In today'sFinancial Times, business and management columnist Lucy Kellaway details her annual Gold Flannel Award winners for 2016. These are the companies that have managed to bastardise the English language in such a way that they have not been clear in what they are saying or dressed it up so much to purposely avert what they are really saying.
The winners and losers are neither here nor there. But Lucy's advice is precisely what many good PR people will tell you: avoid industry speak, acronyms and guff if you want to get your message across.
When writing a press release, press statement or briefing it's best to question whether someone outside your industry would understand what you've just written. Really critique what you've just put on screen or committed to paper and don't send it to anyone else until it can be clearly understood.
The same applies to presentations - don't blind your audience with acronyms, industry speak or guff just because it makes sense to you. It's highly likely that you want to reach new people but how can you do this if your presentation is littered with acronyms? You could be alienating the very people you are trying to reach.
When we write for others and present to people, we want to be as inclusive as possible. If you must use acronyms, spell them out in full and explain what they are in the first instance. Better still, think what it might mean outside your business or firm and say that instead. Likewise, a company that dresses up the straightforward too frequently could make potential clients and companies wonder what else they may dress up, including fees and services.
By using plain English, you bring clients and stakeholders with you. You also run the potential to appear in the media for the right reasons, rather than in the annual Golden Flannel Awards for the wrong.
Every January for the past decade I have handed out awards for horrible use of language in business. Usually the task amuses me. This year I have found the sheer weight of euphemism, grammatical infelicity, disingenuity and downright ugliness so lowering I have decided to start the 2016 Golden Flannel Awards with something more uplifting: a prize for clarity.