CASE STUDY: When logos are improperly used, are there any consequences?
As a versatile NZ communications writer with years of experience writing for large businesses and part of government and councils, leveraging off the endorsement of clients is not something done lightly.
Adding somebody’s endorsement to my website is hard to achieve and easy to lose, which is why every time me – or any other communications writer – uses a client’s logo, there is a lot of negotiation and permission sought behind the scenes.
I was surprised, then, to encounter a company in August which is sort-of part of my industry. This company claimed to have provided writing training to many branches of government, councils and NZ’s largest and most influential companies.
Now, this isn’t a case of professional rivalry or sour grapes. This is a case of wanting to keep the standards high for my industry.
Frankly, I didn’t think it was possible that any NZ communications provider could have “provided writing training” to all of these organisations – I’ve never come across any communications provider which has serviced even a quarter of these clients. I had a journalism trainee friend who in August was looking for news stories. She asked the company to kindly justify their claim.
Parliamentary Services, the Beehive and other governmental branches then asked for their logos to be removed.
The company swiftly removed the image and also removed the written claim that they had “provided writing training” for all the above companies. They then apparently convinced my journalist friend to drop her story.
How did I spot the logo misuse?
- I run a small communications outfit where winning permission to use someone’s logo is hard-fought. I estimated what it would have taken for a company to service every one of the logo’d clients in question. It didn’t seem possible.
- Bigger, longer-established, more professional rival organisations haven’t taken care of nearly this many clients, so I didn’t think this small outfit could have, either
- I was in a Tall Tales festival this month, and I write both fiction and non-fiction. I have a finely-tuned bullshit detector (I can help you spot liabilities in your communications, so ask me)
Takeaway lessons from this story
- Clients deserve respect. If you genuinely have provided services for a client, they will support you using a written testimonial with a name attached to the testimonial, endorsing the claim.
- You can attach a logo to a testimonial, but don’t go around the internet copying other people’s hard-earned logos and pasting them into your website like it’s an endorsement. You may get called out, and it may harm your business.
- The organisation in question doesn’t appear to have proof that it provided writing training to all the above organisations on a corporate level, though a few of the named companies did indeed use the services of the company in question. More likely, the organisation had some individuals from all of the above companies take part in various courses – unrelated to professional work – and they have stretched the truth about the organisation endorsing the course. Or there’s just been an oversight.
- One last thing – I haven’t been able to find any written rules around use of somebody’s logo. There may be no restrictions. I think it’s all done on a goodwill basis, so the lesson is: don’t abuse a client’s goodwill.