From romance to drugs – is your message clear?

“This is the romantic song of the year!”, said the DJ on my local radio station.

My eyes boggled out of my head a little when I heard this comment a few months ago. The reason – it was said in relation to a song I love, but had had a totally different reaction to.

When I hear the song Ed Sheeran song The A Team, I hear sadness and a tale of a drug-addled prostitute. Hardly what I would consider romantic!

Isn’t it funny – we’d both heard exactly the same message – and yet, it had impacted us completely differently.

I had the same thing happen with a letter we recently implemented at work. Being a residential property management company here at Elephant Property we were looking for a way to impart onto our tenants that we wanted them to treat their properties with the same care and attention they would give them if they were their own.

We saw a great example of a letter in an industry mag and interpreted our own changes. In it is a paragraph that says that we’ve gone out on a limb in recommending them to the property owner because we thought they were the best person for the property and that we hoped they would treat it like it were their own.

Our Launceston office all read and interpreted the message in one way – our Hobart office took the letter another way and made a decision not to go ahead with that letter and to continue using an older draft. Since we implemented the letter a few months ago we’ve had one complaint that it came across condescendingly so we’ve made a few more tweaks to it.

It’s a work in progress but we feel the message is still important – so we need to keep working until the letter reflects and is clear (to as many readers as possible) as to what we want it to say.

So romance or drugs – important or condescending, it’s been a good lesson for me that what you write, or think you write, may not always be what is read!

Kirsty Dunphey is the youngest ever Australian Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year, author of two books and a passionate entrepreneur who started her first business at age 15 and opened her own real estate agency at 21.

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