A No-Disasters Checklist!

The Checklist Manifesto
Save this one: forward it to colleagues and your agency

When I read the review of “The Checklist Manifesto” by Dr. Atul Gawande, I ordered it on my Kindle.

Three minutes later I was totally hooked—engrossed in graphic descriptions of hospital emergency rooms where patients’ lives depended on split-second decisions by health care professionals operating as a team and guided by mental checklists. If they ignored a step or failed to communicate, the patient would assume room temperature—forever.

The author’s argument is simple: Checklists in this complex, high-tech world are indispensable.

It occurred to me that some years ago I created a checklist for direct marketers, and that it was currently residing on my Web site, www.dennyhatch.com. Given my newfound interest in checklists, I decided to revisit it. The thing was OK as far as it went, but woefully inadequate. So I reworked it.

I believe the revised and expanded checklist that follows will be useful to the 20- and 30-something newbies entering this business who are handed decision-making authority beyond their experience.

It’s also invaluable to us addled seniors, who tend to forget things.


As an old geezer, I’ve seen some major screwups in my 50+ years in marketing. Two come to mind—both off-the-page ads:

  • In the 60s, a full-page ad offering membership in a book club ran in a major weekly magazine at a cost of roughly $20,000. It contained a huge omission: Nowhere in the coupon or in the body of the ad was there an address to which an order could be sent, nor an 800 number.
  • In a full-page mail order ad, some nitwit got the idea that a black coupon would be an attention-getter. So the black coupon ran with white type and white lines indicating where name, address, city and state should be filled in. But you can’t write on a black coupon unless you have a pen that dispenses white ink. Duh.

A simple, free checklist would have caught these blunders for which the designer, creative director and account executive of the agency should have been summarily fired.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

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