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Who is Your Chief Impression Officer?

Everyone knows the value of first impressions.

The ancient Romans had a saying: vestibulum domus ornamentum est (“the entrance hall is a house’s jewel”), by which they meant that people judge a house on what they first see. The Roman rhetorician Quintilian added that the worst impressions are also the most lasting (haec ipsa magis pertinaciter haerent quo deteriora sunt). The English playwright William Congreve agreed (“There is a great deal in the first impression”), and so did Dickens (“First impressions, you know, often go a long way”).

And our modern proverb that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” is so common that it’s attributed to a variety of people.

Yet for all of this, at most not-for-profits and small businesses no one is responsible for first impressions. Frequently, the job of first impressions is left as an afterthought, relegated to someone with another job (a secretary, say) or to whoever happens to answer the phone. Other times, the people in charge of different kinds of first impressions — the website (on-line), office (phone), and physical space (in-person) — never talk to each other. Or just anyone is allowed to place a hastily written hand-scrawled notice on the front door. Sometimes the people in charge don’t even know how the phone is answered, let alone whether the entrance hall and website are coordinated to give the same first impression.

So here are my questions:

1. What kind of a first impression do you want to give people?

2. Do your entrance hall, website, and phone personas convey that impression?

3. Who is your Chief Impression Officer?

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