff
A general purpose reminder that the world is flat, the moon is made of cheese, distrust is the safest option and paranoia by far the best way of keeping the civilian population acting like rabbits on a lamping expedition.

Any unattended items may be removed and destroyed by security forces
Forces? In which dystopian novel are we now actually living? These scripts are seriously darkly Orwellian. At St Pancras International today (as every day) the above message was tannoyed every two minutes. We didn’t have “security forces” two months ago.

Passengers with luggage are reminded to use the lift
Reminded? If I’ve been told once I’ve been told a thousand times. Because some woman with a tinny voice says it every time anyone passes a motion sensor on the platform bridge at Luton Airport Parkway. If you are lucky enough to be waiting endlessly for one of First Capital Connect’s premium uncancelled services, you will grow fond of her voice. Or cause a passenger incident.

If using the stairs, hold the handrail and take care
People are finding it increasingly difficult to remember how to walk these days. Thank goodness the woman with the tinny voice is here to help again. A special Luton Airport Parkway DVD of safe walking techniques for valued customers is available online. Surprisingly, it offers no advice on how the handrail should actually be held. This omission provides a potential insurance claim goldmine for the clumsy. Take care, won’t you?

And how this relates to business is…?
Written rules remove the need for personal responsibility. All those haranguing signs and announcements above rob us of the dignity of commonsense.

The business equivalent is the whole nine yards shelf of QA procedures that nullify the notion of thinking for yourself. No one I know in business loves those things. That’s from CEOs to purchase order clerks. So why do we still have ISO?

If your company has a method statement for how to open envelopes to avoid paper cuts, maybe you should cut and run.

Every successful organisation knows that a tick box exists to be ticked and forgotten. They then get on with the dynamic principle upon which every good business operates: how can these brilliant people we’ve employed increase their own job satisfaction by exploiting their own initiative and so add to the commercial benefit for all?

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember

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