“Killer” California Quake Kills, uh, Nobody!

[Note: Just a few hours after this post was written, a 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti, to devastating effect. My prayers are with the people of that country. As someone who has lived through quite a number of damaging quakes in California, it’s not my intent to minimize natural disasters. But I stand by the points made in this post.]

Didja hear about the “killer quake” out here in California last weekend?

Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t, depending on when you turned on the news.

It was a pretty good shake — 6.5 on the notorious Richter scale.

The first reports from Big Media on Saturday night used terms like “panic,” “devastating,” and “massive clean-up efforts.” And if a 6.5 quake were centered in L.A. or San Francisco, those words and phrases probably would’ve been spot-on.

But this shaker hit offshore and 22 miles from rural Ferndale, population 1,500. No major injuries. Minimal property damage.

So the initial news stories were, well, you might say overblown. Maybe even irresponsible. Within 24 hours, once the press realized there were no photo-ops of smoking ruins, you could hardly find the Ferndale earthquake mentioned online or offline.

Which got me thinking again about the dangers of exaggeration and embellishment.

It’s especially deadly in journalism, where reliability and credibility are everything.

But it’s a destroyer in business, too.

If you consistently overstate your case, inflate the benefits of your products or services, and lay it on really thick, you risk losing credibility with your customers.

Hyperbole that may have worked fine a few years ago is now reaching ears that have literally heard EVERYTHING. Heck, even if you’re telling them the honest-to-gawd truth, they probably don’t believe what you’re saying.

Maybe they know you and like you well enough to be fooled once or twice. But even with the oldest, most loyal customers, there’s a limit.

Be careful, especially in today’s more cynical marketplace.

So today’s marketing tip is, tread lightly when it comes to exaggeration.

P.S. Looking for more marketing insights? Trek on over to…


Oh, by the way…if you click on the above link and end up purchasing anything, I get a small piece of the action, if you know what I mean. Hope that doesn’t bother you.

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