Companies are engaged today in what can only be described as the wholesale destruction of meaning.
They overwhelm us with dreary, overused platitudes that serve only to obscure the messages that they are trying to communicate.
So why is it that companies continue to hark on endlessly about their innovative solutions, unique insights, enhanced experiences, and sustainable values? Surely they must know that people switch off when they read or hear this kind of uninspiring cant?
The answer: lazy thinking.
It is much easier to use off-the-shelf, pre-prepared platitudinous waffle – and assume that it makes you sound clever, than it is to think hard about original ways to get your message across. This linguistic laziness means that important messages have become saturated in the sickening treacle of dull platitude.
Here are just four repeat offenders.
Name a company that doesn’t describe itself as innovative these days.
The corporate world has become obsessed with the concept innovation, when most businesses that exist in this world are not actually innovative at all, but merely react to the innovations of others.
Unless you really have invented the internet or the smartphone, splashing the word “innovative” over all your literature only goes to show one thing: you are painfully unoriginal.
It is impossible to visit a corporate website (particularly in finance), without being inundated by “unique insights” into everything.
For the most part, companies are offering you nothing more than an educated opinion – not much different to anyone else’s. But they dress it up as the elixir of insight.
And it actually ends up having the opposite effect from what’s desired, because that is what everyone else is claiming to do too.
A genuine insight opens your mind to possibilities that you had never considered before. And think about it: if every consultant, asset manager or bank is giving you unique insight, then, by definition, there can be no unique insight at all.
I found someone on LinkedIn the other day who charges companies hard cash to teach their employees how to “leverage their personal impact to be a top communicator”. What does that even mean?
This is someone who has set up a business specifically to help people become clear and forceful speakers, but then advertises his course in a way that is utterly meaningless.
Anyone who tells you that they are going to leverage their skills, or leverage anything at all for that matter, needs to be scrupulously avoided.
Drowning in buzzwords
“Sustainability leaders will adopt a truly transformative ambition,” said a very large financial firm on its social media channels the other day.
But what has this sentence told you of any substance? Any important message that the company wanted to get across about its green credentials – or making sure your business profits are in harmony with the natural world – is drowned in buzzwords and waffle.
Like innovation, name a company today that does not describe itself as sustainable. It’s simply box-ticking.
So how should you write to stand out from the crowd?
Ignore all buzzwords and management jargon. Instead, speak in a way that is human – like you would to your friends or family.
Be thoughtful and intelligent, and find new ways to articulate old ideas. Above all, think hard about who your audience is, what could interest them, and make it as easy as possible for them to understand you.