Prose and Cons is no stickler for that other kind of PC (political correctness), but is for consistent brand values. That’s why a recent promotion by Slurpee had the marketing gods scratching their heads. A flyer promoting a competition featured an Australian Football League fan standing and appearing to scream at the field in anger with the headline “Proudly supporting the man yelling obscenities in row 2” on it. Why would a company with a squeaky clean, family image like Slurpee (a Coca-Cola product) and by implication the equally image-conscious AFL, whose logo appeared on the ad, be supporting fans yelling obscenities? Strange behaviour indeed.

I’m not aghast at the obscenities bit per se, nor the image of the seemingly irate fan hurling abuse, but at how such an image makes it into circulation in the first place. That’s the kind of concept that should be excluded the minute it is raised in a meeting, particularly when it is readily apparent that the AFL spends much of its marketing time convincing people that the sport is family friendly. The AFL thankfully later indicated that miscommunication had occurred and the promotional material had been recalled. And, while on football-related communication matters, am I the only person who finds the two main domestic football websites (afl.com.au and nrl.com.au) totally unintuitive? One common denominator between the two appears to be Telstra. Whoever is responsible should take a closer look at American football for some lessons. The National Football League (nfl.com) site deals with twice as many teams (and one assumes many more issues) with considerably more clarity and ease.

Right online

Big financial institutions don’t get a lot of big love, but when it comes to their websites I am handing out giant red hearts. I recently ‘sampled’ the online offerings of a range of major financial institutions and came away impressed. Purposely looking for faults, I found clean interfaces, excellent marketing communication integration and a good range of functionality. Each institution had captured its own style on the web and was up-to-date with information, accessibility and content. I went to ing.com.au thinking ‘I bet they haven’t tied in their Formula 1 sponsorship’, but they had done so very well. I prefer the uncluttered side-menu style of banks like Westpac (westpac.com.au), but each organisation had a unique structure that I am sure regular customers would have grown fond of. The only disappointment was my basic credit card application with the ANZ. It promised a 60-second response to an online application and delivered as promised. I just wasn’t expecting the rejection!

Presentation problems

Prose and Cons has been at a lot of seminars over the years, both in the audience and in front of it. I recently got to thinking about what makes a good presentation. The answer I believe is simplicity. The most common mistake made (and I have done it myself) is to try and do too much in the time available. It’s a natural reaction to over prepare. Nobody wants to look a fool and it is safer to have too much rather than too little. The problem is that too much usually means rushed thoughts and ultimately confusion as to what the main points were. In the end, you end up talking to everyone, but convincing nobody. It takes a lot more bravery to stand up with one or two simple ideas and to express them with clarity.

The other big mistake is failing to understand the motivations of the audience. It is surprising how many good marketers, who clearly understand the motivations of their customers, fail to adequately grasp the motivations of the audience to whom they are speaking when they put together a presentation. Ultimately good presentations, like good marketing research and good ad campaigns, come from clients who do good briefs. When you can tell a speaker what simple points you want made and what the motivations of your audience are, you are halfway to a presentation that will be well-received.

Of course, even that fails if the speaker lacks basic skills, which surprisingly in a world full of communication, happens just as often now as it did two decades ago, when I first began cringing at what some people passed off as a presentation. Personally, I have always found teaching good presentation skills my most rewarding training experience. Not only are the key elements easy to enunciate and demonstrate, the resultant transformation is usually dramatic and carries immediate impact. I get the sense now, however, that many companies assume that all their staff can present and have cut back on appropriate skills training. That is a big mistake.