Photo: ~diP, Flickr.com
Reach out and touch somebody…
Unfortunately, every time I hear or read the words ‘reach out’ used at work, this song by Aussie rock band Noiseworks pops into my head. As I said, unfortunate.
Instead of asking me to call or contact Jim, people in my organisation are more likely to suggest that I should ‘reach out’ to Jim.
This is one of those phrases that I think reflects a familial culture in the workplace. In my organisation, people generally kiss rather than shake hands. There are other verbals signs. One of those is ‘share’. No one seems to send, email or post something to someone, they ‘share’ it with them. While I like the sentiment, it’s still a fluffy description of what is actually happening. And a teensy bit creepy.
Instead of ‘we have reached out to all our customers’ let’s use ‘we have called/written to/emailed’ or whatever it is that was actually done.
Related to this phrase, I often hear my PR peers in Australia and around the world use the term ‘media outreach’ which basically means calling, meeting or emailing journalists. I guess saying you have ‘implemented a media outreach program’ feels more important than saying you called a bunch of journalists.
A friend who is visiting at the moment dabbled in management consulting this year. He didn’t last in the job. One of the reasons he resigned only six weeks in was his inability to create ‘beautiful PowerPoint slides’ with words that did not reflect what was being delivered to the client, but made them feel happy about investing in the project. In other words, a sell-job. I gathered from what he said that he didn’t understand the jargon his colleagues used and did not feel comfortable lying. He should be applauded for that.
This week BRW journalist Leo D’Angelo Fisher has written another excellent piece on bad business writing, and management consultants cop a serve (not just PR people this time). He agrees that most jargon junkies are “out to impress”. They think the convoluted and complex language they use shows they fit in with the team and are intelligent and competent. The column includes some great examples of memos that say nothing.
The trouble is it’s hard to find examples of good business writing. I’d love to read a few memos to staff about organisational changes that are well-written, honest and convey meaning. Finding bad ones is just too easy. My blog is full of them, for starters, and I’ve reviewed a couple of books dedicated to them. I am sure there are examples of clear and brilliant corporate writing out there. Any pointers?