What Messages Are You (Inadvertently) Sending Donors?
Quite a while ago, when newspapers were still being produced with cropping wheels, X-acto knives and wax rollers, I was toiling away at a daily that also produced a weekly entertainment section called (we’ll say) “In Springfield.”
As was the norm, the production folks kept a drawer full of pre-made promo ads for various causes and its own products to be popped onto a page when a story ran a little short or there was an odd space to fill. One of the ads was a plain white box with bold black letters that spelled out “IT HAPPENS” with a row of smaller letters beneath it reading “In Springfield.”
At some point, a ballsy prankster or some miffed staffer penciled in the letters “SH” in front of the “IT HAPPENS.” And because it was impossible for it NOT to happen, the doctored ad got plopped onto a page and — you know it — made it to print.
Lots of snickering took place the next day, but the fallout wasn’t pretty. There was no way of knowing who marked up the ad or who placed it on the page. Fifteen people coulda/woulda/shoulda caught it before it went to print, but ultimately, one person was responsible for signing off on the page. He kept his job by the skin of his teeth.
Not long afterwards, at the same paper, an editor arranged the daily listing of world temperatures so if you thought to read the first letter of each city from top to bottom, you got the message that “John Doe is an a**h***.” (“John Doe,” of course, standing in here for the actual name that appeared, which was that of the paper’s managing editor.) That one was easy to trace, and that editor was indeed fired.
I was reminded of those incidents a while back when I gave an admittedly small online donation to a presidential hopeful and got a lightning-fast e-mail response that read something like this: