By John Gerstner
Complex, verbose, self-obsessed, jargon-rich language is an insidious pandemic in the world of corporate communications. But should we accept it as a given, or wage a silent war?
Cisco Systems chose the latter, and shared their battles and victories in the Communitelligence webinar, Change Your Business By Changing Your Words by Mark Buchanan, program lead for brand language at Cisco. In this Q & A, Mark talks about the why and how of Cisco’s brand language project, and offers a bit of advice for anyone brave enough to start the movement in their organization.
Isn’t trying to change the words a corporation uses to communicate to stakeholders a little like trying to impose world peace or end poverty? What gave you and/or your team the audacity to even start such an idealistic and daunting initiative?
We simply believed we could.
And, we know our people so we knew it would work. They care about our customers.
That’s important, tap into what your people care about and prove you can make a difference for them. They may not care about words but I bet they care about results.
We made sure we had plenty of opportunities to prove our value – in Sales, Marketing and Communications, Operations, you name it. We make a point of getting results that matter to the business and telling those stories. That’s very powerful.
We made our trainings fun, inspirational, memorable. That made people want to be part of the change and got them talking.
We’ve had a great team, commitment, passion, and knowledge, with tremendous guidance, a lot of open minds and a culture that’s willing to take risks.
Corporate communicators are pumping out thousands of unclear, obtuse and bloated sentences daily on behalf of their enterprise. Though not lazy, some of us probably relate to Mark Twain’s apology: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” You’ve worked with a lot of Cisco employees to help them improve their writing. What do you think is the #1 reason for lack of clear and succinct corporate writing, and what is your #1 advice to help the cause of clarity and simplicity?
It does take longer to think about our audience and what matters to them. And say it succinctly. But if we don’t spend the time to get it right, if no one reads it, why do it at all?
But really, time is a convenient excuse. There are practical steps we can take that help. We’ve got teams getting much better results in half the time it used to take them to publish. I love