Seeing red: Plain speaking is good thinking

Why use complex phrases to describe simple actions? It doesn't make sense, says Lucy Willatt, account director, corporate and professional services, The PR Office.

Lucy Willatt: account director, corporate and professional services, The PR Office
Lucy Willatt: account director, corporate and professional services, The PR Office

"Can you reach out to the US team and touch base by close of play?" Eh? Do what? Err, no.

Management-speak has long spilled over into PR. Meetings, pitches, telephone calls and the like are repeatedly filled with these buzzwords.

We mock these words and laugh at people who use them so fluently, yet I can’t get over how many PR people actually use them seriously. Why are we using complex, made-up phrases to describe simple actions? It doesn’t make sense.

My personal favourite is the pitch scenario. (OMG, I’m doing it myself now.) The room is filled with management-speak, PR clichés repeated so often they lose all meaning, the agency telling the potential client that they’ll do "proactive and reactive media commentary" – except the opposite of reactive is not proactive, but active, so surely all media relations is active, otherwise you would never get any coverage?

It’s almost as if the more these words are spoken, the more the people listening will value what you’re saying. The problem is, they don’t. And if my clients or the businesses to which I’m pitching don’t value what I’m saying, I have a problem.

I wonder if part of this is down to insecurity. The use of jumped-up language exaggerates what the action actually is and makes it seem more important.

This is handy if you have the nagging feeling that what you are doing is valuable, but not rocket science (cliché warning? – Ed).

Which sounds more valuable? "We’ve been undertaking media outreach with key journalists" or "we’ve been talking to journalists"?

Well, the first does, especially if you somehow feel that the simple act of "talking to journalists" isn’t sufficient in its own right.

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