Lessons learnt from facepalm moments

Oops! D’oh! Arrgh!

Ever wished you could just hit rewind or reset?

Unfortunately, that’s not usually an option.

But we can learn from our mistakes.

Here are some I’ve learnt from over the years…


Mistake #1: Not trusting your intuition

Intuition is one of the important intangibles in communications. This instinctive sense of knowing gives communicators a real edge. We tap into our intuition to comprehend how others feel, what they are really saying, what’s left unsaid, and what will (or won’t) resonate with them.

But sometimes we question our intuition, maybe because it’s not based on conscious reasoning.


Listening to your intuition can stop you from heading off in the wrong direction—saving time and so much back and forth down the track.

For example, your intuition might be whispering that you’re missing a piece of the picture. By digging deeper into the agenda behind the need for communications, you can identify clearer objectives to guide your work. Intuition also helps you know when messages need more fine tuning to properly connect with your audience, and how to nail the right mix of factual and creative in your writing. And it often sounds a quiet warning when your understanding of project scope and expectations are not quite lining up with other people’s.

Which leads to….

Mistake #2: Not being 100% clear on expectations

For any communications project—writing, editing, website development, strategy development, design, advertising, branding, video production—a clear brief is essential. Agreeing on the purpose of the work from the start saves time, frustration and confusion later on.

But sometimes, when viewing things through a communications lens, we make assumptions about the expected deliverables or desirable outcomes, and misjudge or misunderstand the expectations.


Being totally clear on what’s actually expected greatly improves the odds of achieving a successful outcome. You may have to give some ‘frank and fearless’ advice if expectations are unrealistic or if the proposed solution could actually create more problems than it solves. But it’s better to have those tough discussions up front and offer your professional advice about the alternatives, than to realise half way through a project that you need to back up and start over.

Which leads to…

Mistake #3: Not recognising when you’re overdoing it 

They say ‘under promise and over deliver’ for happy clients. And on the face of it, this makes sense. We build trust by delivering on our promises. So surely over delivering or value adding is appreciated even more, right?


According to research, going above and beyond doesn’t necessarily pay off.

We can be tempted as communicators to deliver what we know is needed, rather than what is wanted.

For example, a client says they want a brochure but you can see what they really need is a strategic approach to all their communications materials. However, developing a full blown strategy may not meet their immediate need. Sometimes, it’s best to start small. Deliver the best brochure you can, or settle for being involved in just a small part of the project. Do it so well that your client is happy with the result and more willing to listen to your advice next time. You’re in a stronger position to explain how you can add greater value once you’ve got some runs on the board.



“There are no mistakes, save one; the failure to learn from a mistake.”

Robert Fripp


Cinden Lester has more than 25 years’ experience as a professional writer, editor and communications specialist. She worked as a broadcast journalist, in private sector marketing and public relations, and in government communications before establishing her own Canberra-based communications consultancy in 2000.

Contact Cinden if you’d like help with your communications.

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