Mixed Message

Mixed Messages Screw Up Your Story

Mixed Messages Ruin Good Stories.

I had a friend at university who would lose his tiny temper halfway through a film because the film has shown a different plane landing to the one that had taken off earlier in the film. We all thought he was just being ridiculous and annoying – as well as interrupting the film – and he usually got abuse and a beer bottle thrown at him. But for him the inconsistency of that tiny detail screwed up the whole story.

I laugh at my dog every day when we have one of our crazy fight mad-moments of the day. This involves him shouting at me with his tail furiously wagging. “Furiously wagging”!!! (see what I did there?)

Mixed messages undermine your credibility  – but worse they undermine your narrative and your personality and your persona as a company or as an individual.

Yesterday I woke up to a barrage of emails from American Express. Stuff like that happens – its shouldn’t happen but it does. No big deal. It’s just a delete exercise after all. And it was a handful of emails – not 5000. Talk about #firstworldproblems !!! Who would seriously get grumpy with them for that?


Anyway, today I was rather chuffed to see an email in my inbox from AMEX (an emotion they shurely aspire to cause!) with a headline that made me WANT to open the email – again a positive reaction they must spend millions of $ every year trying to trigger.

The email subject simply said : Our recent email Snafu


I have worked with the US military so the term was amusingly familiar to me, but I got confirmation from Professors Google and Wikipedia to be safe. They confirm that SNAFU is a military slang acronym meaning “Situation Normal: All Fucked/ Fouled Up.” I have also heard it mean Situation Now All …..

So I was delighted to hear a global finance corporate like to AMEX talking with some personality while addressing their self-described SNAFU.

But a timid corporate word-blander had got there first. I opened the email and this was what it said:

You recently received multiple emails from OPEN Forum in error. We’re aware of the issue and are currently investigating. We apologize for any inconvenience. If you want to contact us regarding this or other issues, please don’t hesitate to reach out at help@openforum.com.

The OPEN Forum Team 

Plus – although they have my email – they didn’t even personalise the beginning! Two different people must have written the email subject headline and the email content.



What a missed opportunity for a financial organisation to tell a story about them talking their job seriously but not themselves, to present themselves as human.

Or am I being too mean on them?

Part of what I do within my coaching and the MessageCraft process is checking for inconsistencies, flaws and mixed messages within your storytelling – whether it is for a TED style talk, a business pitch or comms or political office. Maybe I can help you? Give me a call or email me on peter@peterbotting.com and we can talk things through.


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