When the economy started its downward spiral and you watched your investments head in the same direction, were you “saddened” or “disappointed?” I'll bet that you used stronger language than that!
People don't talk that way. So why are we using this kind of innocuous language for our companies or clients in written communications?
An informal Google News search proves the point. Type in the phrase “We're saddened” or “We're disappointed” and you'll get pages of results with quotes from different organizations responding to some issue or situation.
Even President Obama, in the wake of the country's security lapse following the Christmas Day incident on a US airliner, responded with the relatively bland, “totally unacceptable.” Really??? Someone tries to take down a plane full of passengers, and that's the extent of our collective anger? I bet if the presidential dog did his business on the Oval Office carpet, the response would be stronger than “unacceptable!”
In our efforts to sound safe and inoffensive, this kind of vanilla language can put up walls between our organizations and the people we want to reach. Words, language, and communication need to serve as a bridge, to connect the writer with the reader. People want to trust, and they want to believe what we say on behalf of our organizations.
So with the new year in swing, resolve to take the “talk test” the next time you're carefully crafting a statement or quote. Read out loud what you write. If you wouldn't say it when you're talking, then don't write it that way!
Larry Meltzer is agency principal/creative director of MM2 Public Relations