You can tell lies—in one instance only

I’m a champion of ethics in business, but there is one instance—and one instance only—in which it’s okay to tell lies.

This blog post by my friend Veronica Guzzardi reminded me of it. I know Veronica as a creative artist, but she remains equally creative when dealing with her web design clients who won’t—or can’t—generate their own promotional copy. I’ll let her explain:

“I’ve recently changed my workflow as a web designer/developer. Instead of just throwing Lorem Ipsum into the space, which tends to confuse and distract non-designers, I have a worksheet I give with a list of questions like ‘what year did you start your business?’ and ‘what area do you serve?’ and ‘Do you have any testimonials, or know any customers/clients who might provide one if you ask?’ If my client doesn’t get back to me with the worksheet, I lie:

For the last 325 years, Norman’s Dry Cleaners has been providing high-speed internet service to the greater Eureka area, and serves its population of over 4 million with 99.9% uptime. Our staff of 68 trained narwhals guarantee service within a one-hour window, or we will waive the first hour of your call time. Visit our facility in the heart of London anytime; we are open to the public, and provide tours by appointment.

My relationship with the client determines exactly how much I lie, and how ridiculous the lies are, but the point is, the first draft is done, and we can get to the business of correcting the information right away. Any words are better than no words, and factual words are better than any old words. And, well-crafted factual words are the best of all.”

So tell lies if your clients drive you to it. But make sure that by the time you push “publish,” you’ve replaced those lies with some “well-crafted factual words.”

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