Danger words

Bad words. Click image for source.

Bad words. Click image for source.

When I was a young, naive strip of a lad, I thought everyone used the right words for the right reasons.

How wrong I was. How very, very wrong.

Today, gnarled and grizzled, I’m more aware of what people are really saying when words come out of their heads.

And some of those words should start alarm bells ringing if you’re anything to do with strategy.

I call them ‘danger words’. If I had a little blue light on my head, it would start flashing every time I hear them. They usually mean I’m in for a rough ride.

Here are three:

  • Holistic. You’ll hear this a lot. “Our strategy is holistic.” “We take a holistic approach to communications.” The problem with holistic is that it’s shorthand for ‘we don’t really know what we’re doing. We just sort of throw it all in the pot and see what comes out. Consequently we’re in a bit of a mess Brendan, so we’d like you to sort it all out for us.’ This is fine except it’s rarely followed by ‘Here, have a large sum of money.’
  • Organic. This is another danger word, very like holistic. “We’ve grown our communities organically.” “Our templates have grown organically.” This actually means ‘we didn’t plan any of it. We didn’t actually know what we wanted to achieve and we basically winged it for a while. Now we’re in a bit of a pickle. So we’d like you to sort it all out for us.’ Again.
  • Creative. Is again quite similar in its startling non-specificity. “We believe in creative communications.” Wack-o-the-diddle-o. Usually this means ‘if we surround ourselves with enough chocolate, cake, biscuits, caffeine, plasticine, stickle bricks, lego and flash cards, we’ll come up with something’. The problem is exactly that – you come up with something, but not necessarily the right thing. I’m not usually asked to fix creativity because by the time I come in, it’s usually being classed as holistic or organic.

So there you have it. These are wishy-washy terms that you might hear and, if you’re new to comms, might think they make perfect sense. But they don’t.

They have the devil inside. They embody rigdly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty. They are ‘danger’ words that you should be afraid of. And fear leads to anger. Anger leads to pain. Pain leads to suffering. Be careful.

I’m sure there are plenty more examples out there but, owing to having only three readers of this blog, one of whom is currently having his tonsils removed, I doubt I’ll get many responses. OK, look, I’ll add a poll.

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