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The Platitude Sickness: The Trash of Corporate Writing

Welcome to the resistance.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

There’s a plat­it­ude sick­ness in cor­por­ate writing.

I’m a PR pro­fes­sion­al.
And I some­times hate what I do for a living.

Most nor­mal people hate cor­por­ate bull­shit. As a writer, I loathe those cor­por­ate plat­it­udes with a fever­ish intens­ity. But my cor­por­ate broth­ers and sis­ters cling to them. And it seems as if it’s get­ting worse.

What can we do about this plat­it­ude sickness?

Here we go:

It’s Not My Fucking Fault, I Swear

As a cor­por­ate writer since 2005, one could eas­ily assume I am respons­ible for at least two hun­dred shitty press releases. But I’m not, I swear.

Every time I present some­thing to an organ­isa­tion, I speak plainly. When I write, I always rewrite to avoid clichés. I strive to add some bounce to my copy — if noth­ing else, to pre­vent tired and stale sen­tences that ring too famil­i­ar. 1At this point, I should point out that English is my second lan­guage and that I do most of my writ­ing in Swedish. Still, I strive to improve my busi­ness English.

I do my best to avoid plat­it­ude sickness.

A plat­it­ude is a trite, mean­ing­less, or pro­sa­ic state­ment, gen­er­ally dir­ec­ted at quelling social, emo­tion­al, or cog­nit­ive unease. The word derives from plat, the French word for “flat.” Platitudes are geared towards present­ing a shal­low, uni­fy­ing wis­dom over a dif­fi­cult top­ic. However, they are too over­used and gen­er­al to be any­thing more than undir­ec­ted state­ments with an ulti­mately little mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tion towards a solu­tion.”
Source: Wikipedia 2Platitude. (2023, December 9). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​P​l​a​t​i​t​ude

But my efforts don’t always pay off.

While some organ­isa­tions appre­ci­ate my efforts, a size­able por­tion of everything I’ve writ­ten for cli­ents has passed through numer­ous fil­ters before publication.

And the res­ult is noth­ing but a dwind­ling tirade of cor­por­ate cringe.

Not. My. Fault.

Oh, How I Loathe Corporate Cringe

I’m not alone in being frus­trated. We’re all exposed to cor­por­ate speak. Whether you’re in mar­ket­ing and com­mu­nic­a­tions or not, you’ll see these plat­it­udes everywhere. 

And for some reas­on, plat­it­udes are becom­ing the go-to format for all cor­por­ate texts. It’s get­ting worse, not better.

I some­times think this is a pidgin lan­guage for dif­fer­ent busi­ness tribes. We fall back on cor­por­ate plat­it­udes to let every­one know we belong in this money-mak­ing space. Ensuring we belong to a com­munity is more import­ant than mak­ing sense. 3Pidgin lan­guages are a mix­ture of two or more lan­guages, and they typ­ic­ally devel­op when two groups in con­tact with each oth­er can­not speak each oth­er­’s lan­guage. Many pidgin lan­guages have evolved … Continue read­ing

It’s mind­bog­gling how many hours organ­isa­tions spend pro­du­cing utter garbage.

The “Carpe Diem” Business Mafia on LinkedIn

Corporate plat­it­udes are such a waste of edit­or­i­al space. Unfortunately, plat­it­ude sick­ness tends to do quite well on social media.

A text loaded with obvi­ous state­ments and no actu­al sub­stance can still attract a lot of social engage­ment. People often hit that “Like” but­ton (emoji but­ton or whatever) without read­ing the linked article. 

Yes, I’m look­ing at you, LinkedIn.

It’s essen­tial to have a strategy.

Always put the cus­tom­er first.

Be pro­act­ive and think long-term.

Publish epic content.

LinkedIn’s “carpe diem” busi­ness mafia can­’t get enough of that stuff, right?

Signs of the Platitude Sickness

A black and white clip art illustration of a sad kitten
Save the kitten.
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Platitude Sickness: The Trigger List

I hate cor­por­ate plat­it­udes every­where I see them. I swear, a kit­ten dies every time. 

