Big Words Just Seem More Empty

By Jason Menard

For the most part, business communications prefers to prefer quantity over quality. That increased volume of chatter is usually filled with hot air – and can explain why some companies ‘blow’ so much when it comes to social media.

One of the most exciting things about the social media revolution, to me, was that it seemed to be pushing companies towards a way of connecting with their clients and customers in a way that was more open and honest. It’s still a challenge for many businesses simply because, for years, there’s been a belief in the power of Biz Speak.

Biz Speak, as we’ve discussed, really is a wonderful way of making nothing sound like something. And the more formal the document, the emptier it becomes.

Personally, I wish people would just say what they mean. It becomes frustrating to read through an entire document, realizing at the end that you just wasted a few minutes of your life reading nothing but filler and puffery, all wrapped up in a pretty bow designed to make someone sound smarter.

Except does it really make you sound smarter? Would not clear, concise, direct speech have a greater impact? Which do you remember more: the top-quality steak or the Twinkie you ate last week? They may both have the same number of calories, but one has substance and depth; the other’s just empty and forgotten almost immediately.

So do you want to be a Twinkie Biz Writer, filling your pages with endless “leverage,” “utilize,” and “synergies”? Or would you rather cut straight to the point and give people what they really want: clarity.

Goal-setting and strategic planning are the worst offenders. By their very nature they’re filled with these empty words designed to give people the wiggle room they need to make their results fit the goals. But in the end what does it mean?

A goal to “leverage” our “opportunities” to “utilize synergistic relationships to fuel growth” may sound good to someone. There may be a stuffed suit patting him or herself on the back for how intelligent they sound. But what does this mean to the people for whom it truly matters? What does it mean to anyone?

Of course, businesses seem to have long forgotten that they’re dealing with people. In fact, rare is the company that actually deals with people: now employees are resources. Resources are better for reallocating, manipulating, and synergizing; resources can be leveraged and they can be communicated to.

People, on the other hand, are messy. After all, communicating to people just seems so cold. And actually talking to them? Well, that takes effort.

This is why so many companies have trouble with social media and are unsure of how to best use it. They’ve spent so long talking AT people (or, more often, OVER people) that they’ve forgotten what it’s like to talk WITH people. How many times have you read a quote in a corporate press release and said, “Wow, I’d really love to go catch a game with that guy/girl?”

Never. Because they talk in sentences and phrases straight out of an economics text. Who’d want to go to a game with someone who would be more likely to say “Wow, did you see the way that blueline resource was effectively able to strategize his assets, levering them synergistically to create forward momentum through proactive redistribution of existing materials in an effort to better penetrate into that foreign market?” instead of “Hey, that D made a nice breakout pass, eh?”

So when you have companies dipping their toes into the water of social media, is it any wonder they do so poorly? They don’t know how to talk with people. They can use words like engagement, but they don’t know how to actually do it.

Speaking openly and honestly is the first step. Remembering the social aspect is the next – don’t be the type of person you’d avoid at a social function. And being yourself is key. Of course, when you’ve drowned out your own voice with Biz Speak, it’s not an easy thing to do.

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