I’m no stranger to corporate cringe.
Have you ever been in a situation where you take a step back and look at your company’s communication efforts — and somehow feel that it’s just not very good?
In many cases, it’s not a lack of effort.
Not a lack of strategy.
Not a lack of resources.
No, it’s the lack of something else.
It’s the lack of good taste.
I. Communication = The Language of Emotions
In PR, metrics and best practices are essential. Instincts are not to be trusted, we think. But communication is highly situational. Communication is context. While feelings might hinder rational analysis, communication stems from our emotions.
Without that emotional layer, we know something’s off.
It’s human instinct.
Many have spoken to Alexa or Siri. I don’t know about you, but speaking with them … makes me want to stop talking to them. Alexa and Siri have some emotional maturity to do before they pass the Turing test. 1For more on the inventor Alan Turing, I recommend the film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
As professional communicators, we can convey our corporate messages by the book (as in no-one-will-get-fired-over-this) and still miss the mark by a mile. The PR industry must be cautious in relying upon templates, scripts, clichés, automated messages, jargon, platitudes, hyperboles etc. No amount of data can support a “textbook approach” in corporate communication.
Emotions will always be our bottom line regarding PR and establishing human connections.
II. Organisations Must Learn To Speak Human
We’re all hardwired to communicate emotionally. You and I would have no trouble passing the Turing test. And this is why we all cringe when organisations speak to us in their corporate voice.
Naturally, we feel uneasy when something is trying to communicate with us non-humanly.
A few reasons come to mind:
There’s the fallacy of tradition; if an organisation has been doing something in a certain way for ages, then we convince ourselves that it must work well.
Read also: 58 Logical Fallacies and Cognitive Biases
Also, corporate tonality is a form of art and, therefore, difficult to quantify.
How do we get it right?
III. An Industry-Wide Shortage of Good Taste
Having worked as a corporate communications adviser since 2005, I’ve told CEOs that their strategies are plain wrong. I’ve told marketers that they’re hurting their brand from short-sightedness. I’ve told communicators that they’ve spent huge budgets on unnecessary activities.
After all, my clients pay me to tell them the truth and nothing but.
If you drench corporate communication with platitudes and uninspired, stale, and corny hyperboles — why shouldn’t that matter?
Read also: The Platitude Sickness: The Trash of Corporate Speak
We might adequately plan, execute, and measure our activities, but that won’t matter if our communication activities sound corny.
However, tell a communications department that they have poor taste in communication, and you’re out faster than they can slam the door behind you.
Perhaps we’re drowning ourselves in corporate cringe since we’ve never had this conversation.
Read also: Corporational Determinism: Grandiose Product Launches
IV. Examples of Corporate Cringe
Examples of Corporate Cringe
Many corporate texts are written in bad taste. Unlike many other creative professions, corporate communications have somehow forgotten that having great taste is an actual skill.
Here are some typical examples of corporate cringe:
By being cognizant of these potential pitfalls, organizations can refine communication strategies to ensure more authentic and effective engagement with their stakeholders, influencers, and publics.
More examples: https://www.reddit.com/r/corporatecringe/
Learn more: Corporate Cringe
V. Great Taste is a Basic PR Skill
Unlike many other creative professions, corporate communications often seem oblivious to the importance of being … tasteful. Our industry’s ignorance of what constitutes good taste is peculiar because we ought to know better. 2This is analogous to corporate storytelling: while we might be aware of the storytelling elements in theory, there’s still the challenge of telling a great story in practice.
We are communication professionals, after all.
Read also: Top 5 Communication Skills Everyone Should Know
Tonality isn’t just for copywriters. Look and feel isn’t just art directors.
Great taste is a PR skill, too.
But there’s a way out of this poorly lit tunnel of mediocrity. We’re in a position to mitigate cringe-worthy corporate messaging:
Join the fight. Never settle for uninspired PR messages.
Please support my blog by sharing it with other PR- and communication professionals. For questions or PR support, contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
PR Resource: Symptoms of Platitude Sickness
Symptoms of Platitude Sickness
Getting rid of corporate platitudes is an uphill battle. They are such a waste of editorial space and only lead straight to mediocrity.
Here’s my “trigger list” of platitudes to watch out for:
I swear, a kitten dies every time. Join the resistance.
Learn more: The Platitude Sickness: The Trash of Corporate Writing
PR Resource: Checklist for Leadership Clarity
Checklist for Communicative Leadership
Always make sure that everyone in an organisation is 100% clear about the following:
Read more: How To Recognise Poor Communicative Leadership in Organisations
|1||For more on the inventor Alan Turing, I recommend the film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch.|
|2||This is analogous to corporate storytelling: while we might be aware of the storytelling elements in theory, there’s still the challenge of telling a great story in practice.|