You what?

Drayton Bird is one of the greatest direct marketers of all time and, not surprisingly, it seems he dislikes corporate-speak as much as I do. Read this little gem on his blog. (NB Drayton Bird doesn’t mince his words; I am sure he must be a Yorkshireman…) I see lots of this kind of stuff and my first reaction is to scream “Aaarrrrgggghhhh!” and then run a mile.

Corporate-speak (or, as my husband – and Drayton Bird – would refer to it: corporate bollocks) is something that both terrifies and puzzles me.

It terrifies me because if I come across a potential client that’s locked into corporate speak, both on paper and in their verbal brief, I know we’re going to have a bit of a bumpy ride.

My natural instinct as an experienced copywriter is to write clearly and to-the-point in a way the customer can instantly understand. My message instantly needs to answer the questions: “What’s in this for me?” and “Why should I bother to read this stuff?”

After all, customers – even B2B customers and clients – are real people, with real lives outside the corporate world where, presumably, they speak like real people, to their friends, partners and family.

Yet put them behind a desk in the office and – zap pow! – suddenly they’re speaking in a completely new language. As if plain English has been fed into a translation machine and out comes a ton of corporate-doodah.

And, presumably, the more difficult this corporate-speak is to understand, the more professional and high-end they feel they are.

Corporate-speak puzzles me because I can’t get my head around why someone would want to make it as difficult as possible for a potential customer or client to understand what they’re trying to say.

This also applies to what I might call ‘academic speak’ which is similarly incomprehensible to the average man or woman in the street.

The other day I came across a website home page with around 200 – 300 words of text which said precisely nothing. It could have been cut-and-pasted into any business website, about any product or service, in any part of the universe.

In my opinion as a copywriter (and a straight-talking Yorkshire copywriter at that), businesses need to make every word count. Every phrase, sentence and paragraph is a golden opportunity to attract loyal customers and new business.

So why fill your marketing literature with stuff that you need a Masters Degree in Advanced Corporate Doodahs to understand?

Ah, I hear you say, that’s why we’d bring in a copywriter…

But, I hear myself respond, as a copywriter I need to be able to understand what you mean in order for me to write with clarity. And I also need to know that you won’t insist on peppering my copywriting with big corporate words unless they are there for a specific purpose.

And that shouldn’t simply be to make you ‘look big’, because it doesn’t.


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