First Impressions

‘You have 7 seconds to make a ‘first impression’ on someone’
‘70% of the buying decision is in the headline’
These are two of many expressions about what happens ‘first’ when you or I meet someone or read something.
There is also a ‘theory’ that once a ‘first impression’ has been made its very difficult to change the perception you have of that person or subject.
Personally, I’ve found this to be completely untrue as when I’ve ‘investigated’ further I’ve frequently changed my ‘impression’ – not always but frequently.
Alongside this though are the situations when the first impression is so ‘strong’ that we decide not to ‘investigate’ further and go with our initial perception – good or bad.
This idea sounds simple, but it isn’t.
There is a multitude of circumstances that can affect our first impression of something whether that be a person of a ‘headline’.
And headlines of course don’t always relate to a product or service sales situation. Headlines relate to politics, ideology and many other things – but actually when it boils down to it, it’s a ‘buying’ decision.
We ‘buy in’ to a particular ideological or political idea or proposal and what we ‘buy into’ is what we end up choosing to believe based on those initial impressions – until of course we investigate further if that’s what we choose to do.
Just look at some of the newspaper headlines around today – what impression are they designed to make?
(You could compare them with some mid 1930s German headlines – no don’t, it’s too scary)
Listen to some of the ‘sound bytes’ on the radio or TV – what impression are these people trying to make?
Look at the headlines in advertisements, on Facebook, on email marketing and in media advertising – what are they pitching?
They are all looking to grab your attention and instil a particular desire or point of view.
That of course is what marketing and copywriting is all about – to get you and I to buy in to whatever it is that’s being ‘sold’.
But headlines and sound bites are one thing, what about you and I?
What about the impressions we make?
There’s an old saying – ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ and that applies to headlines and people as well as books!
Writing headlines and constructing speeches is a deliberate activity. Hours can be spent crafting the right headline or the right form of words to ‘grab the hearts and minds’ of the audience.
But ‘copywriting’ the ‘first impressions’ we make as individuals doesn’t often happen.
Politicians, leaders and people who make their living ‘on stage’ take a lot of time ‘copywriting’ not only what they say but also their ‘image’ – a classic example is the ‘image’ of Margaret Thatcher before and after her election as Prime Minister. A lot of time and effort was put into that.
But do you and I regularly think about how we are perceived by others?
Do we consciously think about it at all?
There are occasions from time to time when you or I desire or need to ‘make a good impression’ on some other person or people, but what does that mean?
What do we do to make that ‘good impression’?
‘Impression’, good or otherwise has everything to do with perception – and the same applies in a different way to copywriting.
Perception is how we perceive the world around us and as I discussed when talking about truth, no two people ever, ever, ‘see’ or perceive the same thing.
Even when you look in the mirror, you don’t see what other people see, the voice that you hear is not the voice that other people hear, and these are the first obstacles to ‘making a good impression’.
To some extent when we attempt this we are ‘flying blind’ – you and I cannot see how we really look to others or hear how we really sound.
Everyone has a different view of the world around them, we all ‘see things differently’.
What this means is that in making a good impression on one person you may not be doing so for another as they see you from a different ‘angle’.
Many people spend a lot of time and effort trying to ‘impress’ – they usually succeed – but they have little idea of what impression they are making on each individual they meet.
Usually this is the result of a need to associate with people they would like to emulate or be ‘recognised’ by, but it rarely succeeds in making a good impression on those people; rather the people trying to impress just become one of the entourage although they may feel they have succeeded.
So how does one make a good impression, and importantly a good first impression?
Rule number one is to stop attempting to impress and reverse the situation.
What matters is not so much the impression you make on others but the impression they make on you.
You are the most important person in this game, not someone else.
But there’s a subtle twist.
‘Impressive’ people are not consciously intending to impress anyone, some are actually quite shy and private – I’m talking about successful and charismatic people, people who ‘stand out’.
Those who I have met are never looking to impress, but to be impressed – and they are not impressed by people why try to impress them, but by people who are impressive in themselves.
People who ARE themselves – people like you and I
So the secret is that the only person you need to impress is yourself.
Just one more thing . . .
We must impress ourselves all the time and to do that we need to be alert and aware of what is going on around us at all times and who is around us at all times.
Because you never know who is watching.