Buzzwords and Blarney in Company Messages

Mynt Public Relations posted recently on the many “buzzwords” that too many public relations folks just can’t seem to let go of.

I would add a word to the list: delighted. This is especially true if is used in a quote. CEO Big Wig is delighted to announce….

(Full disclosure: You  may find press releases online with my name attached that use some of these words. Between client’s insistence and my own lack of time now and again, you will see that even the pros some time can’t get away from the blarney.)

But, at Four Leaf Public Relations we are working on getting away from using the tired old jargon.

What makes a buzzword? A word that has lost all its power due to overuse. Like the song that is played on the radio time and again, words that once held meaning no longer sound authentic when used. For instance, the word “solutions.” If you announce you are an integrated [[insert whatever]] solutions provider, what does that mean really? Other typically overused words include excellent, leader, and master.

What is your least favorite buzzword?

5 Self-Audit Questions to Ask Before Developing Your Corporate Story

Whether you know it or not, when it comes to describing your company or organization you are delivering messages that set people on a path to either include you or exclude you from their future. Knowing how you and your staff view your organization, its target audience and its competition is the first step in any proactive positioning and messaging work. By asking yourself and other staff members to answer the questions below, you will have a better understanding of your company’s beliefs and the default language they are currently using.

1. What perception challenges are we dealing with? If your employees or colleagues believe something is a challenge or problem, they are speaking directly to it whenever they talk about what you are doing. Ask your people to identify the top three public perception challenges that your organization is facing. Raise it this way: If these three viewpoints about you were changed, your goals and objectives could be met. What is their greatest area of concern around the company’s reputation?

2. Who is our target audience? Who do your people believe they are serving? From their job titles to what they read, from what keeps them up at night to what causes them to act.  What do they believe your customers, partner groups and other stakeholders consumed by? And, what do they say about you when we’re not in the room? Whoever they believe they are serving and why, colors their actions and, most definitely, their language choices.

3. What stands in our way? The answer to this question might surprise you. Ask your staff if they had a magic wand and could change anything within or outside the organization, what would it be? Be brave. Whatever answer is given will be a clue as to what they are raising (or not raising) with outsiders.

4. What are our advantages? Ask them to brag about themselves, their leadership, and the company. What do you have that is so special, again, according to your people? Whatever they say is what they are publicizing. Does it match with what you perceive to be your advantages?

5. If I could only tell a prospect or potential stakeholder one thing about us it would be, what? This gets to the heart of what they are “selling.” Understanding your people’s own narrative about your organization, its products and services is key to know where they will always “go” when asked, What is your company about?

A bonus question: Who are our competitors, and why? Identifying the opposition – and why we should be concerned — is key to messaging work, as well. What do your people believe is so special about the competition? What are they doing that you are not?

Investing In Your Corporate Language: Priceless

Under the umbrella of “things we wish every company would do” is proactively spending time (and not just two hours during a board meeting) selecting the language they will use when describing themselves. Developing an elevator pitch, an organizational story, and top level messages are just as important strategic actions as designing a financial strategy. Sound like strong medicine?

Right this very minute, words are crossing hallways, being flung over board room tables, getting sent via Twitter and Facebook, being left on voice mail messages, and being printed and copied.

Apparently people like to talk so much they need many words, nuances, and options to hone their thoughts, beliefs and ideas. According to the Global Language Monitor, it is estimated more than one million words exist in the English language alone. (According to this group, the English Language adopted its millionth word to our speech on June 10, 2009 at 10:22 a.m.)

Today everyone in a company has the option of delivering those words and messages on your behalf (Hello, social media!), impacting your brand, your narrative and your relationships with customers, vendors, partners, investors and other stakeholders. Would your associates choose the same words as you – from the million or so available to them – when it comes to describing your company? How much thought have you given to your messaging, really?