Often, the problem with corporate communication is that it’s too, well, corporate. Just as any community or group of people will cultivate its own language with time, over the years, commercial organisations have developed their own particular way of speaking to each other and the people who work for them.
Most cultures naturally gravitate towards a simple and efficient way of communicating. The reason English is the world’s common language is partly because it’s fairly simple and lacks the grammatical complexity of, say, French or Arabic. Equally, platforms such as WhatsApp and Twitter also owe part of their success to this reason.
Muddling the message
However, the business world has gone the other way. A recent survey by CEB-Gartner reveals that only 32% of employees feel that the corporate content used by their organisation is “clear and easy to understand.”
If you’ve ever come across a sentence such as “We are utilising our deep analytical capabilities in order to provoke a more rigorous approach to client engagement that is truly best-in-class”, then you probably feel their pain.
Part of the problem is that corporations believe the work they are doing is important and valuable, and rightly so. But, rather than making sure these important messages get through, they go the opposite route, attempting to convey importance and urgency through complexity, and “leveraging” the most convoluted words and expressions available.
We’re only human, after all
What they’re forgetting is that, ultimately, the individuals reading the memos are people. And not just people, but time-pressed people with stressful jobs. People who like to read and hear things clearly, rather than having to strain to understand the meaning.
In an ideal world, corporations would have a chief humanising officer on the payroll whose only job would be to convert ‘business talk’ from the communications or marketing department into good old-fashioned plain speaking.
If such a person were to exist, here are some examples of what they might come up with:
“We are undertaking a strategic human capital optimisation programme.”
Translation: “We will be firing people.”
“We are driving operational performance and cross-site best practice throughout our organisation.”
Translation: “We are trying to improve how we work.”
“Evaluating the complexities of the modern B2B Sales & Marketing landscape.”
Translation: “Understanding how companies sell to other companies.”
“We deliver a unique, customer-led approach.”
Translation: “We listen to our customers.”
“We are witnessing a process of optimisation throughout the automotive value chain.”
Translation: “The car industry is using its resources more efficiently.”
Simply does it
While phrases such as “human capital”, “optimisation programme” and “best practice” probably sounded impressive when people first began punching them into keyboards many moons ago, including them purely for the sake of it doesn’t convey anything particularly meaningful or intelligent.
As Mark Twain once famously said, “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.” Coming from arguably the most successful American writer of all time, it’s good advice to live by.
Like Mr. Twain, at Baxter Lawley, we value clarity and simplicity. Whether on internal or external communications projects, we work with our clients to help them find the clearest, most readable and most engaging way of saying what needs to be said. Contact us today to see how we can help you.