Tag Archives: corporate communications

On the jargon runway, is this why people love it?

jargon.PNGAnother buddy from my newspaper days has started working in corporate communications, one more straight shooter struggling with jargon and other biz-speak gobbledygook.

That’s hardly news, at the end of the day. (“19 Worst Examples of Jargon of 2014.”)

But this might be. My friend seems to have found an answer to the eternal cosmic question: Why in the world would anyone use these nonsensical words, phrases and non-words, when simple, plain English is always there, just waiting to be used (NOT utilized)?

Before we get to his explanation, though, let’s enjoy some of the new terms he’s been struggling with in his day-to-day role.

  • bbbWing to wing — instead of comprehensive.
  • Solve — as a noun.
  • Runway — “I’d like to have a meeting with you, but I’m out of runway for the month.”
  • Goal –– as a verb.
  • Lift — as a noun meaning an imposition.

That’s one my friend has slipped into using. He doesn’t like it, but he’s surrounded by jargon all day now. Sometimes, he can’t win.

“Who knows why I used that,” he told me. “Why did I not just say, ‘I hope it’s not too much trouble’ instead? There are so many options. It’s awful.”

Here we get to the solution (NOT solve).

“Am I trying to impress somebody?” he went on. “Because it’s not really impressive. Maybe I’m just trying to fit in. Is that why people talk like this — not to show they’re smart, but just to show they fit in?”

Could be, buddy. And maybe that’s why all those years in newspapers we talked about “slugs” and “perp walks” and “news hole.”

But I’m still gonna shout “Rewrite!” if somebody asks me to goal a wing-to-wing solve.


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9 Proven Ways to Lead a Difficult Interview to Success

Communication-skillsAll professional communicators have faced difficult interview subjects who can’t or won’t give you what you need.

Do you get tough with your questions like a reporter or a prosecutor?

Do you smile and nod and hope that you can somehow make sense of this later?

Do you walk away absolutely frustrated?

Consider, for example, a certain Subject Matter Expert. She’s a genius in her field and is somehow affiliated with your company. You and your team want to craft a multi-channel communications plan for her to use with audiences of, say, employees, media and investors. To do so, you need clarity and proper engagement from the expert, who doesn’t mean to be challenging, of course. She’s just not good at expressing her vision and she doesn’t understand why she frequently has to stop and explain things again.

Successful communicators are often the best listeners. They’re skilled at getting great thinkers to share those great thoughts, even those subjects who don’t want to or don’t know how to.

social-icons-01 Click to Tweet: How to help when interview subjects have trouble communicating.

Here’s how to help. Try these easy tips I’ve gathered from doing countless interviews, first as a news reporter with VIPs of all kinds, and later as a corporate communicator with business leaders, allies and staff members of every rank. If you can master this, you’ll be able to help all kinds of people share all kinds of information. So everybody wins, including you.

tm-pilbox.global.ssl.fastly.net1. Do your homework. Read everything you can about the person you’re interviewing. Read anything with his byline – even if he didn’t write it, he approved it. Watch all his videos. Also, talk to his associates if you can. Their insight can be invaluable.

2. Organize priorities. Get clear with the subject — and also with your boss or your team —  about the priorities for the interview, how much time you’ll have, and if this is a one-off or the first of a series. That way you’ll be sure to know what everyone needs the most and get it.

3. Show respect. Let the person indicate if he wants to chat for a few minutes or get right down to business. Don’t interrupt or contradict, but also don’t kiss up or try to impress.

4. Remind him why you’re talking to him. Chances are, someone has already told him, of course. But he’s busy and might’ve forgotten or confused you with someone else. Be succinct and clear about what you need.

5. Ask for clarity. If the expert or leader seems to contradict himself or something in your notes, ask for a clarification. “I’m sorry … I thought the plan called for X, rather than Y … I must be confused. Can you help me understand?” Remember: If you don’t get it, no one will.

social-icons-01Click to Tweet: Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity. If you don’t understand, no one will.

KeepCalm6. Keep it simple by asking and maybe even re-asking the basic questions. “I want to be clear for everyone: What problem does this new product solve? I believe it’s this, based on the research I’ve done… Is that correct?”

7. Mix it up. Ask a variety of open-ended questions (“How do you feel about how things are shaping up?”) and direct questions (“Are you satisfied with these results?”)

8. Get a few soundbites. Some experts and advocates know what you need and are happy to help. For the others, though, try a suggestion like this:  “So, would it be correct to say X-Y-Z…? I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, but we need this to be short and clear.”

9. Wrap it up. Stick to the time allotted, unless the leader wants to extend. Thank him for his time and share your plans for review.

Now make it matter

Transcribe your notes and share with your supervisor and team. Plan a meeting to go over everything and suggest key nuggets for use – in, say, the annual report or next week’s newsletter. Fact-check anything you’re not sure about, or run it by legal before you distribute. Remember your internal approval process when crafting and executing the communications plan.

Do you need to suggest a follow-up interview? Make it a monthly thing? Should you send a videographer to the person’s next speech, to record some of his new-and-improved presentation for still more content uses?