Here’s my “trig­ger list” of platitudes:

  • Synergy” = Overused to the point of becom­ing mean­ing­less, it refers to the coöper­a­tion of two entit­ies to pro­duce a com­bined effect great­er than the sum of their sep­ar­ate effects.
  • Leverage” = In a busi­ness con­text, this is often used to mean using some­thing, such as a resource or an advantage.
  • Disruptive” = Refers to tech­no­lo­gies or innov­a­tions that dis­turb estab­lished mar­kets or processes.
  • Pivot” = A fun­da­ment­al shift in strategy or approach is often used for minor changes.
  • Value-add” = A term that refers to an ele­ment some­thing gives that some­how enhances it, but it’s often unclear what value is being added.
  • Bleeding-edge” = Refers to the abso­lute latest or most advanced tech­no­logy or innovation.
  • Actionable” = Generally refers to strategies or insights that can be acted upon, but are often used loosely.
  • Holistic approach” = An approach that con­siders the whole situ­ation or sys­tem rather than focus­ing on indi­vidu­al parts.
  • Scalability” The abil­ity of a sys­tem or a mod­el to handle growth is often overused.
  • Game changer” = An event, idea, or pro­ced­ure that affects a sig­ni­fic­ant shift in the cur­rent way of doing or think­ing about something.
  • Paradigm shift” = A fun­da­ment­al change in approach or under­ly­ing assumptions.
  • Cutting-edge” = Like bleed­ing-edge, it refers to the latest or most advanced tech­no­logy or innovation.
  • Thought lead­er.” = An indi­vidu­al or firm recog­nized as an author­ity in a spe­cial­ized field.
  • Empower” = To give power or author­ity, but is often over­used without con­crete meaning.
  • Innovate” = A buzzword for mak­ing changes in some­thing estab­lished, espe­cially by intro­du­cing new meth­ods, ideas, or products.
  • Low-hanging fruit” = The easy tasks or prob­lems to tackle first, but can be seen as a cliché in busi­ness language.
  • Outside the box” = Used to refer to cre­at­ive think­ing, but has become a cliché.
  • Streamline” = Simplify or make some­thing more efficient.
  • Strategic align­ment” = Ensuring that the plans or activ­it­ies of a com­pany are coördin­ated and con­sist­ent with its objectives.
  • Customer-cent­ric” = Placing the cus­tom­er at the centre of a com­pany’s philo­sophy, oper­a­tions or ideas.
  • Robust” = The over­used term implies that a product, ser­vice, or strategy is strong, dur­able, and able to with­stand demands or difficulties.
  • End-to-end solu­tion” = A ser­vice or product that solves a prob­lem from begin­ning to end, but is often seen as a buzzword due to vague definitions.
  • Unprecedented” = Overused to describe any­thing that’s nev­er happened before, often loses its impact due to fre­quency of use.
  • Breakthrough” = A sud­den, dra­mat­ic, and import­ant dis­cov­ery or devel­op­ment, but is often over­used to describe minor advancements.
  • Optimise” = To make the best or most effect­ive use of a situ­ation or resource, but it is often over­used and can lead to ambiguity.
  • Bandwidth” = Originally a tech­nic­al term, it’s now used meta­phor­ic­ally to refer to someone’s capa­city to handle tasks or issues.
  • Ecosystem” = Refers to a com­plex net­work or inter­con­nec­ted sys­tem, espe­cially in the con­text of busi­ness envir­on­ments or technologies.
  • Alignment” = Frequently used to describe the pro­cess of bring­ing dif­fer­ent aspects or depart­ments of a busi­ness into har­mony or agreement.
  • Agile” = Originating in soft­ware devel­op­ment, it’s broadly applied to describe flex­ib­il­ity and adapt­ab­il­ity in vari­ous busi­ness processes.
  • Deep Dive” = Used to describe a thor­ough ana­lys­is or exam­in­a­tion, but often over­used to mean any detailed look.
  • Touch Base” = A cas­u­al way to refer to check­ing in or fol­low­ing up with someone, but it can be seen as a cliché.
  • Granular” = Describes look­ing at some­thing with a high level of detail, but it is often used unne­ces­sar­ily instead of simply say­ing “in detail.”

Getting rid of cor­por­ate plat­it­udes is an uphill battle. They are such a waste of edit­or­i­al space and only lead straight to mediocrity.

Join the resistance!

