Go ahead, re-read that press release you just wrote. I’m willing to bet I’m going to find one of the following phrases in it:
Do those sound like words we use in everyday conversations? No. Do they even sound like words you use in the workplace? Not really–from time to time maybe.
So, why do the folks of corporate American write like this? (Keep in mind, I’m not immune here–I’ve worked for plenty of organizations where I’ve written materials with these words and phrases included)
I’m not really sure. I think it’s a combination of corporate leaders wanting to portray a professional voice–and very risk-averse cultures.
But, the problem isn’t the “why”, it’s the “what do we do about it.”
Weren’t we taught to “write like we speak” back in high school and college? Why does that fly out the window when we start writing on a company’s behalf?
And think about the people we’re writing for: customers, media and other key “stakeholders” (see, I slipped right there!). Do those people use the kinds of words you’re using in your release or marketing materials? Do they talk like that?
Chances are, the answer is no.
But, why not ask them?
Here’s a radical idea. Next time you write a release–write two.
Write one in the typical corporate voice you would normally.
And, write the second in a more human voice. A more conversational voice. Write like you speak.
Then, post both to your corporate blog (if you have one) and ask your readers (hopefully a mix of customers, employees and shareholders) what they prefer. After all, isn’t the heart of writing to communicate effectively with your reader? You can’t do that if you’re using so many corporate buzzwords that the meaning of your messages is watered down or miscommunicated completely.
Gauntlet thrown down. Who’s up to the challenge?