In some cases, someone might decide to hire an outside expert to provide the person with intense media coaching. Or to assign much of the messaging to someone else.

But with the information and buy-in you’ve retrieved, the comms team will have what it needs — for clarity, relevance and accuracy.

And that’s really saying something.


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19 Examples of the Worst Jargon of 2014

jargonHere’s a lesson from the first day of the first writing class anyone ever took: Write to express, not to impress.

That should be simple enough to remember. But too often, we churn our way through clichés, jargon and other stale expressions that indicate we’re not interested in expressing ourselves – we’re just moving our lips or striking the keys.

Relying on jargon, acronyms and the like isn’t just annoying and lazy. It’s bad for business because it says: I do not care if you understand.

Jargon, Buzz words, Atlanta, Business, Corporate communications, language, clarity, stop saying these stupid thingsIt’s always good, easy fun to list ridiculous and overused words, non-words, phrases and gibberish that find their way into everyday discourse. Seems like most of it’s in business, doesn’t it? Corporate-speak can really kill English the most.

I’ve put together a list here of some of the Worst Jargon of 2014. I’m including a few examples that aren’t jargon exactly but remain crimes against the language. Thanks to friends and colleagues who contributed.

1. Learnings. An example: “John is back from his conference and will share some of his top learnings with us.”

2. Stakeholdering. I’m not sure, but I think it’s supposed to mean “relationship building,” or something like that.

3. Conceptualize. Have you used the Business Buzzword Generator? Try it now. It’s a hoot.

4. Skilling. This takes the “learning” example to the next depth. “The team will need some skilling on how to use the new processes.”

Mrs. Jones is the lady on Hudson Street... because a noun is a person, place or thing.

Mrs. Jones is the lady on Hudson Street… because a noun is a person, place or thing.

5. Ask. Here’s perhaps the worst, and perhaps most common, example of using a verb as a noun for no reason at all, except that you heard your boss doing it. Example: “When you go to the budget meeting, what will your main ask be?”

6. Choiceful. “When we’re making those decisions, we have to be really choiceful.”… I have no idea why anyone would ever say that, but people do it every day in Corporate America. See also: impactful.

7. Solution – as a verb. I’m not kidding. “We have a real challenge here, but we also know how we’re going to solution that.” Also: “update.”

8. Eventize. From a friend in Hollywood. An example: “We’re eventizing our entertainment slate.” Translation: We are airing this new show and it’s so incredibly hot that it’s going to be a big event, not just a regular TV show.

9. Utilize. Because “use” was out of town?

10. At the end of the day. Unless you’re in “Les Miz,” never.

11. Iconic. We used to call old movie stars “legendary.” Now, somehow, anyone of any note must be referred to as “iconic.” Stop, please.

Uhm... like, totally!

Uhm… like, totally!

12. Uh… and Uhm… Have these replaced “like” and “ya know” in conversation or business meetings and presentations?

13. Obviously – when it’s not obvious at all. If it is obvious, you probably don’t need to say so.

14. Ideate. “We should spend a little more time with the ideation on this…”  (Translation:  We still need to work on this, and some of that work will require creative thought.)

15. Swirl: “Our intent is to minimize the swirl on this one…”  (Translation: How do we keep the fewest number of people involved in this decision?)

16. Swimlanes: “We need to make sure everyone is clear on their swimlane and stays within it.”  (Translation:  Everyone needs to do what they are supposed to do and not spend time doing other people’s stuff.)

17. Hashtag. Use a hashtag, but stop saying it. With air quotes.

18. Mindshare. An editor friend sent that one. I have no idea.

19. Maximizer. Sounds naughty.

And here’s a fun piece with more examples on CNN.com. Oy!

Share your own examples. I wish I could incentivize you…

And Now a Word about Words: 6 Useful Points on Storytelling, Content, Brand Journalism…

Jay Croft, Atlanta, writer, newspaper, Journal-Constitution, Cox Enterprises, storytelling, corporate communications, content, gay, pop culture, movies, music, TV, Poncey-Highland, Virginia-Highland, Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, who is a good writer in Atlanta, public relations, marketing, social media expert

Jay Croft

I used to be a journalist. Hard-news reporter, then a website and features editor. At daily newspapers, for a long time. Later, in corporate communications, I learned how to create and share information in a corporate setting.

Today, communicators in businesses, social media, public relations and marketing like to talk about content, storytelling and brand journalism. Which is great — because I love it all and it makes complete sense within broader technological and economic changes in our line of work — and it makes my dual background ideally useful in today’s communications world.

But terms get tossed around so loosely that I’m not always sure everyone’s using the same definitions. Here are a few examples I’ve found recently that state things well. I’ve edited for brevity, redundancies and clarity.

1. From ‘Just What the Hell is Content?’ on Loyalty360.org

Content includes words, images, video, and physical stuff. Content is everywhere. In law firms, it’s in boxes. In architectural firms, it’s made from balsa wood or CAD drawings. At my firm, it’s often in people’s heads.

There’s no difference between a website and content. Why do you have a web site? What’s it for? Or that mobile site? Or that app?

Content is singular in its purpose: to achieve a desired result for as many relevant people as possible.