Learn more: The Platitude Sickness: The Trash of Corporate Writing

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An Uphill Battle: Welcome to the Resistance

Yes, get­ting rid of cor­por­ate plat­it­udes is an uphill battle. There are so many fil­ters and so many read­ers that don’t mind.

Still, there are no excuses for giv­ing up. As com­mu­nic­at­ors, we’re in the busi­ness of catch­ing people’s interest and mak­ing it worth their time. As we fall deep­er into the atten­tion eco­nomy, rel­ev­ance and sub­stance are the only things that can save us.

We might nev­er win this fight, I admit. But even if we can­’t win, we can at least make life a bit more dif­fi­cult for every­one who com­mits cor­por­ate BS.

So, how do you com­bat plat­it­ude sick­ness in cor­por­ate communication?

Make it your mis­sion to find plat­it­udes and des­troy them. And don’t let your col­leagues get away with using them, either. As this becomes a ritu­al, you’ll devel­op an “allergy” to cor­por­ate plat­it­udes — and remov­ing them will make you feel better.

Welcome to the fight. You’re in the army now.


Please sup­port my PR blog by shar­ing it with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: Drafting

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Communication Skill: Drafting

Drafting, cre­at­ing, and refin­ing writ­ten doc­u­ments are fun­da­ment­al com­mu­nic­a­tion skills cru­cial in every­day life. From com­pos­ing emails and writ­ing reports to craft­ing per­son­al let­ters or social media posts, the abil­ity to draft and edit doc­u­ments ensures clar­ity, coher­ence, and effect­ive­ness in con­vey­ing messages. 

The first draft of any­thing is shit.”
— Ernest Hemingway

Many indi­vidu­als struggle with writ­ing not because they lack ideas but because they under­es­tim­ate the power of revi­sion. The ini­tial draft is rarely per­fect; it’s through revis­ing this draft — trans­form­ing it into a second, third, or even fourth draft — that one hones the mes­sage, sharpens the lan­guage, and strengthens the over­all communication. 

Developing a habit of draft­ing and edit­ing allows for explor­ing ideas, refin­ing thought, and elim­in­at­ing ambi­gu­ity, mak­ing the final product more impact­ful and under­stood by its inten­ded audi­ence.

To become bet­ter at draft­ing, con­sider these five tips:

  • Embrace the pro­cess. Accept that draft­ing is a pro­cess that involves writ­ing, revis­it­ing, and revis­ing. Your first draft is just the begin­ning, not the end product.
  • Separate writ­ing from edit­ing. Allow your­self to write freely in the ini­tial draft without wor­ry­ing about per­fec­tion. Focus on get­ting your ideas down, then shift to edit­ing mode to refine your work.
  • Read aloud. Reading your draft aloud can help you catch errors, awk­ward phras­ing, and unclear areas. This prac­tice can also improve the rhythm and flow of your writing.
  • Seek feed­back. Don’t hes­it­ate to share your drafts with oth­ers. Feedback can provide new per­spect­ives and insights that you might have overlooked.
  • Use tools wisely. Use writ­ing and edit­ing tools (such as large lan­guage mod­els, gram­mar check­ers, or style guides) to help identi­fy areas for improve­ment. However, always apply your judg­ment to ensure sug­ges­tions align with your inten­ded mes­sage and voice.

Incorporating these strategies into your writ­ing routine can elev­ate your draft­ing skills, lead­ing to clear­er, more com­pel­ling, and more effect­ive writ­ten com­mu­nic­a­tion in every aspect of your life.

Learn more: Communication Skills (That Everyone Should Learn)

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

PR Resource: PAS Formula

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The PAS Formula

The PAS for­mula makes it easy to struc­ture your PR writing:

  • Problem: Outline your read­er­’s pain point.
  • Agitate: Amplify and drive home the pain point.
  • Solve: Offer an action­able solution.

Learn more: The PAS Formula for PR Writers

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 At this point, I should point out that English is my second lan­guage and that I do most of my writ­ing in Swedish. Still, I strive to improve my busi­ness English.
2 Platitude. (2023, December 9). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​P​l​a​t​i​t​ude
3 Pidgin lan­guages are a mix­ture of two or more lan­guages, and they typ­ic­ally devel­op when two groups in con­tact with each oth­er can­not speak each oth­er­’s lan­guage. Many pidgin lan­guages have evolved into full-blown languages.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has

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