Doctor SpinCreativityStorytelling & WritingThe Platitude Sickness — The Trash of Corporate Speak

The Platitude Sickness — The Trash of Corporate Speak

Welcome to the fight—we are the resistance.

There’s a platitude sickness in corporate speak.

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

Most normal people hate corporate BS. As a writer, I too 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?

Table of Contents

    It’s Not My Fault

    As a corporate writer since 2005, one could easily assume that I bear responsibility for at least two hundred shitty press releases out there. But I don’t, I swear.

    Every time I present something for 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 rings too familiar. 1At this point, I should probably 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.

    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 getting published.

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

    Not. My. Fault.

    Corporate Speak

    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 to corporate platitudes to let everyone know that we belong in this money-making space. Making sure that we belong, that we’re allowed to play the game, is somehow more important than making ourselves understood. 2Pidgin 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 … Continue reading

    It’s mindboggling how many hours corporations and organisations are spending on producing garbage.

    Waste of Editorial Space

    Corporate platitudes are such a waste of editorial space. Unfortunately, platitude sickness tends to do quite well in 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 (or emoji-button or whatever) without reading the linked article.

    It’s essential to have a strategy.

    Always put the customer first.

    Be proactive and think long-term.

    Publish epic content.

    The business tribes on LinkedIn can’t get enough of that stuff, it seems.

    Waste of Mental Bandwidth

    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 perpetrates corporate BS for a living.

    Welcome to the Resistance

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

    Make it your mission to find platitudes and to 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.

    Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Prints/Instagram)

    FOOTNOTES
    FOOTNOTES
    1 At this point, I should probably 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 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://www.doctorspin.net/
    Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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