The case against communication BS

Communication BS, it is everywhere. It even has its own “corporate bullshit generator”. It produces beauties such as: “Should companies continually brand an expanded array of channels by collaboratively aggregating client-centric deliverables and synergistically harnessing leading-edge quality vectors?” At some point, the drive to describe new technologies, theories, methodologies and gizmos veered straight into parody territory. And it’s making an entire industry -ours- look silly.

The new Latin

The way many communication experts, real or perceived, have come up with their own language that often does more to confuse than clarify, sometimes reminds me of medieval Europe.

Back then, the clergy and, to some extent, ruling aristocrats had a monopoly on Latin. That was a big deal because it was the language bibles were printed in. This meant that those who knew Latin had a monopoly on religion. Now, consultants are the gatekeepers of the promised land, i.e. communication that leads to greater profit. They wield words such as “customer engagement” and “fulfilment”. Just the things we need! Right? If only they had any real meaning.

Innovation versus communication BS

Of course the communications industry needs its own language. We often operate on the leading edge of technology, so it helps if there are new and easy ways to describe what we do.

However, the key word here is “easy.” These words are supposed to simplify and improve our and your business. For example, the concept of “page views” is not difficult to understand and the term is self-explanatory. But all too often, there is a tendency in the industry to also create meaningless buzzwords that either obfuscate or hide a lack of substance. Omnichannel that!

A good idea speaks for itself

The drive to offer something new is positive. Innovation is the name of the game, not just for our industry. But it has to be real and not just shiny new made-up words that help sell a book. No wonder growth hacking and guerilla marketing did not survive their 15 minutes of fame.

Usually, a good idea will speak for itself. I’m reasonably sure that, when Henry Ford described the revolutionary concept of conveyor belt assembly lines to people, he didn’t talk about “embracing the uniquely seamless integration of end-to-end just in time production processes.”  Instead, he probably explained that it would be cheaper to manufacture cars by moving them along a production facility and having specialized workers assemble them with standardized parts.

It might have sounded like this: “Instead of training each worker to build the entire car, why don’t we teach them how to do a few things really well and fast and then we bring the car to them? That’ll save a lot of time and money. We can reduce the price of the cars but sell a lot more of them and increase our profit.”

In most cases, good ideas speak for themselves and great ideas are easy to understand. That’s part of what makes them great.

It’s the same with communication. Good communication isn’t overly complicated and doesn’t get bogged down with terms nobody understands. And one characteristic of great communication is that it seems so simple and effortless.

Just think of a saying or a tweet you really like. In most cases, their insightfulness is only one part of what makes them stand out – and simplicity is the other. In other words, great communication is when you think to yourself: “I wish I would have thought of that.”

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