2. From ‘Content Marketing – What Kind of Content are we Talking about?’ on exploreB2B

The list of possibilities for content you can use in content marketing is literally endless. As the success of content marketing strongly depends on the content you provide, use your imagination. Your content should stand out from the masses, provide something new and unique.

(A list of 10 suggestions follows. Being an old reporter, I like No. 9.)

Interview someone who can give your readers, and possible customers, some insight – use the questions to direct the content into your chosen direction and show with intelligent questions your knowledge on the topic.

3. From ‘The narrative is the thing: the art of corporate storytelling,’ on ZDNet

All the stakeholders of an organization—customers, employees, investors, partners, vendors, and yes, even competitors—are telling some aspect of the story of the brand.

The issue? They’re not always talking about the same thing.

How do you get everyone on the same page? The corporate narrative provides the framework. It is a story that embodies the essence of your business in action, comprised of more than just products and services, and more even than your mission statement. It’s what your company stands for, and how it’s making the world a better place. It’s a story that comprises your strengths AND your weaknesses.

4. From ‘Publishing Is The New Marketing: Epic Content Marketing,’ on  Loyalty360.org

Some businesses think storytelling is about explaining what you sell or telling people what you do. But effective storytelling explains what you do for your customers. The power of stories lies in making the reader and the consumer part of the story.

I wrote the foreword for Joe Pulizzi’s book “Epic Content Marketing.” In it, Joe states that “Publishing is the new marketing.” As it is the only way to “cut through the noise, commotion and bad information that is right now cluttering up your customer’s digital space.”

If we think and act like a publisher, we will create more of the content our customers are looking for. And LESS of the content they ignore. One of the biggest challenges in content marketing is to put the needs of our customers ahead of our own and to tell stories that connect with people.

Identify your potential customers’ top questions. At a minimum, your content should be helpful. Ideally, try to even entertain them.

5. From ‘A Meeting of the Minds: Content Strategy for Great Storytelling,’ from Pace

(This is the best writing I’ve seen on the subject, from the North Carolina-based agency Pace, winner of the 2013 Content Marketing Agency of the Year from the Content Marketing Awards. Do yourself a favor and click through to the white paper. It’s clear, compelling, useful and entertaining.)

What role does content strategy play in content marketing and brand storytelling? How much content strategy does a brand need? And, oh, by the way, what is content strategy?

The Pace approach to content strategy:
At Pace, content strategy is the carefully conceived and developed plan by which the substance of a brand message is communicated—in various formats via selected platforms—for the purpose of informing and inspiring a target audience to act, thereby achieving a stated business goal or objective.

The role of content strategy in Pace’s content marketing business:
Our methodology puts content strategy (processes, structures and technology) in the service of content marketing (great storytelling), rather than the other way around.

6. From ‘How is brand journalism different from marketing?’ on shiftcomm.com

You could also make the very valid argument that brands have always used journalism-like tactics to promote their own stuff. Marketers invented the advertorial and infotainment, after all. In those cases, that’s not really journalism so much as paid media. That’s not what brand journalism appears to be, however. We’re seeing brands trying to become the media, and attempt to be true, actual media sources. This is partly what differentiates brand journalism from standard content marketing and inbound marketing – brands are seeking in some cases to become media sources that consumers would choose to consume independently, even if it’s not directly related to the brand’s product offerings. That makes brand journalism a true force to be reckoned with.

(For a world-class example of this, look no further than Atlanta’s own Coca-Cola. Its website is as fun and compelling as those of many general-interest publications, with original content on restaurants gearing up for Valentine’s Day, the Olympics, recipes, sustainability and lots more.)

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Tell ‘Em a Story, Give ‘Em Good Content

“Storytelling” and “content” are buzzwords in business communications, with a lot of articles and studies flooding the blogosphere. Some of it seems obvious (people are more engaged by stories, information with emotional content and resonance, rather than by mere facts or reasoning). Some of it seems a bit mushy – “content” might mean one thing to a marketer, another to someone in employee comms and several other things to people who produce or manage it.

Just today, my Twitter feed brought up two articles making a connection between storytelling and brain function.

As presenters we want people to pay attention, be engaged and remember the message. The key to doing that? Science now says it involves storytelling: Stories stimulate emotions, which may be the key to better learning, attention, memory and decision making.

That’s from an article headlined The Science Behind Storytelling — and Why It Matters on slideshare.  A Forbes article touts the cognitive benefits of reading long-form narrative, like novels.

And this headline/subhead combination from the WSJ brought it home: To Persuade People, Tell Them a Story; Narrative Is a Powerful Way to Get a Message Across.

Finally, Search Engine Journal offers this intriguing post: Leading Experts Predict The Content Marketing Trends for 2014.

We all want to persuade audiences, and storytelling and content will continue to be more important in business in 2014.  Effective storytelling needs good storytellers, who know what a good story is (and isn’t), who can gather information, break it down and present it again in ways that  matter to selected audiences. To have a good story, you need good content, yes — but you also have to know how to present it, to whom and why.

Fun stuff to think about and to tackle in our work, whatever kind of stories we tell.

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