Ann Baldwin – The brochure menace

The mega-merged PricewaterhouseCoopers, a successful takeover bid by ACCA, even the firm-hopping by certain Group A partners all have in common the need to create brochures. However, a warning to anyone approached to take responsibility: this job is the poisoned chalice.

Beware of creating something a little out of the ordinary. I once gave a free hand to some young staff to produce a really interesting brochure to attract graduates. The result was effective and great fun – but I was never forgiven by some partners for allowing the firm’s name and men’s bare bottoms to appear together.

Every brochure I have ever been associated with had the same results: the staff featured left the firm despite having been there for years; the clients, who not three months previously put their lavish praise of the firm into print, decided to appoint new advisers. The curse of the brochure has few boundaries. I once took delivery of a trailerful of a new firm’s brochures highlighting a major ship – which had just sunk.

As for the logo – something we all lovingly identify with: at my last firm it was affectionately known as ‘the blob’. It is meaningless to most readers. How many businesses can you recognise from their logos? Yet you will probably invest hundreds of hours in deciding where to position the damn thing on the page.

Brochures sometimes give hapless information. Many years ago, my principal was reviewing photographs for his greengrocer business in London when he became furious. ‘Look, it’s only 3pm according to the clock in the picture, yet my staff are closing up the shop.’ Similarly, a construction company produced a brochure, complete with site photos showing numerous health and safety infringements.

Finally the brochure is created. It will have cost more than was budgeted and will be expected to last a generation. One office I visited kept them locked up because the partners were so keenly aware of the cost. ‘We certainly don’t want potential clients walking away with our brochures do we?’ I commented.

Ann Baldwin, FCA, is a management trainer and conference speaker.

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