The unfortunate case of the “don’t panic” video


This, unfortunately, is a true story.

A software company recently started moving its customers from the most-commonly deployed and implemented version of their software to the new & improved version. This new version was indeed significantly better, but it also was very different from the previous version. Any customers who had implemented custom work with the previous version, and trained their staff on how to use it, was facing a lot of work (and cost) to upgrade.

The software company, however, knew this and had a plan. They knew their customers would immediately understand the ramifications of the upgrade, so they were proactive in communicating why it was OK, how it wouldn’t be so bad, and why the benefits of upgrading outweighed the cost and pain of getting there.

One of their tactics was the “don’t panic” video.

The strategy was sound. And I’m sure the nickname for the video caught on quickly internally. It was literal, fun to use, and made it exceedingly clear which video you were talking about.

Unfortunately, when the final video was published and distributed to the sales team, it retained the “don’t panic video” title. Every customer received a link and a file with “don’t panic” prominently in the title.

File names are important. Code names are important. Anytime you start referring to something internally, assume it will catch on and your customers (or investors, or the press) will hear about it too.

Especially in a world where social networks allow news and gossip to travel at light speed, the language you use, even in planning stages and deep internal meetings, is exceedingly important.