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Is stretching the truth in marketing acceptable?

It is so common for companies to stretch the truth about this or that, but is it an acceptable business practice? In some cases, the answer may be yes.

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The common nature of stretching the truth

In the corporate world, wording can make all the difference in how you and your business are perceived. A “social media executive” may actually have an extensive background and work history in the subject matter, but it’s not too uncommon for that person to be a high school intern who makes three posts per week on the company Facebook page.

Similarly, “a quarterly revenue management director” may be known more simply as a sales manager. When it comes to marketing your business, questioning whether or not to enhance the significance of statistics and wording to make things appear more important than they really are can be tough. Is stretching the truth a prevalent practice in the marketing realm?

The power of word choices

We know that words often have two meanings: a connotative meaning, centered on feelings and emotions, and a denotative meaning, as listed in a dictionary. And while using the term “realty” as an identifier for your business may accurately define your company’s areas of expertise, you may prefer to jazz things up a bit and market the fact your staff are premium real estate sales professionals as opposed to just realtors because quite frankly, it sounds better and is more enticing.

Similarly, interpreting a statistic so that it tilts in your favor can be of benefit to your business; numbers don’t lie but they can behave differently depending on how they are framed and presented. Telling a blatant lie, however, is never acceptable under any circumstance.

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Enhancements are the name of the game

In the field of marketing, enhancing the positives and down-playing the negatives is the name of the game. But the key to doing it correctly is by making those enhancements as truthful as possible and ensuring that they are able to be strongly substantiated. If you stretch the truth beyond the confines of reality, you dig yourself into a hole and risk damaging your business’ credibility and reputation.

If your skills are highly specialized, then re-work your resume or website’s about page, and beautify the accomplishments and duties that you may find mundane, but someone else may find notable. If a stat doesn’t tell a full story, providing a more complete explanation and context may also be in your best interest. It doesn’t hurt to market yourself or your business more favorably, so long as those claims are can be backed up with proven performance and expertise. You shouldn’t lie, but the truth doesn’t always have to be so ugly.

Destiny Bennett is a journalist who has earned double communications' degrees in Journalism and Public Relations, as well as a certification in Business from The University of Texas at Austin. She has written stories for AustinWoman Magazine as well as various University of Texas publications and enjoys the art of telling a story. Her interests include finance, technology, social media...and watching HGTV religiously.

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